£300,000 paid out to former Walsall Council worker in asbestos claim

Damages of more than £300,000 have been paid out to a former Walsall Council worker for a 40-year-old asbestos claim.

Walsall Council
Walsall Council

Health and safety bosses said the employer’s liability claim – dating back to 1982 – was lodged in 2020/21 and is yet to be closed by Walsall Council’s insurers.

At a personnel committee meeting on Monday, councillors were told so far £315,000 had been paid out and the total could increase.

Councillor Chris Towe raised concerns about the “big figure” while council leader Mike Bird asked officers to provide him with more information on what the final cost could be.

A report presented by health and safety manager Chris Close revealed there were two other claims relating to either premises or use of equipment or substances in 2020/21.

Both were closed with one seeing £3,500 damages being paid out while the other didn’t cost the council anything.

Historic claims settled in 2020/21 saw a total of £136,200 in damages paid for 14 employer’s liability claims and a total of £1,210 for six public liability claims related to council premises.

Councillor Towe said: “This asbestos claim been going on for 40 years. We don’t know what the final figure will be for this. It is a big figure isn’t it?”

Mr Close said: “The problem going back 40 years is it is very difficult to tell what happened at the time, how the person was exposed, etcetera, and that’s where the insurance company comes in. Sometimes they will fight claims or go along with them.

“It is difficult because this person could have had lots of different jobs over their lifetime and been exposed to asbestos to numerous scenarios and it appears to be us getting the final bill for it.

“That is ongoing on at the moment and over £300,000 has been paid out so far but it only came in this year as a claim.

“It isn’t closed at the moment. It could be they are just tying up the loose ends or it could be there are further funds to go out.”

He added: “Sometimes, health issues are the forgotten part of health and safety and yet they can come back to bite us many years later, particularly asbestos. That’s why we pay so much attention to asbestos to make sure we get it right.

“Obviously this was 40 years ago and it is very difficult to know what happened at the time and what controls were in place. We have very few records going back that far unfortunately.”

Councillor Bird said: “I would like some further details on this claim to know what this is, where it is in the system and what the ultimate cost could be.”

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