Earlier this week, The Daily Express reported that West Midlands Police have paid out a staggering £589,000 in health and safety compensation over the past year.
This money was awarded to officers for such incidents as:
- Slipping on a wet floor
- Getting bitten by dogs
- Falling off a chair
- Tripping over in the dark
The Express article contains a short interview with Ray Egan, who used to be part of the force. Mr Egan is quick to blame Britain's "claim culture", adding:
"It's like a disease and people are jumping on the bandwagon. It's embarrassing."
But while there can be no doubt that £589,000 is a ludicrous sum of money, we at Label Source are a little worried by Mr Egan's eagerness to blame the claimants. The "claim culture" to which he alludes is very real, but the backlash against this culture - neatly exemplified by that Express article - is equally real, and it could cause big problems if it goes unchecked.
We'll use the 'wet floor' claim as an example. If a floor is wet enough to cause slips, it is the EMPLOYER'S responsibility to place wet floor signs around the area in question. If the West Midlands force failed to fulfil this basic safety measure, then the officer who slipped is entitled to compensation - and why shouldn't he claim it?
It's also worth noting that the reported figure (£589k) does include legal costs. The actual amount given to officers was £328,100; this is hardly any more encouraging, but it's important not to exaggerate when it comes to stories like this.
We see a lot of 'health and safety gone mad' news stories every week, but while silly things do occasionally happen (see this story - also from the Express, as it happens - about a suspected burglar in a tree), we shouldn't be turning the British public against H&S as a practice. Likewise, we ought not to blame the victims for the mistakes of their employers; companies MUST adhere to health and safety guidelines or suffer the same consequence as the West Midlands Police.