For many homeowners, winter marks the season of shovelling snow or breaking up ice on sidewalks and walkways.
If you own a house, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your sidewalk and driveway are safe for anyone to walk on. If you don’t and someone slips, falls and injures themselves while crossing your property, whether it’s the mail person delivering your packages or a neighbour walking their dog on the sidewalk in front of your home, you may be liable for damages.
In Ontario, those who have been injured can file a claim through the Occupier’s Liability Act. According to the act, “An occupier of 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.”
Cities have bylaws that dictate a homeowner’s responsibility in regards to snow removal. In Toronto, the city’s bylaws state that “steps, landings, walks, driveways, parking spaces, ramps and similar areas of a yard shall be cleared of snow and ice within 24 hours of a snowfall.” Municipalities can be liable in slip and fall claims, but business owners and homeowners can be named in claims as well.
If you’ve lived through a few winters in Canada, chances are that you may have slipped and fallen on the ice while rushing to get out of the cold. Sometimes you escape relatively unscathed with only a small bruise on your knee, but for seniors, slipping and falling on the ice can have a devastating impact on their lifestyle.
“Slip and fall accidents involve sudden and forceful trauma to the body. The resulting injuries, orthopedic or otherwise, often have persisting effects that are worsened by aging and normal wear and tear,” says Greg Neinstein, Managing Partner of Neinstein & Associates LLP. “Those involved in slip and fall accidents may go on to develop severe arthritis, or even require ongoing surgical interventions.
“It is important to take safety precautions to avoid these traumatic and possibly long-term consequences.”
Do yourself and your neighbours a favour by following these tips to keep your walkways free of snow and ice this winter.
How to get rid of ice on your driveway
During the winter, temperatures bounce between the positives and negatives, which leads to the formation of ice on sidewalks. The most effective and simplest method of preventing this is by shovelling as frequently as possible. It can be a pain to shovel snow in the midst of a storm, but this way the snow won’t accumulate and turn into ice.
While shovelling, consider where you pile the snow and make sure it’s placed in an area that won’t melt onto your walkway later on. If you’re not sure where that is, walk around your home when the snow is melting and take note of where the puddles form. If puddles are forming on sidewalks, redirect where you pile your snow since this will freeze over once temperatures drop. In the meantime, sprinkle de-icer on the area when the ice forms to loosen it or sprinkle sand or gravel to increase traction for anyone walking over it. Keep in mind that if you live in a place where temperatures drop down to -20°C, some de-icers, such as rock salt, become ineffective. It’s important to follow the product’s instructions and avoid piling de-icer onto your walkway since too much can hurt your plant life or be dangerous to your pets. Shovel any slush that forms off sidewalks to avoid having it freezing over again.
If you aren’t able to prevent ice from forming, it becomes more difficult to remove, but not impossible. Depending on the ice’s thickness, your de-icer may help loosen the ice and snow from the pavement, which you can then shovel aside. If a thick sheet has formed, more de-icer won’t help. In these cases, a slate bar or a wrecking bar will come in handy to break through the ice. If this doesn’t work, your best bet is to lay down traction, such as sand, gravel or birdseed, and try removing it when it’s warmer outside. If the icy pathway continues to form and it’s in an area that’s the city’s responsibility, notify them of this hazardous issue.
What renovations can be done to prevent slip and falls?
Slip and fall injuries are more likely to happen during the winter, but there are renovations you can undertake to make your winter less stressful.
Heated driveways: There are two ways to heat your driveway, both of which work to keep the pavement warm during the winter. One method is by running electricity through a wire or a mat, which keeps the ground’s temperature warm when snow falls. For this renovation, you’ll need to consider the cost of the renovation since your current driveway will need to be dug up and you’ll also face higher electricity costs.
The other method pumps hot water through pipes installed under the driveway, which will heat it during the winter months. This heating system works best when continuously left on, which means extra energy costs during times when there’s no snow on the ground. Your driveway will also need to be dug up to install pipes.
Landscaping: If your melting snow is consistently pooling in one area, no matter where you pile it, landscaping your property to redirect it may be the solution. For example, if your home’s downspout is directed towards a walkway, which constantly freezes over when it gets cold, you may need to purchase a downspout extension to redirect the runoff. In some cases, you may need to landscape your property so any runoff flows underneath the walkway.
You may have done everything you could to prevent ice from forming on your walkways, but sometimes a slip and fall may still occur. If you need advice on a slip and fall case, reach out to Toronto personal injury lawyers, Neinstein & Associates, for a free consultation.
Want to leave your snow removal plans up to the experts? Consult our database of professionals to help you for the remainder of the winter season.