UK Coal Ltd is to pay £4,500 in damages to a man from County Durham who suffered noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) during a period of exposure with the firm RJB Mining – a company which UK Coal Ltd later took over. Leading trade union GMB secured the compensation for member David Burns, aged 49, of Crook, County Durham. Mr Burns brought his claim after realising that his hearing had become impaired, struggling to hear normal conversations. His claim was handled by leading personal injury specialists Thompsons Solicitors.

Mr Burns worked for RJB Mining Limited from 1984. In 1986 he started to work in the open cast mines, and in 1991 he worked with the drilling team for three years. The company was then taken over in 1995 by UK Coal Ltd, and he was made redundant in September 2005.

He explains: “The noise was often excessive; you couldn’t hear yourself think. Normally on a morning we were provided with sponge type ear protection. However, when you were out with the gangs these were not always available. I got used to the noise but I never realised the lasting and damaging effect that it would have on my hearing.”

In April 2003 he attended for a routine health check when he was advised that his hearing had deteriorated and that he had high blood pressure.

Noise at Work Regulations

Tom Brennan, Regional Secretary, GMB, comments: “We are very pleased with the outcome of David Burns’ case because noise is still one of the most underestimated workplace risks. We hope that other employers that continue to put their employees at risk will take note.”

Representing David Burns, Michelle Reid-Mitchell from Thompsons Solicitors in Newcastle explains: “RJB Mining should have provided David Burns with suitable equipment to protect his hearing at all times. The compensation he has secured is wholly justified given the lasting damage to his hearing caused by the ongoing exposure to noise at work.”

Less than a year ago, the RNID - the national charity representing the UK’s nine million deaf and hard of hearing people – warned employers and employees to take hearing damage more seriously in preparation for the Control of Noise at Work Regulations which came into effect on 6 April 2006. These tighter Noise at Work regulations were intended to provide improved protection for workers from one of Britain’s most serious occupational diseases.

This story was also published by workplacelaw Magazine