There are countless stories in the media of late concerning people who’ve suffered hearing damage or hearing loss due to conditions in the workplace and who have gone on to claim compensation from employers or former employers. There are even law firms now solely dedicated to pursuing such claims, it’s become that much of an issue. The Health and Safety Executive states that some 17,000 people in the UK suffer deafness, ringing in the ears or some other ear condition caused by excessive noise at work.
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 call for employers to take steps to prevent or reduce health and safety risks due to workplace noise. If you employ staff in an industry where noisy power tools or machinery are used; where impact noise is apparent or where there are explosive sources, then you are required by law to conduct risk assessments and put measures in place to reduce or eliminate risks so that the hearing of your employees is protected.
Measures such as hearing protection and noise controls should be implemented and properly used and staff should be fully trained and monitored.
Taking Reasonable Steps to Prevent Health & Safety Issues
If a claim is brought against you by an employee or former member of staff then your employers’ liability cover will take care of the claim. However, as we discussed in a previous blog post on health and safety and insurance, insurers will expect you to take reasonable steps to comply with the relevant health and safety legislation.
It’s a good idea to make yourself aware of the effects of noise at work and of the types of hearing loss or damage. Hearing loss can be permanent and disabling and there are other problems too, such as tinnitus – a constant ringing in the ears – a most debilitating condition that can lead to sleep loss and other problems.
Also think about noise in terms of how it can affect safety in the workplace. It can make announcements or warnings difficult to comprehend and can also reduce awareness of what’s going on around you.
Hearing Loss Compensation Claims
There is an abundance of cases of compensation being awarded for hearing loss or damage and new actions are being brought on a daily basis. In some instances, such as with British Telecom – an organisation which has paid out hundreds of thousands in hearing loss compensation to date – much of the hearing damage was down to a lack of knowledge of the risks at the time.
In some cases actions are brought several years after an employee has left an organisation, and in others, unions bring joint actions covering several workers. Some employees may even be awarded a payout even if there are no current symptoms, on the basis that their hearing is likely to be affected later in life.
Where to Find out More
If you’d like to read more about how to assess the risks associated with workplace noise, and how to control it, there is ample information on the Health and Safety Executive website on their dedicated noise at work pages. For advice on employers’ liability insurance, give us a call.