Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss occurs most commonly in the workplace environment, where workers are exposed on a regular basis to noise levels of over 80dBA. Such exposure over a long period can result in permanent hearing impairment, which often occurs gradually.
Your employer’s liability re noise induced hearing loss
Irish employers are required to inform employees if the noise level in the workplace is likely to exceed 85 dBA, and to tell them about the potential risk of hearing damage.
They are also obliged to provide the services of a qualified audiologist to offer hearing checks and, if necessary, hearing protection. Workers in aviation, agriculture, construction, forestry, and manufacturing have a significantly higher risk of developing tinnitus and hearing difficulty. So if you work in any of these industries, it’s imperative that you take precautions. Irish Times 1997 – Employers cannot afford to turn a deaf ear to staff hearing problems
The following are the most common forms of impaired hearing that arise from over-exposure to loud noise in the workplace
1. Tittinus: which causes a ringing or buzzing sound in both ears;
2. Acoustic Shock Syndrome: which is damage to the ear caused by a single intense “impulse” sound at close proximity, such as an explosion or bang, or alternatively, through repeated exposure to high-frequency, high-intensity sounds through a headset.
3. Occupational Deafness: causing permanent cell damage to the inner ear that causes partial or complete deafness. Compensation may be achieved for noise-induced hearing impairment in the workplace.
General damages, for the injury itself, together with special damages, which are those out-of-pocket expenses borne by the claimant as a result of the accident, and any loss of earnings, may be recoverable from an employer who has failed in their duty of care to the employee.
Particularly in relation to special damages, claimants may be able to recover expenses arising out of the need to undergo surgery and have certain adaptations made to their homes such as adapted telephones, doorbells and alarm clocks. Furthermore, the need for hearing aids, batteries and replacements, as well as sign language training, may also be recoverable.
The following industries are amongst the most common within which workers are at risk of hearing impairment;
- Road drilling
- Car manufacturing
However, there are many other industries and work environments that may result in workers suffering damage, and in the circumstances, anyone who believes that their impairment is a direct result of exposure to certain working conditions may be eligible to claim compensation against their employer, or former employer.
What to do if an accident occurs in the workplace?
1. Contact our accidents in the workplace solicitor
Our workplace injury solicitors are experts in advising clients on how to make these claims. Many people use a solicitor to aid with this application process as a lot of paperwork and filing are required, and our expert team is on hand to make the process as smooth as possible.
2. The PIAB Application
The next step is to make an application to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB). If your personal injury claim concerns anything other than medical negligence, some assaults, and some cases of entirely psychological injury, then your claim can be brought through PIAB. Examples of claims that PIAB covers include:
3. Submitting information and documents to PIAB
Your solicitor will obtain evidence, medical reports, and other expert reports required. And submits these documents to the Board for Assessment.
4. Consent to assess the claim
Once the application is made, PIAB issue a formal notification of claim to the defendant(s). The defendant(s) must indicate within 90 days whether or not they consent or not to the assessment of the claim. If the defendant consents, then PIAB will proceed to assess the claim. If they decline to have the case assessed, the PIAB will issue an Authorisation to allow the claimant to issue court proceedings.
5. Claim assessment time
If PIAB is assessing the claim, this will usually take about 9 months. They will then issue their Assessment of your claim, this amount reflects general and special damages awarded in respect of your claim. If the Assessment is accepted by both parties, the PIAB will issue an Order to Pay. The Order to Pay has the same status as an Order of the Court, and must be discharged by the defendant(s) within 10 days. A settlement cheque will then be issued to the claimant.
If the Assessment is rejected by either party, an Authorisation will be granted by PIAB to bring court proceedings.
How much compensation you receive for an accident in the workplace is dictated by two legally binding documents known as:
The “Book of Quantum” and
The recently published Personal Injuries Guidelines by the Judicial Council of Ireland.
The Book of Quantum dictates how much compensation you are owed if your Authorisation was received from PIAB prior to the 21st of April 2021. In all other cases, compensation in respect of general damages is assessed with the aid of the Judicial council’s Personal Injuries Guidelines.
The Book of Quantum sets out general guidelines as to the amounts that may be awarded or assessed in Personal Injury Claims. The guidelines are divided into sections depending on what category of injury was suffered, e.g., head injuries, neck injuries, back injuries and spinal fractures, upper limb injuries, lower limb injuries, and body and internal organs. The Book of Quantum sets out 4 steps to assess what compensation is appropriate for the suffered injury. These steps are as follows:
- Identify the category of injury
- Assess the severity of the injury (through medical reports and records)
- Research the value range
- Consider the effect of multiple injuries
The Personal Injuries Guidelines were adopted by The Judicial Council on the 6th of March 2021. Similar to the Book of Quantum, this legal document sets out guidelines for assessing compensation in respect of general damages. The general principles for this assessment centre on three criteria:
- Awards of damages must be fair and reasonable to both the claimant and the defendant(s)
- Awards must be proportionate to the injuries sustained
- Awards must be compared on a scale of injuries that are both of a lesser and greater magnitude
One of the most substantial differences brought about by this update is that the average level of damages awarded has been reduced. The new guidelines have, however, provided more detail and more explanation for claimants, which is overall a welcomed change to the process of making a personal injury claim.
Statute of limitations
Pursuant to the Statute of Limitations Act 1957, a claim must be brought within two years of:
- The date of the noise exposure that caused the hearing loss, or
- The date of discovering a hearing impairment linked to noise exposure. This is known as the date of knowledge.
The date of knowledge is the date that a claimant may reasonably have been expected to realise that they have a hearing impairment as a result of their working conditions. The date of knowledge is usually the date of diagnosis made by a healthcare professional, but not always.
If a claimant has not been officially diagnosed with a hearing impairment which is a direct result of exposure in their workplace environment, an audiologist report can be procured.
This report will indicate whether the hearing impairment is linked to working conditions, or whether it is a result of other degenerative factors, such as age. Where the report establishes a causative link between the resulting hearing impairment and the employees working conditions, compensation may arise.
Employer’s duty of care
Employers owe a duty of care to their employees to ensure that they do not suffer any injury that is reasonably within the employer’s ability to avoid and protect against.
The scope of the duty of care, at common law, is generally assessed under the following headings;
- The provision of competent staff
- The provision of a safe place of work
- The provision of proper equipment
- The provision of a safe system of work
Furthermore, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 sets out a number of obligations on employers, and employees, in the work place, and imposes a duty on employers to do everything reasonably practicable to ensure the safety, welfare and health of their employees.
“Reasonably practicable” has been interpreted to mean that an employer has exercised all due care by putting in place the necessary protective and preventative measures, having identified the hazards and assessed the risks to safety and health…at the place of work.
Employers of those working in environments whereby employees are exposed to loud noise on a persistent, or repetitive basis, really ought to ensure that the following safety measures/systems of work are in place;
- Quieter machinery
- Installation of sound barriers and absorbent materials
- Shorter working periods, or reduction of exposure to loud noise
- The provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as earplugs, to workers at risk of noise exposure.
Failure to ensure that employees are adequately protected in the workplace, and failure to do all that is reasonably expected of them to ensure that no injury is sustained by workers, may leave employers liable for any damage or loss sustained as a result of inadequate systems of work.
There are four main components to an injury compensation settlement.
- Compensation for General pain and damages is calculated using the Book of Quantum (a publication that lists a variety of injuries and assigns them a financial value depending on the severity of the injury)
- Compensation for the non-financial changes you had to make in your life as a result of the injury – e.g., unable to complete domestic tasks, unable to participate in leisure pursuits or enjoy social events that would be a part of your normal routine, loss of amenity – such as being unable to care for your young children or elderly, or if you’re depressed due to incapacitation.
- Compensation for any emotional trauma that you may have been diagnosed with due to the nature of the accident, how the accident had occurred, or development while you were in recovery. These are known as psychological injuries. It typically takes time to manifest and the consequences can be debilitating.
- Compensation of special damages to recover any expenses you may have incurred or may incur in the future as a result of your injury – such as loss of income, medical fees, therapy costs, pharmacy costs, using other forms of transport due to being unable to drive, and even restructuring your home if your accident has left you confined to a wheelchair.
These are generally the main examples of compensation under the four main components of an injury compensation settlement.
It is advisable to speak to a solicitor to determine which type of expenses can be recovered, and it is highly recommended to keep all receipts for anything you spend on (such as medical fees, pharmacy costs, transport costs, etc.) during the recovery of your injury at work. Having the receipts will smoothen the process of your solicitor negotiating the best and fairest possible settlement for you in all circumstances.
If you decide to pursue a workplace injury claim, it is important to note that no two work compensation claims are likely to be the same, even when the injury sustained is identical. This is because of other factors such as your employment status, direct approaches from insurance companies, and sometimes, even your profession.
Therefore, it is advisable for you to speak to an experienced solicitor and seek legal advice regarding workplace injuries as soon as possible after receiving medical attention and treatment you need.
Most solicitors will offer a free initial evaluation of your situation and advise you whether you have potential legal action and whether you qualify for a successful workplace injury compensation.
After you decide that you would like to pursue a workplace injury claim with a solicitor acting on your behalf, your solicitor will advise you on the procedures you should take to support your claims and typically act on your behalf to gather relevant documents and witnesses to ensure you get the best and fairest settlement for your workplace injury while you recover.
If you have experienced injury or an accident in the workplace and have questions surrounding the incident, please contact our workplace injury solicitors at Coleman Legal to find out if you have a potential legal action against your employer. Our dedicated team has a collective experience of over 30 years, and we are ready to advise and assist you with your claim.
If you want to take legal action over an injury, you should consult our accidents in the workplace solicitors, who are members of the Law Society’s injury accreditation scheme and clinical negligence accreditation scheme.
Coleman Legal LLP
84 Talbot Street, Dublin 1
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Is my Employer Covered with Insurance?
An employer is legally required to provide you with a safe place of work and a safe system of work. Historically agency workers were treated in an entirely different manner to those workers who were hired directly into the workforce.
Whilst the employment agency is the employer, the company is also responsible for breaches of the Safety, Health, and Welfare at Work Act, 2005.
Your right to being protected under Health and Safety Regulations are the responsibility of both the company where you are doing the temporary work and the agency.
What is Employers Liability Insurance?
Employers Liability Insurance provides cover in case an employee is injured or killed at work or develops an illness associated from their job. For instance, if an employee is injured in your warehouse and your business is found to be negligent, Employers Liability would protect your business. The standard level of cover is €13 million, again this figure can be increased if required.
The definition of an employee within insurance typically covers any individual that is hired under a contract or apprenticeship scheme once this work falls within the business description.
Contributory Negligence and Claims for Injuries
Sometimes, there can be disagreement between the employer and employee in regards to who is responsible for the accident that caused the injury (when there is doubt as to who is responsible). In this case, the court may decide or the parties may ultimately agree that both the employer and employee are liable for the employee’s injury and hence the principle of contributory negligence will apply.
Contributory negligence is the legal principle where the injured party (employee) may have possibly contributed to their own injury by acting in a negligent manner, whether through conducting work when there are obvious and known risks, improper behaviour that will endanger themselves or others, failure to report any defects in equipment or place of work that may be a danger to health and safety to themselves or others, working under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and failure to seek the appropriate medical attention within a reasonable time frame, which can exacerbate the severity of the injury.
If you have concerns regarding whether you qualify for compensation for a work injury, or whether you may have contributed to either the cause of the accident or the severity of the injury, it is advisable to speak to a solicitor.
Liability for Injuries at Work
After establishing that a physical or psychological injury has been sustained at or from work, then the liability of the injury must be determined. Liability refers to the state of being responsible for something. Injuries at work do not always have to be a result of direct or indirect action from the employer. It can also be sustained through an unsafe working environment which would be a breach of duty by the employer under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.
For a personal injury claim to be successful, the injury sustained must result from the negligence of someone who had a duty of care to the injured party.
A breach of the act includes not providing or maintaining a safe workplace, machinery, and equipment, inadequate prevention of risks that could cause harm to the employee’s health such as exposure to physical agents, loud noises, vibration and unsafe use of any article or substance, not preventing any improper conduct or behaviour that could cause harm to employees such as bullying and sexual harassment, inadequate training and instruction for employees to do their job safely and failure to provide personal protective equipment to the employee, amongst many.
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 strictly provides the guidelines in protecting employees. In all of the cases above, there is a lack of reasonably practicable care for the employee’s health, safety and welfare from the employer’s end. If the negligent employer fails to take necessary precautions to prevent employees from possible injury, the liability hence falls on the employer.
In the case where the employee themselves have partially contributed to the risk of their injury, then it is known as Contributory Negligence and the liability will also fall on the employee.