Scotland’s biggest teaching union fears that progress in reducing injuries at work may be undermined by Brexit.
Analysis by the EIS union reveals that it secured over £450,000 in compensation settlements for members injured at work over the past year, compared with more than £600,000 in 2016 and around three times this year's figure (more than £1.35 million) in 2012.
However, general secretary Larry Flanagan raised concerns about possible changes to health and safety legislation in the near future as a result of Brexit.
He said: “Many of the valuable workplace protections that we enjoy today are the result of EU legislation. It is encouraging that the number of instances where teachers have been injured at work has decreased in the last year. This is testament to current health and safety regulations, which must be retained following the UK’s departure from the European Union.”
Brexit secretary David Davis, speaking at an economic conference in Berlin in November, said that continued cooperation with the EU on issues such as health and safety standards would be crucial for trade to continue.
The payments secured by the EIS were awarded for a wide range of workplace injuries, including those caused by accident, assault or “poor working environment”. Slips, trips and falls were the most common incidents, and the union says these are “entirely avoidable with correct adherence to appropriate health and safety”. The largest award, of £220,000, was made to an EIS member who suffered a fractured hip and other serious injuries after slipping on a wet floor in a “quite dark” corridor, where there were no warning signs.
The union has also seen an “alarming rise” in cases of work-related stress illness and injury claims over the past few years.
Mr Flanagan said: “Factors such as budget cuts and the declining number of teaching and support staff have had a significant impact on the workload demands placed on teachers and lecturers.
“Yet those in charge of the management of the education system simply demand more output from less resource. This is compounded by the fact that many teachers return to work when they clearly should still be off sick, either from fear of being disciplined because they will hit a sickness absence management trigger or, more often, to ensure that pupils are not losing out.”
Other compensation awards included:
£45,000 to a member who suffered injury to their ribs after being repeatedly punched, kicked and spat upon by a pupil.
£31,000 to a member who, on a school trip, was walking across a poorly maintained car park holding a child’s hand and fell down a pothole, landing on his nose and suffering serious injuries to his right arm and elbow.
£20,000 to a member who worked in dusty rooms over several years and developed acute health problems.
£19,907 to a member who suffered a cut to the top of their head – which had to be stapled – and concussion after a shelf fell.
£12,245 to a member whose kneecap was kicked by a pupil.
£8,000 to a member who let go of a door, which slammed shut on their finger.
£7,890 to a member who tripped on a box at the reception desk, suffering whiplash to their neck and shoulder and lower back pain.
£3,000 to a member who fell after the shaft of a chair snapped, suffering damage to the soft tissue from elbow to fingers in one arm, and ligament damage to their elbow.
£2,300 to a teacher who suffered headaches, disturbed sleep and panic attacks after a parent shouted and swore at them.