Council defends compensation payments

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NEWTOWNABBEY Borough Council has defended its safety record after it was revealed as paying out more compensation to staff than the majority of Northern Ireland’s local authorities.

A Sunday newspaper reported that the council had paid out £137,000 to staff injured during the course of their work in the past five years.

The figure was the third highest among all of Northern Ireland’s 26 councils.

At Monday night’s Policy and Governance Committee meeting councillor John Scott urged the council to examine its working practices.

He said: “We need to look at why this happens and how we stop it.”

In response, chief executive Jacqui Dixon said the figures were on a downward trend and she would prepare a report for the next committee meeting.

Following the meeting the council issued a statement.

It said: “The council has seen a downward trend in workplace accidents and employee compensation payments, which are paid by the council’s insurer.

“A number of proactive steps have been taken to effectively manage the health, safety and wellbeing of council employees.

“This includes but is not limited to the implementation of a Health and Wellbeing Strategy which specifically features the robust management of workplace accident investigation, early intervention and occupational health support.”

It continued: “All accidents at work, that result in any lost time, are investigated through the Corporate Health and Safety section and the outcomes will have various corrective actions. 

“Whilst the cost of employee compensation payments related to accidents at work has fallen, the council will continue to work closely with its partners and the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland, to establish further ways to improve the management of accidents at work and associated costs.”

The statement concluded: “The council will strive to continually improve the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff and members of the public.”

Alliance councillor Billy Webb, also speaking after the meeting added: “Whilst it is unfortunate that Newtownabbey is third in the list of compensation payments I know that appropriate steps have been taken to ensure the work environment is safer
and that staff are performing their duties in an informed manner.

“This has resulted in a fewer accidents and consequently a reduction in compensation being paid. Unlike some other councils Newtownabbey ratepayers have been protected from the cost of compensation payments through proper insurance.”