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Councils cannot afford to slip up on safety of staff

SERIOUS assaults against teachers in Scotland, like that which cost one the permanent loss of their peripheral vision, are to be deplored for a variety of reasons.

The suffering and injury to the individuals involved in such cases is one price we should not be prepared to pay.

But the accumulative cost to the taxpayer in the form of compensation for those who are victims of such attacks, is also unacceptable.

The Herald reveals today how school teachers and college lecturers were paid more than £300,000 from the public purse.

The teaching union, the EIS has revealed that the former horrifying incident, when a teacher was hit in the face with a school sign and suffered a detached retina, was just one of a litany of assaults against staff members.

That resulted in a pay-out of £7000 and another received £4400 for a black eye and cheek injuries after being punched in the face.

However, even worse was the serious assault which led to long-term injuries and a compensation payment of £130,000.

Clearly, more must be done to improve the safety of staff exposed to such traumatic situations.

However, most injuries are still sustained as a result of accidents involving slips and trips.

As the leader of the teaching union, General Secretary Larry Flanagan points out, especially in cases where injuries are caused by forseeable accidents, the employer, and therefore the taxpayer, has to bear the brunt of the resultant claims.

Employers, represented by Cosla, the umbrella body for councils, insist that statistically speaking, with 50,000 teachers and more than 700,000 pupils in the country, the profession is a safe one.

However, easily preventable events like staff slipping on floors which are wet where no warning sign has been put up, or in car parks which have not been gritted, must be looked at.

At a time when public services are under huge pressure to cut budgets, savings must be made.

Yet it is a false economy to fail to perform basic functions which could potentially help protect staff.

It can be presumed that, as well as the payouts, the schools and colleges involved also face additional costs in trying to replace staff who are marked absent as a result of being injured.

Again, the taxpayer is left to foot the bill.

The good news is that the total figure for compensation has significantly decreased from last year's record total paid out to teachers and college lecturers.

In 2012 it soared to more than £1.5 million.

However, attacks, or indeed preventable accidents which result in long-term damage, have a far higher human cost must be reduced further.

Employers must recognise that the human and financial costs of the failure to implement basic health and safety measures and make effective risk assessments is still too high.

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