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Justice For Mother Who Suffered Hearing Loss In Factory Job

Workplace Injury Lawyers Call For Improved Hearing Protection For Employees


By Helen MacGregor

A machine operator who suffered hearing loss after years of being exposed to loud noise in the workplace, has spoken of her ordeal to raise awareness of the importance of workers being given adequate protection to keep them safe.

Sheila Atkinson of Lord Street in Grimsby, has been left with partial hearing in both ears after being exposed to excessive levels of noise whilst working at Icelandic Foods in the town between 1988 and 2001. During her employment, Sheila operated machines including Bandsaw Machines, Crumb machines, frying machines and large freezers without being provided with ear protectors.

The 56-year-old instructed personal injury experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell in a battle for justice and is speaking out after the firm secured her a four-figure settlement from her former employers to compensate for her suffering.

For 13 years, Sheila operated several machines which all created an incredible amount of noise. Sheila first noticed symptoms approximately five years ago, which have become gradually worse. She is now partially deaf and struggles to be part of family conversations because she can’t hear what people are saying.

Sarah Tagg, who specialises in industrial deafness at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Sheila was never warned or advised about the dangers of noise-induced hearing loss or provided with the appropriate protective equipment during her employment at Icelandic Foods.

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

“The damage caused by operating a variety of machines is permanent and means that Sheila is likely to have to wear a hearing aid many years earlier than expected.

“Partial hearing loss can significantly effect a person’s life which can range from struggling to listen to conversations in everyday life to requiring home adaptations such as specially developed telephones, doorbells and alarm systems.

“Sheila is now unable to hear properly through no fault of her own so we hope the settlement will give her the funds to improve her quality of life.”

Sheila, who lives with her daughter and grandson, commented: “It’s shocking when I think back to when I operated the machines that I was never offered the appropriate protection. It was an extremely noisy environment and 13 years of being exposed to this has obviously taken its toll.

“At the age of 56 I really didn’t expect my hearing to be suffering like this, it’s really quite upsetting. I take a back seat during most of our family conversations because I struggle to hear what people are saying, it’s both embarrassing and frustrating. Now my family always says that the television is on too loud and I pretty much shout down the telephone.

“I just hope this highlights the importance of wearing the appropriate protection in the work place and hope businesses take action to ensure this issue doesn’t happen again. You really don’t appreciate how much you rely on your hearing until it is gone.”

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.