Justice For Engineer Who Suffered Hearing Loss Due To Noisy Working Environment

Workplace Injury Lawyers Call For Better Hearing Protection For Employees

19.09.2013

By Helen MacGregor

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

Brian Wright, of Calder Terrace in Halifax, will require a hearing aid in the near future due to damage caused by the heavy machinery he came into contact with while working for DHL Excel and Sykes (Dorlux) Limited, in the 1980s and 1990s.

During his 12 year career as an engineer at DHL Excel, the 65-year-old worked in the engine rooms on ships where he was exposed to noisy generators, turbo chargers and pumps from the ship’s engines. At Sykes (Dorlux), where he was employed as a maintenance fitter, he was also exposed to the noise created by industrial sized quilting machinery and compressed air tools.

Brian 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 specialist hearing aids.

Sarah Tagg, who specialises in industrial deafness at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Brian 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 Brian is likely to have to wear a hearing aid 10 years earlier than he would have perhaps expected to and will 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.

“Brian 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.”

Brian, who has been married to his wife for 30 years, worked at DHL Excel, formally known as Ocean Transport & Sons Limited, between 1971 and 1983 and spent most of his 12-year career working in noisy engine rooms on board ships where he was responsible for repairing the vessel’s equipment and machinery.
 
In 1983, he began working for Sykes (Dorlux), which was based on Club Lane in Ovenden and used to be known as Dorlux Beds Limited before the firm was dissolved. He was employed as a maintenance engineer and was also responsible for repairing broken down machinery.

He began to notice his hearing loss about three years ago and now suffers from the debilitating symptoms of tinnitus every day. 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 onboard the ships and at the Sykes factory 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 while working at both firms and it was so bad at DHL, I had to use hand signals to communicate with 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.