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Byline: Chris Henwood

A WORKER sued the council, winning pounds 1,750 after a toilet seat collapsed causing him injuries, it has emerged.

The man was one of 274 successful claims in the last five years leaving taxpayers with a bill of almost pounds 5 million.

Trips, exposure to deadly asbestos and problems with training were behind some of the most costly compensation payouts by the city council last year, the Birmingham Mail can reveal.

Nearly pounds 500,000 was dished out to workers in just nine months as the Birmingham authority was hit with 128 employer liability claims.

It was already one of the biggest worker compensation payers among the UK's local councils having stumped up pounds 4.9 million over five years from 2006.

The toilet payout is dwarfed by one that came between October and December last year, when a worker got pounds 66,809 because they hadn't received the right training to do their job.

During the same period there were payments of pounds 30,000 and pounds 19,948 after injuries due to "unsafe working practices".

A claim between April and June due to exposure to asbestos cost the authority pounds 36,462, while another worker got pounds 15,000 after being hit by a falling object.

And nearly pounds 11,000 was paid to a worker between July and September after they suffered the effects of hand arm vibration.

The council said it couldn't give any further details about the payouts, but its figures - released under the Freedom of Information Act - did reveal the average payout for April to December was around pounds 3,753.

A Birmingham City Council spokesman defended the pay-outs and said their legal department dealt with an average of 100 employer liability personal injury claims every year.

"Over the period concerned the council employed up to 48,000 individuals," he added.

"The claims brought against the council represent around 0.4 per cent of the council's workforce.

"The health, safety and welfare of the council's employees is a paramount consideration and the council prides itself on the way that safety is actively managed within the council and wider community.

"There is of course always room for improvements and when accidents do occur, appropriate reviews are undertaken, safety policy is revised as required and lessons learned to ensure that we continue to maintain high standards of safety."

Helen Bradin, from Walsall-based employer liability specialists Bradin Trubshaw Solicitors, said: "Everybody talks about the compensation culture and claims that health and safety has gone mad, but it does in fact serve a purpose.

"There is a real need for health and safety provisions, especially when manual handling is part of the job. When things go wrong in the workplace compensation payouts can range from anything between pounds 2,000 for a crushed finger to tens of thousands for work-related stress - costs that can easily be prevented."

She added: "In our experience, all too often employers, whether a local authority or not, fail to adequately risk assess tasks being performed in the workplace."
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Apr 23, 2012
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