By Oliver Farrimond
UNLUCKY staff and visitors at some of Scotland’s top tourism sights have injured themselves almost 250 times since the beginning of last year.
Some 126 members of staff at Historic Scotland and VisitScotland, and 120 visitors to their sites, found themselves hurt in accidents.
Five claims for compensation have followed as a result of the injuries, which include collisions with cannons, falling flagpoles and hogweed burns.
According to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request, more than 100 hapless visitors at Historic Scotland sites received injuries ranging from cracked ribs to dislocated elbows and broken shoulders.
And almost 20 members of the public at VisitScotland sites recorded injuries, including a child at the Wallace Monument in April of last year who had to have the tip of their finger removed after trapping it in a toilet door.
A spokesperson for VisitScotland said: “The safety of our staff and customers across our network of offices and visitor information centres is of paramount importance.
“We are striving to improve our performance in this area.”
While no victims of injury at VisitScotland’s sites pursued legal action as a result of their accidents, some of the more serious incidents at Historic Scotland sites did result in staff or members of the public claiming for damages.
A staff member who fell off scaffolding and tore an ankle ligament is currently having their claim handled by Historic Scotland solicitors, as is another who slipped on ice and broke a wrist.
A third visitor has a claim currently being handled, after a trip on a raised kerb left them with a cut above the left eye and a broken shoulder.
One other visitor has seen their claim repudiated, and another was settled without admission of liability – both had stumbled on stairs.
A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said: “The health and safety of our staff and visitors is one of our main priorities. The latest statistics show not only a decrease in the number of accidents but also in the severity.
“Historic Scotland manages 1000 staff and welcomes millions of visitors to over 345 properties in Scotland on a yearly basis.
“The nature of our work and the sites that we manage present unique health and safety challenges.
“However, we recognise our responsibility to manage health and safety and constantly strive for a better performance record.
We will continue to engage with employees, local partners, schools, travel trade industry, and the Health and Safety Executive to continually evolve in this area.”
Historic Scotland’s compliment of ancient cannons also proved hazardous, accounting for four injuries to visitors and staff.
One visitor injured themselves by falling off one of the cannons while taking a photograph, and a staff member also struck their head and shoulder after tripping and falling into them.
A further two visitors tripped over the cannons and fell down.
Wheelchairs account for several accidents, with one wheelchair user at a Historic Scotland site who went off-road “ending up in reeds”.
A runaway wheelchair was also responsible for a staff member at the same body injuring their fingers.
In total, 22 people at Historic Scotland sites were struck by falling or moving objects, and 18 staff members suffered musculoskeletal injuries while handling furniture and other items.
Another 21 people walked into or otherwise struck a fixed object – including three visitors who ran into the same interpretation board – and one staff member was involved in a vehicle accident.
Two staff members at Historic Scotland also suffered burns and blisters as a result of coming into contact with “Giant Hogweed”, an ornamental plant introduced to Britain in the 19th century that can cause scars that last for several years, or even permanent blindness.
There were fewer overall accidental injuries at VisitScotland’s sites, with 17 visitors and 28 staff at their locations.
Slips, trips and falls account for most of these, with 17 people – 11 staff and six visitors – hurting themselves at VisitScotland sites in this way.
The injured parties include one member of staff whose accident report reads: “Looking for Christmas tree in store at bottom of stairs, lost footing and missed step on way out of store and fell backwards over large plank of wood, landing flat on floor. Twisted right ankle and pulled right calf muscle.”
Another staff member at VisitScotland’s Ocean Point offices in Edinburgh also received a nasty surprise when unpackaging some display material: “Staff member working at Len Lothian removed pop-up display material from case didn’t realise it would pop up so quickly. Hit eyebrow no bruising.”