Advice offered on dealing with winter
A NATIONAL church insurer is urging churches to consider their responsibilities for managing snow and ice on church property.
Congregational and General Insurance stress the importance of fulfilling obligations, such as clearing pathways and gritting the area well.
Lisa Brough at Gordons LLP, a law firm used by Congregational, said: “There is no straightforward answer for every scenario, however it is worthwhile dispelling one urban myth.
“Many occupiers of church property believe they are not liable if they don’t clear snow from paths, or if they do and someone falls then they are liable. This is simply not true.
“In fact, the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 confers a duty on occupiers to take such care as is ‘reasonable’ to ensure that visitors will be ‘reasonably’ safe when using the premises.”
These visitors include employees; even though a church may employ just one or two people, it is still responsible for their wellbeing in icy weather.
Ms Brough continues: “Some churches may only open their gates once a week to a small congregation.
“In these circumstances, it would be unreasonable to expect the church to remove every piece of snow and ice, but a path into the church of at least one metre in width cleared and gritted well before visitors arrive may suffice.”
Workplace Regulations mean busier churches must ensure safety of the walk ways in good time for the arrival of visitors and staff.
Miss Brough recently dealt with a case following the heavy snow where a visitor parked her car on the driveway leading into the Church, choosing to park in a space where the car boot overhung an icy patch.
The visitor removed items from her car boot on two occasions, so must have been aware just how icy it was underfoot, but half an hour later the visitor came out, went back to her car boot and slipped, sustaining a nasty fracture.
This claim was repudiated, but the Church did nothing to clear its driveway at all, which might have prevented the very serious injury.
Congregational and General said: “Sometimes, it does not take much to prevent injury by slipping on snow and ice – just a quick thought as to who might be visiting and when and what might be the best way to ensure their safety is sometimes all it takes.”
Margaret Slater, marketing manager at Congregational & General, said: “The wintry conditions means we simply want to remind all churches to take the time to think about protecting their visitors.”