Property owners, and tenants (or other “occupiers”) have to ensure that anyone who enters their property is safe. This includes pedestrians and even uninvited guests who have a legitimate reason to enter your property (yes, even door-to-door salespeople). In most cases your property includes your driveway, walkways, parking lot and even the sidewalk in front of your place of business.
Although the law applies year round, the risk is highest in the winter when the ground becomes wet and icy. To protect your business from a law suit, you need to familiarize yourself with the law and ensure that your property is sufficiently cleared of snow and ice.
Occupiers Liability Act
According to the Occupiers Liability Act, “an occupier of a premises owes a duty to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that persons entering on the premises, and the property brought on the premises by those persons are reasonably safe while on the premises.”
Of course the “persons” entering your property also have a personal responsibility to ensure that they are not putting themselves at risk. According to the Occupier Liability Act, “the duty of care…does not apply in respect of risks willingly assumed by the person who enters on the premises.”
What does this mean in layman’s terms? Your business needs to provide a reasonable standard of safety for anyone who will enter your property (or a property you manage).
Providing a reasonable standard of safety
The responsibility to apply a reasonable standard of safety applies to all properties, everywhere in Canada, year round. In the summer, exercising a reasonable standard of care might mean keeping property landscaped, repairing or replacing broken stairways, installing handrails or using slip-resistant flooring in areas that are frequently wet (like pool decks or restaurant and bar floors).
In the winter, the biggest challenge businesses face in providing the reasonable standard of care is protecting the public from the dangers caused by snow and ice.
Winter liability issues
If you own property you should have insurance which includes liability coverage. However this may not be enough. If you do not take reasonable actions to ensure your property is safe to the public in the winter, then your insurance coverage may be void. Even if a slip and fall caused by winter conditions is covered by your insurance, then your premiums may still surge as a result of a claim.
If you want to avoid the potential financial devastation of slip and fall liability, then you need to take precautions.
Clearing snow and ice best way to protect yourself from winter liability issues is to ensure that your property is clear of snow and ice at all times. This means you need an experienced snow removal contractor who can respond quickly, especially in times of high demand like during a snow or ice storm.
Hiring the right contractor
To ensure that you’re hiring a snow removal contractor you can trust, you need to do your research. Look for a contractor with a quick response time in the case of a snow event, who has open channels of communication, years of experience, and the right tools and professionals for the job.
Hire the right contractor…with the right certifications
Make sure that you only consider hiring snow removal contractors who are fully insured. If they lack the required insurance to cover work related liability (including workers’ comp), then they may be a bigger liability than the snow and ice! Ask if they are licensed to operate in your area, and if they are ISO and SN9001 certified.
POSTAL CODE CHANGE: Please note that the Garden Grove Landscaping postal code has changed to L8B 1K5. Our 136 5th Concession location remains unchanged. Please edit our contact information accordingly.
Written by David Lammers
David Lammers is the president of Garden Grove Landscaping. Garden Grove provides Commercial Landscape Management Services across the Golden Horseshoe, GTA and Southwestern Ontario. David may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-866-996-1099.