HOMEOWNERS and businesses could risk being sued for clearing snow from the front of their premises if someone slips or falls, legal experts at Wigan Council have warned.
Under current legislation, companies and residents open themselves up to legal action if they try to clear a public road or pavement outside their property.
However, if they leave the path in a treacherous condition, they cannot be sued.
Council legal experts admitted there is a legal risk to private landowners if conditions are made worse by their attempts to clear snow or ice.
With more snow forecast for this weekend, Wigan Council’s borough solicitor Kevin Lawson said: “It is the council’s responsibility, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice.
“All available council operatives were redeployed to snow clearing duties in the town centres, medical facilities and other locations after the heavy snowfall just before Christmas, but we do appreciate the public’s efforts.
“Private landowners are not obliged to clear snow or ice from the highway. If they do and they create a hazard or danger that results in an injury to another, it is possible that they could be held liable for those injuries, but that would depend on the particular facts of the case.”
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said it was disappointed that public safety was being neglected because of fears of possible litigation.
A spokesman said: “This is not showing a particularly good attitude. It would be much safer for the public to clear paths, even if it’s not on their property.”
But the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, the professional body representing 36,000 health and safety experts, gave warning that this could lead to legal action.
In guidance to its members, who advise businesses throughout the country, it said: “When clearing snow and ice, it is probably worth stopping at the boundaries of the property under your control.”
Town hall chiefs revealed Wigan Council has gritted the town’s main routes 22 times since the latest cold snap began.
Snowploughs were also deployed four times, including ‘Mad Friday’ when the worst of the snow hit the town.
More than 1,400 tonnes of grit has been used already, with 1,690 tonnes still remaining.