A recent case sounds yet another warning bell for employers who neglect to take appropriate measures to prevent harmful noise at work and led to a man who suffered hearing loss as a result of being exposed to excessive noise at work being awarded £6,000 in compensation.
Terry Howarth, 51, worked for North Western British Road Services in Manchester, carrying out the servicing and maintenance of heavy goods vehicles. His work meant that he was exposed to noise from a variety of equipment and machinery as he worked with up to 20 colleagues using equipment such as air tools, steam cleaners, sledge hammers, grinders and drills.
As a result, Mr Howarth developed noise induced hearing loss, a condition that results from excessive exposure to noise without adequate ear protection. He now finds it difficult to hear what others are saying to him and has to have the television turned up louder than normal in order to hear it properly.
Bringing the case against his employers, Mr Howarth argued that he had neither been warned of the dangers of exposure to high levels of noise nor had he been provided with any equipment to help prevent damage to his hearing.
Work related noise induced hearing loss is a common problem in the UK. Current estimates are that more than 2.2 million workers are exposed to levels of noise that are potentially damaging to the ears. Employers have a legal duty towards their employees to provide protection if noise reaches a certain level. Details of the action levels and general advice can be found on the website of the Health and Safety Executive . This includes an audio demonstration of what it is like to suffer from noise induced hearing loss.
As of 6 April 2008 the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 will be extended to the music and entertainment sectors. For other industry sectors the Regulations have been in force since April 2006. Although there is ample evidence that exposure to live music can cause hearing damage, it was recognised that music is different from other noise as it is created deliberately for entertainment purposes and therefore guidance was necessary to help employers, workers and freelancers in the industry to protect their hearing.