The council that paid £3k to worker who tripped over a traffic cone

Why did the council spend almost £300,000 on compensation in three years?

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Sandwell Borough Council may well be home to the clumsiest employees in the UK - after paying out £3287,067 in compensation for illness and injuries in the three years between January 2012 and December 2014.

According to the Daily Mail, among the more unusual claims were the worker who tripped over a traffic cone, and received £3,250 in compensation. Then there was the individual who was hit by a door and was paid £1,000 for the subsequent 'bruising'. One member of staff was even given £300 after getting their jewellery caught in a door.

The Express and Star highlighted that the compensation bill also included payouts for horrible accidents and illnesses, including £28,616 to an individual exposed to asbestos, and £1,250 to an employee who suffered an electric shock.

Bizarre claims

These are far from the oddest compensation claims made to councils in recent years. We reported last month on a number of oddities, including the Bradford council employee was awarded £12,000 compensation after they tried to flush a toilet, and were hit by the lid; and the Ceredigion council staff member who received £16,500 after slipping on a cream cake. There was also a worker awarded £3,370 after falling off a toilet because of a 'defective seat'; and a Coventry council employee who was given £12,566 after getting her feet caught in hoover.

Given the fact that these councils are all under pressure to cut millions of pounds from their budgets over the next three years, there will be those who are concerned that they could lose vital community resources, while the council spends a fortune on compensation. However, they can take comfort from three things.

First, in many cases, these payouts are covered by insurance - including employers' liability insurance. The councils were having to pay the premiums anyway, so the payouts aren't costing them anything extra.

Second, there's no evidence of a rising compensation culture. Media coverage of claims like this leads us to think that people are demanding money more than ever before, but claims have actually fallen 60% in the past ten years - according to Hazards (the Health and Safety journal).

It's worth noting that councils also reject a large number of claims made against them. A report last October highlighted a number of failed claims - including a teacher in Leicestershire who injured her knee after slipping on a grape, a teacher from Aberystwyth who bit into a baguette to find a drawing pin inside, and a teacher who fractured a finger while teaching football.

Finally, while some of these incidents seem fairly comical, they represent real injuries, which is no laughing matter. Rather than focusing on the way in which these injuries were sustained, and the total paid out to people suffering them, it is worth considering the fact that these people suffered sprains, burns, breaks, and in one particular case a terminal illness. The compensation paid to them is intended largely to cover the cost of treatment and income lost while they were suffering from the injury.

But what do you think? Are you glad these council employees are being given the financial support they ask for, or are you worried by the cost? Let us know in the comments.

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