By JR on Sunday, March 11, 2012
As the park warden picked his way through the snow and ice he should have known every step was a health hazard. After all, the signs he was putting up all around the park said so. ‘Be careful in the ice and snow,’ they boomed in big bold letters. But somehow the warden hadn’t got the message himself.
As he selected the best locations for the warning alerts, he went head over heels on the icy ground, badly hurting his back, neck, wrist and arms.
Now his council bosses, who had no doubt sent him on his mission with the aim of preventing compensation claims, are facing a £70,000 claim from one of their own. It seems health and safety can be downright dangerous at times. Not to mention expensive.
Leicester council has agreed to settle the case out of court after admitting the accident could have been prevented. The final payout has yet to be decided but £70,000 has been set aside to compensate the unnamed park warden and cover legal fees.
So how could the warden’s spectacular slip-up be blamed on the council? The recent purchase of 150 pairs of slip-on shoes with studded soles might be a clue. The council has ordered the winter weather shoes, which cost £13 each, in the hope of avoiding any more such injuries to outdoor workers. The accident came to light in a report from the council’s ‘risk committee’ into action it has taken to avoid expensive compensation claims.
The report explains that, under the Employers’ Liability Act, councils are obliged to ‘provide all necessary equipment for staff to safely carry out their role’. And since the council spent £1,950 buying ‘snow/ice traction aids’ (snow shoes to the rest of us), there have been no more workers taking a tumble in wintry conditions.
The prevention doesn’t stop there. The council has also spent £7,500 on tracking devices for its fleet of gritters, to monitor which of the city’s roads have been gritted.
That initiative followed a claim from a member of the public who slipped and broke an arm. The council claimed the road had been gritted but couldn’t prove it and ended up having to pay out £16,000. The tracking devices have helped successfully defend four similar claims since then.
Leicester council would not say where the warning sign accident happened or whether the warden was still an employee. Last year it revealed it had paid £356,000 in compensation to 61 staff since 2008, for accidents ranging from broken teeth to sore backs.
Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: ‘Councils and other large organisations have increasingly found themselves targeted by lawyers who encourage people to make claims.
‘The Government needs to look at the best way to give those with genuine injuries access to justice, while deterring lawyers who are out to make a quick buck.’