A recent report issued by the Medico Legal Society notes that more and more workers are claiming that their hearing has been irreversibly damaged by noise at work, calling the phenomenon ‚’the new whiplash’.
The total number of claims is thought to have increased by at least two thirds, with approximately 25,000 more civil cases instigated in 2014 compared to the previous year. Despite the huge increase in claims, it appears that a mere one in ten is successful. Information from the Institute of Actuaries suggests that up to 85% of claims are rejected by major insurance companies, branding many of the claims as ‚’fraudulent’.
With the increasing rise in popularity of no-win no-fee solicitors, it appears that many people are being encouraged to simply ‚’have a go’ and see if their hearing loss is eligible for noise at work compensation.
This has led Vice Chair for the Parliamentary Group and Deafness to comment on the matter, saying: ‚’There is certainly a danger for those affected by hearing loss to be swept up by no-win no-fee promises from injury-based law firms, but it is important to stress that sufferers should seek help and advice from the NHS, who can provide the right support.’
False claims or not, employers have a legal obligation to protect their employees from noise at work. This includes providing employee hearing tests if their exposure is deemed excessive (which can be determined by an acoustic consultant), as well as providing hearing protection to employees where required.
Employee negligence is still a significant cause of industrial deafness and noise-induced hearing loss, and the Noise at Work Act (2005) now requires employers to prevent circumstances which could have been ‚’reasonably foreseen’ in relation to noise at work. Although payouts have been relatively rare for employees claiming noise-induced hearing, they can still be steep. It has been suggested that even mild industrial deafness can cost an employer a minimum of ¬£4,000. This makes control of work and regular employee hearing testing imperative for avoiding costs and reduced quality of life later down the line.