Building safer outdoor spaces with LGIS’ new footpath risk management resource

Risk Matters - Summer 2024

LGIS’ Footpath risk management guide provides members with practical tips to ensure consistent outdoor asset management across the sector.

In the last five financial years (2019-present), we have received over 700 claims relating to footpaths costing in excess of $ 1.2 mllion. At times, these claims have also resulted in significant costs associated with running defences for the member or funding compensating on the member’s behalf. As with any serious injury, members also have to face risk to their reputation.

Local governments are responsible for constructing and managing hundreds of thousands of kilometres of footpaths and shared paths throughout communities in Western Australia. Paths are a crucial aspect of public amenities as they provide easy and convenient access to community members. However, local governments need to consider their responsibility and exposure in the development and maintenance of these assets.

Our new ‘footpaths and shared paths’ guide supports members’ risk management efforts, providing a practical approach to identifying potential vulnerabilities and demonstrating a systematic approach to managing those risks.

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More consistent risk management across the sector

Members owe a duty of care to users of their path networks; make sure that your path networks are designed and managed to be as safe as can be reasonably expected. Where this duty is not met, users may be harmed and you could potentially be liable.

The guide supports members is meeting their duty of care to path users.

By introducing initiatives and resources that target areas of high frequency claims we can work together to mitigate the sector’s exposure.

Figure 1: Renewal risk management process

Safer outdoor spaces and reducing claims

It is interesting to note that almost two-thirds of liability claims are related to footpaths and roads, or trees. Our largest claims have come from a failure to maintain and document the management of these outdoor assets.

Using the guide, local governments will be able to analyse and/ or develop a systematic approach to manage paths and create safe outdoor spaces for their community. This, in turn, will also help reduce the exposure to liability claims through this resource.

This guide has been compiled to specifically address the process of determining the types of controls:

  • To ensure new path assets are constructed to reduce the risk to users; and
  • Hazards on existing assets are risk managed through identification, assessment, prioritisation and remedial actions.

Management of path assets should form part of the member’s asset management system. All decision-making processes regarding risk management need to be documented and recorded in the corporate record system. If path assets are not addressed under integrated planning and reporting (IP&R), members should adopt a policy stipulating the methodology and commitments to manage path assets.

When local governments develop (and document) their asset management plans and policy they should consider the duty of care requirements of the Civil Liability Act 2002 (WA), and the sections relative to that of a public body such as a local government member, namely:

  • Section 5W: Principles concerning resources, responsibilities etc. of public body or officer;
  • Section 5X: Policy defence;
  • Section 5Y: Proceedings against public body or officer based on breach of statutory duty;
  • Section 5Z: Special protection for road authorities.

Understanding and correct application of these provisions may afford some protection against public liability claims and assist LGIS in adequately defending members who are the subject of these claims.

Example of a path maintenance and renewal risk management process

LGIS has recently launched a self-assessment tool (CIP) to assist us better defend local government interests. If you need any further information in relation to the management of your footpath assets or completion of the CIP assessment, please contact your account manager.

A copy of the guide is available on the LGIS website under Risk management<Liability risk management.

To discuss assistance that can be provided, please contact the LGIS Risk team or your regional risk coordinator.

Figure 2: Number of footpath claims and cost incurred in the last five financial years

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