You don’t have time to get out the back of salt so you decide to just deal with it later. Not a big deal, right?
This is a common scenario for homeowners in the winter months. But by putting off clearing your entranceway of ice, you’re putting yourself at legal risk of a slip and fall claim. What if the mailman comes by and slips on your steps and throws out his back? Suddenly you’re potentially liable for his physiotherapy and chiropractic bills.
Excess ice on walkways and stairs is one of the most common causes of slips and falls. To stay safe this winter (and to prevent being held legally responsible for someone else’s injury), it’s important to keep your entranceway as ice-free as possible.
Premises Liability: What Does the Law Say?
The law states that homeowners are obligated to keep their premises reasonably safe, or at least to sufficiently warn visitors about potential hazards. If an accident like a slip and fall occurs at a property you own, you will likely be held responsible.
It’s a good idea to review your home insurance policy to determine whether you have sufficient coverage for these kinds of claims. In a premises liability lawsuit, a variety of factors determine the degree of liability of the homeowner. But if you’re not adequately covered, or if the cost of damages exceeds your maximum coverage, you could end up paying a lot of money as a result of an easily preventable incident.
Note that if you rent your home, you may or may not be responsible for removing ice and snow that could lead to injury. Typically if you live in an apartment complex, the landlord or is responsible for these kinds of services. However, if you rent a single family home, the onus likely falls on your shoulders. Review your rental agreement thoroughly to determine if this is the case.
How to Safely Remove Ice from Your Entranceway
Removing ice from your entranceway is easy with the right tools, and should be done as quickly as possible to minimize risk.
- Step 1: Make sure you have a sufficient amount of salt, or an alternative de-icing product such as clay kitty litter or sand.
- Step 2: Sprinkle a path of salt along your front steps and walkway. Carefully walk to the end of your walkway and find a safe place to plant your feet.
- Step 3: Begin sprinkling salt in an S pattern, using about one tablespoon per square foot.
- Step 4: Ensure that you have a firm footing, then use a hoe or sharp shovel to scrape away the ice. Push the broken ice away from the walkway into the snow, grass, or road.
- Step 5: Work your way up from the walkway to your front steps, removing the ice as you go.
- Step 6: After you have removed all the ice, layer the area again with another thin layer of salt.
Depending on the municipality you live in, you may also be responsible for clearing the sidewalk adjacent to your property of snow and ice, usually within 12 to 24 hours of a snowfall (subject to a fine if you fail to do so). Check your municipal website to find out whether this applies to your city or town.
Additional Tips for Keeping Your Home Safe
- Check your waterspouts for ice buildup. Chip any blocks of ice away as these can be a tripping or falling hazard.
- If you notice any icicles hanging off your roof, block the area off with brightly coloured cones or tape until you can safely remove them.
- Make sure that any outdoor holiday lights are safely installed and not posing a risk by hanging too low.
- Take note of any other potential safety hazards while clearing away ice, such as large cracks or holes in your walkway or driveway.
- Finally, if you plan on going away on vacation, ensure that you’ve arranged for a friend or neighbor to clear away ice and snow on your property while you’re away. You’re still subject to premises liability even if you’re not present when it occurs.
Avoiding slips and falls this winter starts with your preparedness. Stay safe and help your friends do so too – share this article with your network on Twitter!