Excessive noise at work for more than 3 decades leads to £4,250 damages for BT engineer

Dated:   

A 59 year-old BT employee from Merthyr Tydfil has been awarded compensation for loss of hearing caused by long-term exposure to excessive noise.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Prior to his 32-year employment at the telecoms company, for whom he still works, the engineer was no stranger to noisy workplaces. On leaving school, he spent 5 years at the Hoover factory in Merthyr, staying on after his apprenticeship.

No prior exposure to excessive noise


Since he used ear defenders whenever he worked on Hoover's shop floor, there is no evidence to suggest he was exposed to any excessively loud noise during this time.

However, this was to change on starting at BT in 1981. He spent a period of 4 to 5 years working as an engineer on overhead cables, after which he went on to service the underground system.

His work involved fault finding, cable changeovers and installation, for which he needed extensively to use oscillators and amplifiers. He was provided with a set of green oscillators (also known as tone sets) and a van, and later a set of unmodified yellow oscillators. Most recently he used a set of blue oscillators.

Controversial use of tone sets


The oscillators, commonly used by apprentice engineers, cable jointers, line maintenance engineers and technicians to install lines in BT networks, have provoked much recent controversy.

In 2010, the telecoms giant admitted that many of their engineers were negligently exposed to excessive levels of noise during their employment, with the oscillators most often identified as the cause.

In the case of our client, the symptoms of hearing loss took some years to become known. In due course he noticed unusual background noise when people spoke to him, and he frequently missed parts of conversations.

Employer at fault for irreversible damage


We wrote to BT alleging that the employer had permitted our client to be exposed to a harmful level of noise which damaged his hearing. The defendant failed to recognise the existence of such high levels of noise in the workplace, along with the unquestionable fact that the noise created a risk of irreversible damage.

Among a number of counts against current health and safety legislation, BT also failed both to provide adequate hearing protection devices and to investigate noise levels.

Hearing aids needed 5-10 years sooner – medical report


Our client was awarded damages of £4,250, a figure which also covered expenses incurred during the course of medical investigations.

He is now able privately to afford a set of digital hearing aids – devices he needs some 5 to 10 years earlier than would be normal due to his exposure to workplace noise – as recommended in his medical report.

Good service and advice


After the settlement, our client praised the "very good service and advice from Simpson Millar LLP. [They] answered my queries about my claim; I would recommend their services".


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