Why it’s important to check and repair car parks
With around 80% of all claim costs emanating from trips on uneven surfaces and slips on ice, we would advise our clients to take some basic action in order to minimise their exposure to incidents of this type.
As with almost all health and safety guidance, regular checks to car parks and walkways are crucial for protecting your business from claims. Ideally these would be undertaken daily and the records kept ‘in house’. Regular checks are essential to prove, in the event of a claim, that you are providing a safe place of work for staff and visitors.
Establishing clearly the boundary lines between your areas of responsibility and those of other premises on site is another important task for minimising claims against your business. These areas of responsibility should be supported by plans where possible and a signed agreement obtained between both parties to confirm that they accept the limits of their obligations. If a claim then occurs in an area for which you are not responsible then it will be relatively simple to prove that any consideration of liability should not fall on yourselves.
Needless to say, if you notice any defects to other areas that are not your responsibility these should be reported to the relevant representatives of whichever business or operation is charged with managing these areas.
Occupiers’ Liability Act
Regarding your own checks, Section 2(2) of the Occupiers’ Liability Act states that you have:
“a duty to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes for which he is invited or permitted to be there.”
The test is therefore one of reasonableness.
Your car parks and walkways do not have to be flawless, merely fit for purpose and reasonably safe for visitors.
However it should also be noted that Section 2 of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 states that:
“a person can not by reference to any contract or to a notice exclude or restrict his liability for death or personal injury resulting from negligence.”
Essentially this means that you are not able to place a sign at the entrance to the car park suggesting that you accept no responsibility for injuries sustained to visitors. If the injury results from your negligence then this supersedes any signage, notice or contract that may seek to assert your blamelessness for an incident.
In short, your ability to defend a claim will instead rest on your being able to:
- Demonstrate a reasonable inspection policy.
- Demonstrate that repairs are conducted in a timely fashion.
Advice from your Broker:
Reasonable inspection policy
We would recommend that all car parks and walkways that are your responsibility are, in the first instance, subject to an appropriate risk assessment with relevant photographic evidence produced in support. Depending on the conclusions drawn from each risk assessment the frequency of inspections can then be set to reflect the potential danger inherent in each area.
If defects are discovered, these should be categorised in terms of severity and the probability of causing injury. Timescales for repair can then be applied according to the urgency of the completion of the work. As ever, photographic evidence should be kept to show the defect in question and the action undertaken to remedy the same.
Reasonable repair policy
Following your inspections, a repair policy should be instituted, including an allowance for reasonable timescales for repair in line with the severity rating of each defect.
Where a repair can not be undertaken immediately, a documented procedure should be produced and followed in order to ensure the safety of the area.
Why it’s important to check for snow and ice in car parks and walkways
This has always been a difficult area for assurances in respect of claims defensibility, given that practical and financial constraints mean that it is not always possible to clear every path, walkway or car park in the event of extreme cold weather.
Protecting yourself and your business
Despite the assertions above regarding the Unfair Contract Terms Act, warning signs should still be used to alert people of the icy conditions and recommendations that care is taken. These signs would act as a deterrent to claims and also enable us to seek contributory negligence were there a claim to be made.
Along with your usual health and safety procedures, it is recommended that you carry out a ‘winter risk assessment’ in order to address the potential hazards posed by snow and ice.
Specific areas may require separate assessments because different surfaces will pose more or less risk in the event of very cold weather.
In addition, a daily checklist should be completed of those areas susceptible to snow and ice, with the findings reported to management in the event that risk is identified.
For advice on risk assessments and guidance on checklists, contact Romero Insurance Brokers. We provide risk assessments and to-do lists for all insurance eventualities.
As ever, documentation is key. We would recommend the production of a documented policy for your reaction to very cold weather, based on the assessment of risk and the probability of injury. This should be complemented by documentary evidence of all actions taken to remove snow and ice.
By having risk assessments and a documented policy in respect of snow and ice, we will be able to demonstrate that you have closely considered your obligations under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957. Defensibility will therefore improve should a claim be made following an injury resulting from the presence of snow and ice at your premises.
Stay protected by using a Broker
The wisest decision any business can make when aiming to reduce their risk is by consolidating with a broker, with the right broker.
Romero Insurance Brokers is here to help and can provide the best service and advice to businesses throughout the tricky winter period