During last winter’s snow I blogged a few times about the legal scare stories about how people shouldn’t sweep away snow from outside their home (you can be sued! the world will end!), how clearing snow is traditional in Britain (sort of) and how some companies that tell us at great length about how much they care about local communities miss taking the obvious steps to show such care during a snowfall – clearing the snow from outside their premises.
Not to mention the way some journalists who spend their time loving to mock real or imagined nanny state actions suddenly think the state should do everything when it comes to snow clearing.
But this year? Well, it’s all looking rather different.
First up for credit is the government with its wise advice:
If you clear snow and ice yourself, be careful – don’t make the pathways more dangerous by causing them to refreeze. But don’t be put off clearing paths because you’re afraid someone will get injured.
Remember, people walking on snow and ice have responsibility to be careful themselves.
But it’s not just central government where common sense is breaking out. So too in local government, as in Wandsworth:
Neighbourhood watch co-ordinators [in Wandsworth] are also being offered 50 kilos of salt each for use in their streets, while supplies are also available for churches and other community organisations.
Transport spokesman Ravi Govindia said: “Last year’s snow and ice was the worst for 35 years. Yet many local people felt powerless to clear their own pavements and footpaths because of worries over health and safety rules and the fear of being sued.
“We are positively encouraging people to take action if they feel they can, and to do the same for neighbours if they live next door to someone who is elderly or disabled.
“There’s no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement outside your home, and it’s inconceivable that you would be sued or held legally responsible if you have cleared it carefully.
Or in Lancashire:
Lancashire County Council has welcomed new “common sense” advice for residents about clearing snow.
Last winter people worried they could be liable if someone slipped and injured themselves on paths cleared outside their homes.
Now the government has issued a ‘snow code’ which reassures people there’s little chance of them being sued if they act reasonably.
Not to mention Portsmouth and Hampshire:
Portsmouth City Council and Hampshire County Council have confirmed residents can clear paths themselves in a bid to ensure last winter’s chaotic and dangerous conditions aren’t repeated.
The city council has gone as far as issuing advice to the public, which reads: ‘There is no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement outside your property, pathways to your property or public spaces. If an accident did happen, it’s highly unlikely you would be sued as long as you are careful, use common sense to make sure that you don’t make the pavement or pathway clearly more dangerous than before, and do not cause an obstruction with shovelled snow on the pavement
And there’s a nice touch of community politics about Sheffield Council too (even if insurance sneaks back into the picture again, but good for the council for saying it’ll cover people):
An army of snow wardens have been trained up by Sheffield Council to help keep the city moving if bad weather strikes.
Sixty volunteers have been equipped with a tonne of grit and a snow clearing kit to clear smaller roads that the council cannot get to.
They volunteered as a result of a consultation carried out by the council following last winter’s heavy snowfall…
Liberal Democrat council leader Paul Scriven said the snow wardens would be covered by the authority’s insurance and could not individually be sued if someone fell on a street that had been cleared…
“These are people who live on some of the side roads and hills of Sheffield that we normally can’t get to who are giving up their time to put in their little bit to ensure they can get on to those main roads and hopefully keep the city moving a little bit better than we did last year.”
It all looks like an outbreak of common sense, proper legal knowledge for once and practical action, even if it hasn’t quite reached Nich Starling’s neighbours yet.