Leading trade union Amicus has secured £5,500 in compensation for a member who suffered from noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) after working at the former St Gobain foundry in Risca for 35 years. Mr David Richards, 58, of Risca near Newport, brought his claim after realising that his hearing had become severely impaired, struggling to hear normal conversations and suffering from ringing in both ears. His claim was handled by Thompsons Solicitors.

From 1970 to 2005, Mr Richards worked in a variety of positions at the now closed St Gobain foundry, known previously also as the Broads Foundry and Glynwed. His first job was that of a knock out and paint line operator, moving on to core box maker for a few months before starting his main job of sand plant operator. The sources of noise in these and other roles varied, including floor moulds being dropped, continuously vibrating steel conveyors, and the drone from sand plant machinery.

Regional Officer Chris Holmes said: “The outcome of this case demonstrates the value of trade union membership. Amicus is a leading union that seeks to protect and support people at work and helps secure compensation pay outs for its members when things go wrong.”

Commenting, Eamonn McDonough, Mr Richards’ lawyer at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “Mr Richards was unfortunate enough to experience unacceptably high and continuous levels of noise in a variety of jobs at the foundry. He was exposed to machinery of all types that would shake, vibrate and generally create levels of noise which over the years has seriously impaired his hearing. He should have been provided with suitable equipment to protect his hearing, but this wasn’t the case.”

Mr Richards said: “The noise at the foundry was so high and monotonous in places that you simply couldn’t hear yourself think. I got used to it, but I never realised the lasting and damaging effect that it would have on my hearing. I find it difficult to hear normal conversations, especially if there is background noise. And even though I struggle to hear, I also find certain types of noise intolerable. If any of my former colleagues are experiencing similar difficulties, they should seek compensation for this injury.”

In March this year, the RNID, the national charity representing the UK’s nine million deaf and hard of hearing people, warned that excessive noise in the workplace must be addressed by employers or risk compensation claims. Brian Lamb, Director of Communications at RNID, said: “Prolonged exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss and employers have a legal duty to cut down noise and protect their employees from the harmful effects of noise at work. Noise induced hearing loss is often cumulative and not immediately obvious, so its threat is seldom recognised or taken seriously. Whilst the effects of noise are irreversible, noise induced hearing loss is totally preventable."

“This case would not have been successful bar for a lot of persistence and considerable help from other men who worked at the foundry,” added Eamonn McDonough. “We thank them for their involvement in helping to bring a successful outcome to Mr Richards’ case.”

For further information about NIHL, visit the RNID website: www.RNID.org.uk