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Falling on deaf ears

If we had entitled this “Noise Induced Hearing Loss” or “Industrial Disease Claims” then you would have switched off by now but if you’re involved in any kind of manufacturing then it’s definitely worth reading on.

If you haven’t seen a claim for noise induced hearing loss or industrial deafness as it is also known, then this will explain why it’s only a matter of time before you do. 

What is it?

Industrial deafness is caused by prolonged exposure to high volume noise levels at work. The sufferer typically notices a loss of hearing in their 60’s which means that there may be a long gap between exposure and the claim being intimated against you. Claims for Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) have increased dramatically in recent years. The insurance industry has seen a significant  increase in new claims, relating to historic deafness  with  a rise of almost 200% in the last 4 years, doubling in the last 12 months.

Why the increase?

The reason for this increased interest from claims farmers and claimant solicitors is that this type of claims fall outside the scope of the recently implemented reforms called Fixed Costs Regimes, which have been  introduced to limit the costs/fees that can be charged by solicitors. These reforms have introduced a system of ‘fixed’ fees and have streamlined the handling of Road Traffic Accidents and Lower Value liability claims. This has affected the solicitor’s ability to charge hourly fees.

This makes the NIHL claims more attractive to claimant solicitors.

What you can do?

  • Keep records of historic Insurers and equally as important, policy numbers. This is especially important because if you can’t evidence your insurance history then you are treated as uninsured for the purposes of an employees period of employment with you. As a company you will have to pay the claim yourselves.
  • Keep details of corporate history as claims are often brought against subsidiary companies; did you take on the liabilities of the subsidiary company?
  • Noise surveys. If you have them, retain them. If you don’t, make the arrangements. We can help.

Documentation such as Risk Assessments in relation to noise exposure, evidence of training on the dangers of noise at work, evidence of hearing tests, documents evidencing provision and enforcements of the wearing of hearing protection should also be retained.

Evidence that demonstrates investigation and consideration of the possibility of reducing noise levels at source will give you a fighting chance of defending a subsequent claim.

 Things to consider

  1. Get a CV of work history from employees to check possible exposure to noise in previous employment.
  2. Do hearing tests as part of an induction to demonstrate that hearing loss may have occurred prior to employment with you.
  3. Undertake a noise survey to identify areas of concern. Retain copies of all noise surveys.
  4. Apply engineering controls (enclose machinery, purchase lower noise rated equipment and have all equipment serviced regularly) so that noise levels are reduced without relying on PPE.
  5. Display hearing protection signs where necessary.
  6. Issue appropriate hearing protection as a last resort to protect from residual risks.
  7. Ensure that employees sign to confirm receipt of hearing protection and retain records.
  8. Undertake audiometric testing for employees exposed to high noise levels annually and retain records.
  9. Consider audiometric testing or a post-employment medical questionnaire for new starters and retain records.

If you would like further help or advice then please contact Kenstevens@www.proaktivedemo.greymatterdemo.com.

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