The HSE estimates that as many as 20,000 employees in the UK are suffering from a variety of hearing loss problems caused by their workplace.
Unfortunately, many people suffering from hearing loss are unaware their job could be causing it. As such, they fail to take proper precautions.
Besides, since hearing loss can sometimes take a long time to materialise after the first exposure, victims of this injury tend to blame it on ageing rather than having been exposed to harm at their current or former noisy work environments.
Furthermore, those who know or believe the cause of their injury is work-related often do not take further action, because they are unsure how to make a claim or are worried it could negatively impact their job (if they are still employed).
If you believe, or have been told, your injury is caused by your working environment, you can get some form of recompense for your suffering. In this article, we’ll explain industrial deafness claims in full, from what qualifies to your rights in the work place through to getting advice.
What Is Industrial Deafness?
Industrial deafness is a condition wherein a person’s hearing deteriorates over a long period of time because of repeated exposure to a noisy work environment.
It is also known as occupational deafness or noise induced hearing loss (NIHL).
Factories, mines, quarries, farms, power stations, foundries and even nightclubs are just some examples of workplaces with continuous loud noise. Industrial deafness can either be temporary or permanent.
What Are The Symptoms Associated With Industrial Deafness?
Exposure to high decibel noise in your workplace can lead to several symptoms including:
- Hearing difficulty in one or both ears
- Difficulty in keeping up with conversations
- Being able to only hear media properly by turning it up to high levels
- Permanent or temporary hearing loss
- Absolute hearing loss in one or both ears
- Inability to hear well when there is background noise
- Difficulty in hearing telephone conversations
Are Tinnitus And Acoustic Trauma Related To Industrial Deafness?
Yes, these two hearing conditions can also symptoms be of industrial deafness. However, some people suffering from them do not realise this.
1 Acoustic Trauma:
This type of hearing loss occurs when a person is suddenly exposed to an exceedingly loud noise, like gunshots in close quarters or explosions. The deafness caused by these kinds of noises happens quickly.
This hearing loss can also be caused by exposure to loud noises. It is identified by constant hissing, ticking, buzzing, droning, or ringing sounds in the ears.
Can My Employer Be Held Responsible For My Injury?
Generally, in the UK, employers are responsible for ensuring their workers are protected from accidents in the workplace. This can be seen in several safety laws intended to shield workers from unnecessary harm.
Control Of Noise At Work Regulation
In 2005, the government introduced the much more stringent Control of Noise at Work Regulation in a bid to guard employees in the workplace from constant exposure to extreme noise levels.
Part of this regulation entrusted employers with the responsibility of ensuring their employees were working in a safe environment, devoid of accident-prone areas and excessive noise pollution.
When Do Employers Need To Take Preventative Action?
To cite an example, for work environments with noise levels above 80 decibels, the regulation demands that employers look for ways to reduce the noise. For instance, using quieter equipment, installing noise-absorbent material, or even cutting down on the working hours.
In special cases where it is impossible to reduce the noise levels, the regulation makes it compulsory for employers to suitably equip their workers with protective gear to defend against the noise.
In addition, employers are mandated to train and provide workers with information on how they can maintain and use protective gear.
Employers who fail to provide a safe environment for their workers will be deemed to have failed in their duty of care and breached the regulation, putting their employees at risk. So, if you believe your employer breached the Control of Noise at Work Regulation, you can file for compensation.
How Can I File An Industrial Deafness Claim?
Filing an industrial deafness claim requires several steps that must be adhered to if you desire your case to be successful. Here are the important steps we recommend following:
1) Get A Medical Diagnosis
An important part of your claim will be a certified medical report containing details of your injury, severity, physical symptoms, treatments, and its effects on your quality of life.
It is this medical report that will largely be used to determine the amount of compensation you are entitled to.
2) Collate Evidence
You must prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, that your injury was caused by your unsafe work environment. This could entail gathering evidence about your workplace conditions, so document as much as you can.
Asking for statements from your co-workers will also assist your case, as corroborative eyewitness accounts tend to add credibility in the eyes of the law.
3) Prove Your Employer’s Negligence
A vital part of your claim will be proving that your employer failed to take the appropriate measures that would have prevented your injury.
These could include factors such as the failure to provide you with the necessary safety equipment, or neglecting to give you the appropriate training or information that would have averted the injury.
In addition, you also need to show that your employer was aware of the damage their negligence could cause, but declined to take action. An example of this could be that you, or a colleague, raised safety concerns that were ignored by your employer.
When your compensation amount is being calculated, the expenses you incurred as a result of the injury will also be a determining factor.
This is only possible if you keep proof of all injury-related expenses. So, ensure that your receipts are safely stored and all costs are recorded.
5) Contact A Solicitor
Once you have collected the information you require, you can consult with a claims expert. This expert will be able to go through your records and evidence and advise you on the next possible course of action.
How Will My Compensation Pay-out Be Calculated?
When your solicitor is calculating the right compensation amount for you, he/she will consider the following factors:
1) General Damages:
These damages are calculated based on the physical and mental toll the injury has caused, which includes factors such as pain, suffering and trauma.
The Judicial College is in charge of determining the amount of general damages to be awarded in personal injury claims.
2) Special Damages:
In contrast to general damages, special damages are awarded for the financial expenses and loss that you incurred because of the incident.
This means you should expect to be reimbursed for things like:
- Loss of earnings (also includes future earnings where relevant)
- Care expenses
- Medical prescription and treatment costs
- Travel expenses
- Adaptation of home or car expenses
How Much Compensation Should I Expect After The Successful Completion Of My Claim?
It is difficult to provide a precise figure since no two industrial deafness claims are the same. Every case is unique because it differs in conditions, severity, and impact on quality of life.
As an example, settlement figures (based on previous claims cases) for moderate tinnitus/deafness could be in the region of maybe £5,000-10,000 and could be up to double that if the injury is considered serious.
Compensation for a more severe injury or the total loss of hearing in one or more ears could result in a pay-out of tens of thousands of pounds to the victim, in recognition of the severity of the injury. A claims advisor will be able to give you more information.
Please note: these are general guidelines only and does not guarantee the amount you may receive.
Is There Any Time Limit For Filing An Industrial Deafness Claim?
Yes, industrial deafness claims have a specific time period for you to file for compensation. The law stipulates a time limit of three years, starting from the date you found out that your deafness is caused by noise pollution in your workplace. Ideally, you should begin your claim as soon as you get your diagnosis.
How Will My Employer Be Found Liable?
If your employer is found guilty of breaching the Control of Noise at Work Regulation and readily accepts that they are culpable, your claim will be settled out of the courts. This option is the one most favoured by solicitors, so don’t be surprised if your lawyer pursues this course of action.
However, if your employer refuses to accept liability for your injury, you should expect your claim to go to court, where a judge will decide your case on the basis of your evidence.
Industrial Deafness Claims: Last Words
Hearing loss is a frustrating and debilitating condition which, in some cases, can be managed or minimised with hearing aids. However, it can be more serious and have a significant impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. If this condition has been caused by a negligent employer (whether minor or severe), it is your right to seek compensation for your industrial deafness injury.
Whilst monetary compensation will not diminish your suffering, it could help in other ways and may just ensure your employer takes the necessary remedial action to prevent it happening to someone else in the future.