What the law says
Government guidance on clearing snow
The government publishes guidance on how to clear snow from a road, pathway or cycleway yourself. The guidance says there is no law stopping you from doing this. In 2015 a new 'Good Samaritan' law ('SARAH' - Social, Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act) came into effect in England and Wales - http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/3/contents/enacted
This act seeks to counteract the growing perception that people risk being successfully sued if they do something for the common good - like leading a school trip, organising a village fete, clearing snow from a path in front of their home or helping in an emergency situation.
If an accident did happen, it's highly unlikely that you would be sued as long as you are careful and use common sense to make sure that you don't make the pavement or pathway clearly more dangerous than before. People using areas affected by snow and ice also have responsibility to be careful themselves.
Avoiding negligent behaviour
Under common law a volunteer can only be considered negligent if they deliberately went out to create a hazard. Actions which could give rise to liability for negligence would be (a) the careless release of snow from the shovel, (b) the careless placing of snow so as to conceal or create a hazard, and (c) the use of water which actually increases the risk of slipping or skidding.
- do not release snow from the shovel into the actual or potential path of vehicles or pedestrians
- do not dump snow so as to create or conceal a hazard
- do not use water as this can refreeze and create black ice.