Legally ‘To grit or not to grit’, that is the question?

Posted on December 10, 2017 in Gardening


Councils have a legal obligation to clear roads and keep traffic moving, but residents and business owners are often left with perilous pavements.

Gritting or not?

Are you safer from a legal perspective not clearing, vs clearing snow and then someone slips? Every year as the winter approaches this question of ‘To grit or not to grit’, is still debated.

Here is the state of play for dealing with both public paths and payments close to a premise and for access roads, carparks and pathways within your own premises and grounds.

Be aware that some employers now need to think beyond the traditional perimeter and be more vigilant to protect staff against slips on ice when travelling to and from clients.

The myths or arguments to ignore

Some articles have advised stopping snow clearance at the boundary of your business.

There are arguments stating if you leave the pavement in a slippery condition you cannot be sued; or if you grit a public pavement somebody could assume it is safe but still fall.

There is no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice from the pavement, but It is an offence to clear snow and ice onto a road or pavement. Your duty of care concerns reasonably practicable tasks. Effective snow and ice clearance is safer than not clearing, which means you are unlikely to be held responsible for falls.

The official Snow Code issued by the Government in 2012:

  1. Clear the top layer of fresh loose snow early in the morning. Any ice underneath will be melted by sunshine. Cover the path with salt at night to prevent it re-freezing.
  2. Never use water as this can cause black ice.
  3. Always use grit salt (effective down to -10oC). A tablespoon for each square meter.
  4. Excess salt can be hazardous.
  5. Sand or ash won’t work as well but may provide better grip.
  6. Don’t block drains or paths with cleared snow.
  7. Make a clear path to work from down the centre and shovel the snow to the sides.
  8. Pay extra attention to steps or inclines.
  9. Gritting bins are for public areas only. If a bin is damaged or needs refilling do report it.
  10. Clear snow and do gritting for those with health problems, disabilities and elderly neighbours.

Safe access at all costs, for business

The law and regulations are clear for businesses – the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 (amended in 1984) obliges the owner or occupier of private land to ensure safe access for staff and visitors. If you do your own gritting it’s a good idea to provide training for snow clearance, but you must also remember to highlight to staff that appropriate warm clothing and high visibility vests are crucial when clearing a car park. By gritting your site before ice forms and keeping an accurate log of what’s been done, you are reducing accident risks and maintaining your reputation.

Health and Safety at Work (1999) and The Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) (1992) regulation 12 obligations means you must ensure internal floors aren’t slippery too, which easily occurs in the winter.

Everybody has a responsibility under common law to identify and reduce risks. Staff should be aware of their own safety and any risks to it, and they should be encouraged to report hazardous ice.

Use common sense

So there is little to debate. A common-sense approach by everyone concerned will improve winter safety on public and private pathways and help prevent accidents.

Contact us about sensible measures to give you full protection this winter on 0845 604 1288.

For more Information on our Winter Gritting Service please click HERE.