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Hillingdon Council Failed To Address Noise Problems Despite Repeated Complaints

Lawyers Await Apology For Teacher Over Voice ‘Injury That Could Have Been Avoided’



Lawyers acting for an aggrieved former teacher who suffered a permanent voice injury that forced her to give up the job she adored have said an apology from her employers is well overdue after they admitted failing to address her complaints regarding the continuous noise problems.

Joyce Walters’ twelve year career teaching English to foreign students was cut short when she developed a serious problem with her vocal chords from having to speak loudly over noise outside her classroom, which was particularly bad during school break times.  Despite telling her bosses at Harlington Adult Education Centre about the issues she faced, nothing was done.

After enduring microlaryngoscopy surgery to assess the problems with her throat it was discovered that Joyce had non-cancerous vocal chord nodules, and despite undergoing months of speech therapy, the 50 year old mother-of-two is now only able to speak for short periods of time before her throat becomes sore and her voice hoarse.

Hillingdon Council, which runs the Harlington Adult Education Centre, that is housed in the Harlington Community School where Mrs Walters worked from September 2005 to July 2006, has since admitted it was at fault for the injuries Joyce suffered to her voice and awarded her a six figure settlement, but now her lawyers are asking that the council apologise to her and show it has taken steps to prevent other staff having similar problems in the future.

Joanne Jefferies, an expert in workplace injuries at leading national law firm Irwin Mitchell, said the council had accepted liability for her long-term injuries and accepted that:

 That the noise from outside the classroom made the problems Mrs Walters faced even worse
 And that they failed to address her complaints regarding the continuous noise problems

Ms Jefferies says that although the council has accepted full responsibility for the injury, Mrs Walters is owed an apology and reassurance that the same thing won’t happen to anyone else.

She said: “Despite numerous attempts to raise her concerns with her employer Mrs Walters was ignored and it has resulted in this terrible, life altering injury for which she is owed a big apology.  To make matters worse she is still awaiting assurances that something has been done to prevent others suffering.

“Hillingdon Council have since accepted that they failed to safeguard the health and safety of their employees and what makes this case so sad is that this could, and should have been avoided.

“It is now imperative that lessons are not only learnt, but shared with other schools throughout the country to ensure that further suffering is prevented.”

Joyce’s injury has had such devastating consequences that it is no longer possible for her to use her voice in a professional capacity; she will not be able to teach again.
She said: “Teaching was my calling, I adored the classroom and miss it so much, but the problems with my voice make it impossible for me to ever go back.
“I even have to think twice about day to day things, like speaking on the phone to my dad in Scotland as my voice is not strong enough to maintain a conversation for any length of time.”

She adds: “Voice loss for any professional voice user is difficult to come to terms with, but knowing it could have been prevented makes it even more difficult to handle.”