UNISON is calling for employers to change their tune over noise levels, as a Highways worker who was deafened on the job wins compensation from a local council.

The UK’s largest public sector union helped Mr Y, 52, win a substantial amount in damages when he lost his hearing while working with a number of noisy tools, including jackhammers and compressors.

And the union is urging employers to quieten down and listen to the facts when it comes to protection against high noise levels, or put thousands more workers at risk.

Adequate hearing protection not provided

Mr Y had not been provided with adequate hearing protection for his job until the mid 1980’s, although he started working on the highways for Chesterfield Borough Council in the 1960s.

The Whittington Moore resident received compensation for his occupational deafness from Derbyshire County Council in an out of court settlement, after UNISON drafted in Thompsons Solicitors.

The council admitted liability, having taken over the Highways department in the later years of Mr Y’s employment and becoming responsible for any liabilities from the previous authority’s past.

No ear defenders or protection

Mr Y said:

“I have worked on the highways for more than 30 years. During the early days we were not provided with ear defenders or protection.

“I first realised I had a problem with my hearing when my wife mentioned it to me. The GP said there was no doubt my deafness was caused by my work.

“We were never warned that we might become deaf as a result of our work and, when UNISON suggested that I take action I decided I would, as I felt cheated of my proper hearing.

“The council knew about the risks and could have done something about it.”

Lasting disability

Hope Daley, UNISON’s National Health and Safety officer, said:

“We welcome Mr Y’s compensation, as once a worker loses their hearing it’s gone forever.

“This lasting disability has a major effect on their lives, as they try to adapt to work, family, and a social life without hearing and have to develop new ways of communicating.

“More than 1million employees in Great Britain are exposed to noise that puts their hearing at risk and, in 2007/08, an estimated 21 000 individuals were suffering hearing problems, which they believed to be work-related.

“Employers have a legal duty to prevent this from happening. Damage to hearing from exposure to loud noise at work is preventable and the risks can be controlled by the good management of health and safety.”

Workers should be protected from excessive noise levels

Shelley Artingstall, from Thompsons Solicitors, added:

“Personal hearing protection must be provided to all employees who are being exposed to excessive noise, where it is safe to do so.

“It is a common injury for those working on the highways, but it is an injury which has lasting effects.

“Employers have a duty of care to ensure their employees are safeguarded against all dangers at work, including excessive noise levels.”