Why shovel that sidewalk?

It's too cold to shovel that darn sidewalk!

It seems that you are constantly shoveling that sidewalk, chipping off melting ice or sweeping fresh snow. The wind is blowing it into drifts and whatever you get done will have to be redone in no time at all. Why can't people just tramp it down and walk carefully?

What are the consequences if you don't keep your sidewalks clear? In some towns and cities there is a bylaw that requires you to keep your sidewalk clear. If you do not then you will be fined. There can also be a charge from the local authorities to have the snow removed and it is usually quite expensive! So to avoid the by-law enforcement officer knocking at your door and the possibility of paying a fine, you go out in the cold and do what needs to be done.

There is a much higher cost that you could end up paying. The insurance focus is that you have a duty of care in keeping your sidewalk and other public walkways safe for the general public. You are expected to do what a reasonable and prudent person would do in similar circumstances. This does not mean that you have to do snow removal on an hourly basis but the sidewalk and pathways should be cleared regularly. If there is an ice build up then it should be removed, grit scattered on the ice to provide better traction or a snow melt product applied.

This duty of care applies whether or not you are the homeowner, businessman, renter or the landlord of the property in question.

If you are the landlord of a property then you should include this requirement in the tenant's lease. Clearly state a penalty that will be levied if the tenant fails to comply. You do need to do some follow-up. It is important that you verify that the snow removal is kept up-to-date.

Why is this so important to the landlord? If the tenant fails to do an adequate job there could be an injury to a passerby due to hazardous conditions. If the tenant is sued and fails to provide insurance or to have adequate insurance the lawyers will "follow the money". The money trail will lead to the landlord's building policy and the liability coverage therein. You can expect increases in your premium charges if you have repeated claims.

What about the retail store? If you are a business owner then you need to have a clear safety program to help prevent slip and fall. If you cannot totally avoid the risk of a slippery spot then post hazard signs, use warning tape or other resources to draw attention to the danger and steer people away from that location. You need to educate your staff on inspection, maintenance and prevention. Document your procedures and have incident and accident reports prepared if you do have a problem.

Again, if you are the building owner of that store then you need to have it clearly stated in your lease as to the obligation of the tenant. If the tenant fails to do what is necessary then you need to do the job yourself. Whatever penalty you want to charge needs to be clearly stated in your lease agreement.

Construction sites, whether commercial or residential need to have the snow removed for the sidewalks and entrances for the workers and pedestrian traffic. Often this type of work will be contracted out to specific snow removal companies. The liability will be assessed based on who determines when the snow needs to be removed. If you call your company to ask for removal then your duty is held to be high. If the company you hire determines when removal is necessary then they have the higher liability should there by an injury.

Talk to your agent or broker about the snow removal procedures you have in place for your business. One question you may be asked is, "have you requested a certificate of insurance from your snow removal contractor?" In the meantime, keep those sidewalks clear of ice and snow!