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Staying Safe in Winter

Penelope Heighton, Associate Solicitor in our Personal Injury team, considers the risks and responsibilities when snow and ice arrive.

Watch out, Jack Frost is about! 

Generally, slips, trips and falls are the most common types of accident but inevitably, the numbers increase when conditions are icy.


Figures show that there were 2,919 admissions to hospital in 2014/15 as a result of people falling over on snow or ice, some of which resulted in very serious injuries.

Legal Responsibility

Parliament imposed a duty on highway authorities to grit or salt the highway (including pavements and walkways) in the event of snow or ice under the Highways Act 1980 which states;

'In particular, a highway authority is under a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice.'

A similar duty to keep surfaces clear or gritted on private/business premises may arise under the Occupiers Liability Act 1987. Employers also have a responsibility to keep employees protected during winter.

Useful Information Resources

The Health and Safety Executive provide a variety of resources on matters such as minimum temperatures for work, adverse weather policies and personal protective equipment for winter weather.

The Met Office website is the home of the Government's ‘Get Ready for Winter’ campaign, which includes links to the latest weather reports and useful information to help keep you safe.

It’s important to remember that it is unrealistic to expect every stretch of pavement to be cleared and made entirely safe and you should take your own reasonable precautions to avoid slipping or falling on snow and ice where appropriate.

Vulnerable and Young People

The consequences of a fall can be more serious for elderly people who should avoid heading outside if conditions are dangerously icy.
According to the Royal Society For the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), in the last 10 years over 20 people have drowned after falling through ice into water, while many others have had to be rescued and revived.

Children are particularly at risk as they are attracted to frozen lakes and canals presenting ice skating opportunities.

The RoSPA reports that, over 50% of ice related drowning involves an attempted rescue of another person or a dog. It is therefore advised not to throw sticks or balls for dogs near frozen water and, if they do get into trouble, not to attempt to rescue them by venturing onto the ice.

Practical tips

Below are some good tips on staying safe in icy conditions courtesy of the Royal Society For the Prevention of Accidents.

  • Wear sturdy footwear, with a good grip - you can always change into other footwear when you have reached your destination
  • Walk slowly and allow yourself extra time to get from A to B, so you don't find yourself having to make a last minute dash to get to the bus etc.
  • Keep an eye on what is underfoot. Some places will remain icy for longer than others
  • If you have neighbours who are elderly/disabled/ etc. offer to pop to the shops for them
  • If councils have provided grit bins so people can treat public areas not included on the usual gritter route, use them - but don't remove vast quantities for your own personal use.

Individuals and employers must also consider the effect of snow and ice on driving. Keep following our website articles as we will be producing further information on the specific issue of safety on the roads in winter.

In the meantime, take care and wrap up warm!

This article it is not a definitive guide to the legal considerations to be taken into account when an accident happens on snow/ice. If you have suffered an injury and wish to discuss bringing a claim, then contact Penelope or Rebekah for free, no obligation advice on 01392 285010.