factory foreman who was exposed to excessive noise at work which left him with severe hearing difficulties has been awarded compensation by his former employer, Corus. Mr Martin Bourne, 70, of Penhow in Gwent brought the claim with the assistance of his union GMB and Thompsons Solicitors in Cardiff.

For over thirty years, Mr Bourne was employed at the Corus UK Llanwern Works plant in Newport, Gwent. As a mechanical foreman, he worked throughout the factory in various noisy environments, including hot and cold mills, blast furnaces and ‘pickle lines’. Despite the levels of noise throughout the plant, no hearing protection was available to Mr Bourne until just three years before the end of his employment.

After retiring, Mr Bourne realised that he had a severe problem with his hearing. Medical investigations organised by Thompsons Solicitors revealed that Mr Bourne’s hearing had been irreparably damaged.

No Ear Protection

Commenting, Mr Bourne said: “If I’m listening to the radio or watching TV, I have to have the volume up loud, much to the annoyance of my wife. She also thought I was ignoring her because half the time I couldn’t hear what she was saying to me. I’ve been in similar situations with other people too. It can be quite distressing at times. If I’d known I would have problems later on in life I would definitely have worn ear protection. It may sound odd now but the only thing me and my colleagues would put in our ears were the ends of cork tipped cigarettes.”

Nick Hughes, GMB South Western Legal Officer, said: “Employers are aware of the dangers of exposing staff to excessive levels of noise and must take steps to ensure that workers are protected. Mr Bourne simply got on with his job not realising that his hearing was being damaged daily. Corus should have taken responsibility and provided ear protection far earlier than three years before the end of his employment.”

Mr Bourne’s representative at Thompsons Solicitors, Petra Williams, said: “This case is another example of an individual simply getting on with their work and not realising that noise in the workplace can cause major difficulties later on. Medical reports showed that Mr Bourne’s hearing loss of 133 decibels was much greater than you would expect from natural ageing.”