Snow for school pupils

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Snow for school pupils

Published 6 January 2022

As we are approaching winter, children will no doubt be looking forward to wintry conditions, with a chance of snow to enjoy. Adults, perhaps, not so much! Like any occupiers of premises, schools need to have policies and procedures in place to ensure that they are able to respond appropriately to weather conditions, such as ice and snow, in order to keep pupils, staff and any other visitors alike reasonably safe on their premises.

Recently we acted for Zurich Insurance and its customer, North Tyneside Council, in successfully defending a claim where a seven year old pupil at a primary school had allegedly slipped on ice during playtime. There had been a few days of icy and snowy conditions before the accident, and pupils had been kept inside at those playtimes. On the day of the accident, the playground was assessed and it was determined by the deputy head teacher that the majority of the frost had melted and it was safe for the pupils to go outside, albeit with suitable warning and instruction. As the pupils lined up to go outside, they were told not to run in the playground and were not allowed to play ball games. The claimant ignored the instruction not to run and fell, sustaining facial injuries.

The school had in place a gritting policy for the school premises, including the school yard. Gritting was carried out by the caretaker each morning, in inclement weather conditions. There was a risk assessment in place which identified the risk of slips and falls in wet and/or slippery conditions, and in such conditions pupils were to be briefed about the risks and reminded to walk and not run in the yard. At trial, the judge was satisfied that with the risk assessment, gritting policy and ratio of staff to pupils on the school yard, the school was not in breach of duty. He commented that there was little else the school could have done. The incident was regrettable. However, the school had appropriate policies in place, which were properly implemented.

In order to be best placed to defend claims of this nature, schools should have in place a written risk assessment to deal with ice and snow conditions on their school site and also have a gritting policy to complement that. Gritting records should obviously be kept and retained by the school. In our experience, it is relatively common practice for school caretakers to carry out gritting as part of the daily opening up routine, but without keeping a separate record. A simple checklist document would suffice to show that gritting had occurred on any given day.

Read more from our Casualty Injury experts here.

Authors

Nicola Hyam

Nicola Hyam

Newcastle

+44(0)191 404 4150

Shaun O'Neil

Shaun O'Neil

Newcastle

+44 (0)191 404 4145