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Employers ‘Must Listen’ Over Industrial Deafness Concerns

Heavy Industry Worst Affected As Scottish Law Firm Spots ‘Incredibly Concerning’ Spike In Workplace Deafness


Scottish employers are failing to heed the threat of industrial deafness, according to a leading Glasgow lawyer who has reported an ‘alarming spike’ in deafness cases.

Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell Scotland, which handles scores of cases across Scotland involving people made deaf, or suffering from Tinnitus, as a result of their working environment, have seen an increase in new industrial deafness cases.

Elaine Russell, workplace injury and illness specialist at Irwin Mitchell Scotland, said it appeared that industrial employers were lagging behind in ear and hearing safety and that cases have flooded in involving people working in shipyards, construction, factory floors and the printing industry.

However, she said there was no geographical pattern to the claims – they range from Greenock in the West to Aberdeen in the North East – with Motherwell, Fife, East Lothian and East Kilbride also appearing as hotspots.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, an average of just over 200 people each year across the UK are assessed for hearing problems under the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit scheme.

However, with nine new cases coming to Irwin Mitchell Scotland alone since July 2011, Elaine Russell feels the true figures could be far higher.

She said: “We have seen a sudden and alarming increase in the number of people who have been made deaf or who are suffering Tinnitus. I can’t believe that five per cent of the total annual number of people suffering hearing problems have landed on our desk this summer – there must be far more people who need support in this area.

“There has been nothing to prompt the rise in claims being made and we have to put it down to increasing lapses in health and safety and employers failing to equip their staff with the correct protection.

“Ear defenders absolutely have to be standard issue to anybody working in noisy environments and, as outlined in the 2005 Control of Noise at Work Regulations, employers with workplace environments that frequently exceed 80 decibels should be looking at ways to reduce the volume.

“We accept that some workplaces are noisy – and it is clear that industrial settings are the worst affected – but nobody should be made to suffer from deafness or Tinnitus simply because they have gone to work every day.

“It goes without saying that these conditions can have a huge impact on the way people live their lives – affecting them professionally and socially – and we should be seeing improvements in safety, not a decline.”

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.