More Than Just Snow Falling

Although it’s only the beginning of January, Nova Scotia has seen the whole spectrum of winter weather – snow, sleet, rain, freezing rain, and ice – a whole lot of ice. With ice (and even hard-packed snow) comes slip and falls. After one particularly bad patch of icy weather in December, the emergency rooms within the Halifax Regional Municipality reported 93 cases of slip and fall injuries (source: “Sidewalk of Shame” by Tim Bousquet

Regardless of footwear, there’s always the possibility that once a person hits the ice, they’ll hit the ground. Hopefully, a fall won’t cause injury. If it does, that’s often when people start thinking about suing the homeowner or the business where they fell.  It’s one of the reasons why people should carry insurance on their homes and business – to help protect against actions brought about by a slip and fall.  Your insurance can defend against these claims.

In addition to insurance, there are other actions you can take to help protect yourself and to show you’ve done what you can to protect people entering onto your property.

An occupier of a premise, whether a home or business, owes a duty of care to ensure each person entering onto the premises and property is reasonably safe. This duty of reasonable care has been a requirement under common law for many years, but is now codified in many occupiers’ liability acts.  It is not a duty and standard of perfection.  It is a duty and standard of reasonableness.

The occupier has to show that reasonable measures were taken to ensure anyone coming on to the property is safe. In winter, in the land of snow and ice, that means showing all reasonable steps were taken to protect against the snow and ice. Such steps include:

  • Having a policy or guideline in place that is consistent for snow and ice removal after a storm hits or there is a snowfall.
  • Once there is a storm or snowfall, when it is safe to do so, go out and shovel, plow, and remove any snow and ice on stairs, walkways, driveways, and parking lots.
  • Be sure to apply sand, salt, or ice remover as quickly as possible.
  • Monitor your walkways and driveways. Don’t assume that just because you’ve applied salt or sand once that you won’t have to apply it again. Be aware of melting snow that refreezes.
  • Keep a log of the dates and times of your snow removal, plowing, shovelling, and sand and salt applications
  • Be aware of your inside floors. Keep wet floors mopped up and safety mats wrinkle free. Once people make it inside, you don’t want them slipping or tripping on water or bunched-up mats.

Each case is different and a judge will look at the particular circumstances of every action, but by taking reasonable steps, you can help show you met your duty to keep the people entering onto your premises safe.

Stay safe and stay upright!