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Lawyers Demand Urgent Withdrawal Of Dangerous Telecoms Equipment

Hundreds Of Engineers Left Deafened By Bt Fault Testing Devices


Industrial illness lawyers from Irwin Mitchell are demanding communications companies withdraw dangerous equipment which is leaving engineers deafened or with hearing damage.

The law firm has received complaints from across the UK from engineers deafened after using British Telecom’s (BT) ‘green set’ and ‘yellow set’ oscillators, which are widely used in the communications industry. The devices transmit a constant high pitched sound through a headset, allowing the user to listen for changes in tone to track faults in the cables.

Irwin Mitchell’s industrial illness team is currently representing more than 100 clients from Yorkshire alone, all of whom have suffered hearing damage while working with the oscillators at BT.

Although BT has now admitted that the equipment is dangerous and has withdrawn both oscillators from use, Irwin Mitchell is concerned that other companies, who have been sold the old devices by BT previously, are still putting workers at risk.

Mark Allen, an Associate Director in the Industrial Illness team at Irwin Mitchell, said: “There are hundreds of engineers in the region, and far more across the UK, who have used these oscillators in the past, but the most concerning thing is that there are still engineers who could be using these dangerous devices day in day out.

“Although BT has now withdrawn the ‘green set’ and ‘yellow set’ devices from use and replaced them with a safe model, they do supply other companies with equipment and have sold many of the dangerous oscillators in the past.

“We have already received enquiries from engineers who work or have worked for other companies, such as Kingston Communications, who have used the unsafe devices.

“Action must be taken immediately. People are being left with serious hearing damage through no fault of their own and the safety of workers needs to be the main priority. They have the right to expect to go to work and carry out their duties without fear of injury.”

Alan McGarry, 54, from Sheffield, has worked at BT since 1978, and although he is now a Senior Operations Engineer at the company he used both types of oscillator while previously working as a faults man.

As a result of using the headsets Mr McGarry has now been left with permanent hearing damage, due to the constant exposure to loud and high-pitched noise.

He said: “My hearing has been severely affected by using these oscillators. I struggle to hear conversations, particularly in loud environments, and it can be embarrassing having to ask people to repeat themselves time and again. I also have to have the TV on extremely loud to be able to pick up the dialogue.

“At BT we don’t use them anymore, but I know that others still do. It’s proven that these devices can seriously damage your hearing, so they need to be withdrawn straight away.”

Tony Rupa, Head of Legal Services at the Communication Workers Union, says hearing damage remains a concern in the communications sector.

He said: “People traditionally associate hearing damage with heavy manufacturing and music industries, but there are many people who work in the communications sector who are exposed to loud, continuous and high pitched noises.

“The Communication Workers’ Union is assisting around 2,500 members with claims arising from the use of oscillators/amplifiers in their work, many of which are suffering with tinnitus.”

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.