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Occupational deafness can occur as a result of long-term exposure to high noise levels or exposure to single incidences of a very loud or high-pitched sounds, such as explosions and telephone line faults for headset wearers, which can cause acoustic shock. There are a number of jobs in which the risk of occupational deafness is increased because of the tools and processes used.

It is estimated that more than one million people are at risk of developing hearing problems because of their work, and so health and safety rules have been created to reduce this risk as much as possible.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 1989 were replaced by the Noise at Work Regulations 2005. The updated regulations impose clearer duties on employers to ensure that the hearing of workers and employees is not damaged by noise. Specifically, the Regulations give "action levels" which means that if noise reaches a certain decibel level, steps must be taken to reduce noise and/or exposure to noise.

If appropriate action is not taken, prolonged exposure to noise could cause hearing loss and result in any worker affected making an industrial deafness claim.

From 2008 to 2017, the Health and Safety Executive reports that 1,395 new claims were made for work-related deafness to the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) scheme. In 2017, 70 new claims were made across Great Britain. In Scotland, in 2017 there were 15 new cases of occupational deafness reported. 

AVERAGE WORKPLACE NOISE OF 85DB85dB
AVERAGE NOISE LEVELS MUST NEVER EXCEED 87DB87dB87dB

Action levels for employers

The first action level is that of a daily average workplace noise of 80dB. If you are exposed to this level of noise on a daily basis, then your employer should provide you with information about the dangers of noise, long-term exposure and the range of hearing protection available. and make hearing protection available.

The next action level is that of an average workplace noise of 85dB. If your workplace noise exceeds this thresholdl then hearing protection must be issued and your employer is obliged to ensure that you wear it. They must also give you specific information indicating that hearing protection must be worn whenever you are exposed to noise at this level.

The Regulations also provide:

  • That average noise levels must never exceed 87dB
  • That employers must make all reasonable efforts to minimise the level of noise at work before implementing hearing protection measures. This might involve the use of silencers on certain types of work equipment or noise absorption panels.
  • That employers undertake employee health surveillance to monitor worker's hearing.

If you think that your hearing has been damaged by noise at work you should seek legal advice without delay. The law imposes strict time limits for making compensation claims, and these must be adhered to.

Thompsons Solicitors – industrial deafness claims

The Health and Safety Executive estimates that between 2015/16 and 2017/18, 23,000 workers in the UK developed work-related hearing problems. This means that it is likely that the 70 new industrial deafness claims of which the organisation was aware in 2017 fail to fully reflect the true extent of the noise-related problem in UK and Scottish workplaces.

If you are thinking about a compensation claim and would like to talk to one of the deafness claim experts at Thompsons call us today on 0800 0891 331.

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