Between 1978 and 2015, our client was exposed to high levels of noise during the course of his employment as a marine engineer and mechanical technician for the offshore industry. Within these years, he worked for various companies, maintaining and operating boat engines and generators.
He primarily worked for Flotta Oil Terminal in Orkney throughout this time. However, as his employment was subject to TUPE transfer, his most recent employer, Wood Group (North Sea) Limited, were considered responsible for the whole of his employment, and so acted as the defender in this case.
The very high levels of noise that our client was subjected to on a regular basis led to him sustaining significant hearing loss.
What's more, prior to 1989, our client wasn't provided with any suitable ear protection. Medical examinations were also rare. Our client recalls only two examinations in the time since Wood Group became his employer in 2002. These examinations included hearing tests, with the second of these flagging up some level of hearing loss.
Around the time of this second hearing test, our client's condition began to affect him quite noticeably. For instance, his wife noticed that he frequently had the television on at an excessive volume, and he would often have difficulty understanding what people were saying if there was background noise.
Therefore, after his hearing test at work, he visited his GP, who referred him to hospital for a further test. This confirmed he had suffered from hearing loss in both ears and required hearing aids.
Our client retired from work in 2015, at which time his hearing had deteriorated to the point where he couldn't hear a conversation in public. Clinicians at the hospital said that his work was likely to have contributed to his condition. He therefore decided to make a compensation claim with Thompsons, instructing his work accident solicitors through his union, Unite.
On reviewing all the evidence that our client provided, our work accident solicitors believed that his employers were in breach of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations and had failed in their duty of care to limit exposure to unsafe levels of noise.
We intimated a claim to our client's employers but received no satisfactory response. Confident in the case's chances of success, and concerned that our client's case would soon be affected by limitation if we were to wait any longer (the defender argued that the case was time-barred because of how long our client was aware of his hearing loss before making a claim), we continued to raise action in the All Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court.
To help with the claim, we instructed a medical report by a consultant otolaryngologist, who confirmed that our client had suffered noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus. We also instructed a second report from an acoustic consultant, who agreed that the development of the condition was down to the employer's negligence. He also advised that such negligent exposure continued to occur after 1989, which was when our client started to wear hearing protection and the date the defender requested as the cut-off date for the basis of the report. However, based on the medical evidence, we didn't agree to this.
Before the proof hearing, the defender informed us that it wished to instruct its own medical report. The defender's medical expert gave the opinion that the majority of our client's hearing loss was the result of ageing, not unsafe levels of noise in the workplace. We believed there was a chance the court would agree with this view, and because our client wished to avoid attending court, we pressured the employer to put forward a settlement offer.
The defender offered our client £5,000, which we believed was a similar amount to the damages the court was likely to award. We're pleased to report that our client received compensation for his condition on 28 July 2017. He was very happy with the service provided by our solicitors, and expressed his satisfaction at how helpful they had been and how well they had advised him at each stage of his claim.