Winter and Sidewalk Safety
The first day of winter is tomorrow, December 21, and snowy, icy conditions will likely be a constant for the coming months. Winter weather raises some safety concerns for your property, specifically for maintaining safe sidewalks and walkways for pedestrians and deliveries. It is important to know your responsibilities to avoid injuries or liability.
It is important to be diligent in keeping your sidewalks and walkways clear from snow and ice. Snow covered or icy sidewalks pose a serious safety hazard to those who need to use them. Fluctuating temperatures can cause snow to melt and freeze again quickly, which results in slick patches that may not be visible to passersby. Snow can also easily create the risk for twisting an ankle or knee while walking over it, including when there is debris beneath the snow that can create a tripping hazard. These conditions pose a special concern for children who may need to use your sidewalk to walk to and from school, for people walking dogs who need to keep good traction to restrain their pet, and employees of the postal service and other delivery drivers who need to access your walkways in order to do their job.
Clearing snow soon after the snowfall settles is the best course of action to maintain your walkways. Snow is lighter and easier to shovel or snow-blow when it is fresh and before it has been packed down by people walking over it. Clearly snow sooner also helps to avoid melts and freezes, which can cause black ice and serious slipping hazards. Putting salt down after shoveling helps clear remaining dampness and further prevent slick sidewalks.
You should also be aware of any local snow ordinances that apply to your property that may require snow and ice to be cleared within a certain period of time. You could be subject to a fine or citation if you fail to comply with any such requirements. Postal and delivery employees may also refuse to deliver to you if your property poses a risk to their safety. You could also be held liable if someone is injured as a result of your failure to take appropriate care in performing snow maintenance on your property, especially in areas like sidewalks that pedestrians need to use.
Whether you love or hate the snow, living in a cold weather climate this time of year brings a responsibility to safely maintain your sidewalks and walkways, so get out there and clear that snow to help keep everyone safe!