High risks and dubious rewards in the name of organised jollity

SINCE the advent of simple paintballing expeditions for middle managers, the team-building industry has devised a baffling array of exercises.

They include events such as team beekeeping and honey gathering, rattlesnake hunts, bull-riding camps, and a scenario known as "Barbie Heroism", where employees use cranks and pulleys to control a toy helicopter and rescue Barbie dolls from a pool full of plastic crocodiles.

A US firm known as Fun Department has started taking on clients in Europe. The Delaware-based company promises that having "fun" helps prevent boredom and fatigue, "the enemies of productivity". It offers the likes of "fuzzy dice roll-offs" and "trike races".

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But the price can be high. There have been several cases of people being left with burns after being asked to walk over hot coals. And nine years ago, Anne Shackley, a sales executive from Newcastle, was awarded 275,000 compensation after her employers made her go on a corporate bonding exercise that involved sumo wrestling.

Forced to dress up in a padded suit, she was knocked to the ground and hit her head on the concrete floor, later developing epilepsy.