Making a noise on Tinnitus

The following information was extracted from a report in the ‘compensation’ section of ‘hazards’ – The Workers’ Health and Safety Magazine (April-June 2012)

“Unions are drawing attention to a neglected occupational health issue, tinnitus, caused by exposure to noise at work.  The condition leads to buzzing or ringing noises in the ear.

Tony Rupa, head of legal services with the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), said: “People traditionally associate tinnitus and hearing damage with heavy manufacturing and music industries, but there are many people who work in the communications sector who are exposed to loud, continuous and high pitched noises.”

He added that the union “is assisting around 3,500 members with claims arising from the use of oscillators/amplifiers in their work, many of whom are suffering with tinnitus.”

Stephen Starosta received £7,500 from BT to cover the cost of equipment to help deal with his tinnitus.

The 56-year old started work for the company as a telephone engineer in 1989.  His job involved using BT’s ‘green set’ and ‘yellow set’ oscillators, devices that transmit a constant high pitched sound through a headset, allowing the user to listen for changes in tone and track faults in telephone cables.

Although the telecoms giant has since admitted that the equipment is dangerous and has withdrawn both oscillators from use, Stephen and his lawyers are concerned that other companies, who have been sold the old devices by BT, are still putting workers at risk.

Rail union ASLEF took up a compensation case on behalf of a member who developed the condition after a faulty train door slammed with an explosion-like bang.

The train driver, who is employed by Northern Rail Ltd, was left with tinnitus in his right ear.  This affects his sleep and means he is unable to concentrate on reading.  As a result of the condition, company policy meant that he was unable to drive trains for a year and was put on light duties for six months.  After receiving specialist treatment for his tinnitus he has been able to return to his job full-time.”

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