School worker's injury while supervising bus

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On 27 November, our client, Mrs Maureen Phinn was involved in a workplace accident, which led her to seek compensation for her injuries.

At the time of the incident, Mrs Phinn was working for the Glasgow City Council as a pupil support assistant and bus escort within New Hills Secondary School, a school for children with special needs and learning difficulties. The incident happened when she was carrying out her bus escort duties. This role required her to supervise the pupils on the bus as they were taken to and from the school. Since the beginning of the new school term, a new pupil had been allocated to the bus that our client supervises. This pupil had documented behavioural issues that posed a risk to staff, but this was not made known to Mrs Phinn at the time.

The new pupil had already been picked up and was sat on the bus when another pupil, who was clearly very upset and agitated, entered the bus and started banging on the windows. This behaviour agitated the new pupil, who started banging his head on the window. Noticing blood on his forehead, Mrs Phinn asked the bus driver to pull over so she could intervene.

Worried that he was going to seriously harm himself, Mrs Phinn approached the pupil to try to calm him down. However, when she did so, the pupil attempted to bite our client, causing her to jump abruptly away. The pupil then proceeded to stand and swing his rucksack around, striking our client on the neck and shoulder.

The Consequences

Our client went to see her GP the day following the incident, and she was given painkillers for the injury to her neck and shoulder. Our client was off work for one week but didn't sustain any loss of earnings during this time.

When she returned to work, however, she still felt pain in her neck and shoulder. She visited the People Asset Management group, who recommended she undertake physiotherapy. In addition to her physical injuries, the incident also caused her a great deal of anxiety and stress.

Our client was off work for one week but didn't sustain any loss of earnings during this time. She also required help with the housework and shopping.

The Settlement

Mrs Phinn instructed Thompsons' work accident solicitors through her union, UNISON. We intimated a claim to the defender on the basis of common law with reference to Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

There was no excuse for Mrs Phinn's employer not to have been fully aware that the pupil's behaviour was problematic, as there was a long documented history of similar behaviour on buses.

What's more, Mrs Phinn was not provided with key information that could have prevented her injury. Usually, when a new pupil is transferred onto another bus, the bus escort should be provided with documentation informing them of any potential risks the pupil's behaviour could pose. No such documentation was given to Mrs Phinn prior to the incident, even though it did exist. Only after the incident did our client find out that there was a risk assessment warning of the pupil's reactions to loud noises and his tendency to strike his head. The same risk assessment also stated that staff should have been provided with bite sleeves and that they shouldn't try to stop him hitting his head because of the risk of being bitten.

Obviously, had Mrs Phinn been provided with this information, she would have handled the situation differently and lessened the risk of being bitten. By not providing Mrs Phinn with the appropriate risk assessment known, her employer was in violation of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Despite all this, in August 2017 the case was settled without admission of liability, with the defender offering our client a compensation award in the sum of £5,000 for her neck and shoulder injuries.

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