Justice For Steel Worker Who Suffered Hearing Loss Due To Noisy Working Environment

Granddad Suffering From Tinnitus Forced To Wear Hearing Aid After 24-Year Career

05.08.2013

By Suzanne Rutter

Workplace injury experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell are warning of the dangers posed by working in loud environments after securing justice for a machine operator left with serious hearing difficulties after his employers failed to provide him with appropriate hearing protection.

Joseph Shaw, from Paddington in Warrington, now requires a hearing aid due to damage caused by the industrial-sized machinery at engineering firms Warrington Wheel and Titan Distribution and Thames Board Mills.

The 75-year-old worked as a press operator at Warrington Wheel and Titan’s St Helen’s factory in Merseyside between 1973 and 1997 where he was responsible for operating machines which punched out steel to make wheels for wagons and trailers. He also worked at Thames Board Mills between 1961 and 1967 doing maintenance work.

The dad-of-two, grandfather-of-five and great-grandfather-of-one has been devastated by the loss of his hearing and the affect that tinnitus, a ringing and buzzing sensation in his ears, has had on his life. He instructed expert industrial illness lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, who have now secured him a four-figure sum to cover the cost of his hearing aids.

Sarah Tagg, who specialises in industrial deafness claims at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Joseph was never warned or advised about the dangers of noise-induced hearing loss or provided with the appropriate protective equipment during his employment at these two companies.

“His case highlights the importance of health and safety policies and employers have a duty of care to their staff which includes providing full protective equipment and educating them on potential hazards.

The damage done by such loud industrial noise is irreversible and means that Joseph has to wear a hearing aid 10 years earlier than he would have perhaps expected to and will have to suffer with tinnitus for the rest of his life.

“The cost of hearing aids can run into thousands and even then will not provide perfect hearing for the wearer – meaning other adaptations need to be made, such as specially developed telephones, doorbells and alarm systems.

“Joseph is now unable to hear properly through no fault of his own so we hope the settlement will give him the opportunity and funds to improve his quality of life.”

Joseph used to work 40 hours a week at Warrington Wheel and Titan Distribution and Thames Board Mills before he retired. In addition to the racket caused by the press machines, he was exposed to further noise from lathes and other heavy machinery during his career at the companies.

He has suffered from gradual hearing loss for the past two or three years and struggles to deal with the buzzing and ringing symptoms of tinnitus. He also has to turn his television and radio up loud in order to hear it and often feels isolated in social situations when he struggles to hear his family and friends talking.

He said: “The working environment at the factories was always so noisy, especially when all the machinery was being used at once. I constantly had to shout to talk to my work mates. I was never warned about how dangerous working in such a noisy environment could be to my hearing and was never given the proper protective gear to wear.

“It has been incredibly upsetting and frustrating to gradually lose my hearing in the past few years and it’s definitely had an impact on my confidence. I also feel sorry for my family who have to keep repeating themselves for me when I don’t hear them the first time.  I struggle on the telephone and have to turn the TV and radio up so I can hear them.

“Having good hearing is something you take for granted until you start to notice it going. I’m angry this could have been prevented if my employers had done more to protect me from the noisy environments I worked in. Nothing can turn back the clock or bring my hearing back but I’m relieved I’ve finally got some justice for what I’ve been through.”

If you or a loved one has suffered from hearing damage such as acoustic shock, tinnitus, and noise-induced hearing loss caused by conditions at work our solicitors could help you claim compensation. See our Industrial Disease Claims page for more information.