Insurance and legal experts have stated that, over the past two years, compensation claims for industrial deafness have risen by two thirds. However, despite the rise, only one in ten cases are being paid out.
According to the Institute of Actuaries, an estimated 60,000 claims were made in 2013, some 25,000 more compared to the previous year. With only ten per cent of the claims successfully receiving compensation, some insurers are labelling Industrial Deafness cases as the “new whiplash”.
Industrial deafness: The ‘new whiplash’
In 2012, the insurance company AXA had more claims for industrial deafness than any other type of workplace illness or injury. Whilst Aviva, the British multinational insurance company, says it rejects 85 per cent of new industrial deafness-related claims, stating the “vast majority are fraudulent.”
There is growing concern that the large volume of alleged fraudulent claims may negatively affect those suffering from genuine hearing loss. Sufferers are being urged to steer clear of ‘no-win no-fee’ insurers and seek advice from the NHS. As Sir Malcolm Bruce, MP and Vice Chair of the UK Parliamentary Group on Deafness said:
“There is certainly a danger for those affected by hearing loss to be swept up by no-win no-fee promises from injury-based law firms, but it is important to stress that sufferers should seek help and advice from the NHS, who can provide the right support.”
Fear that injury lawyers are encouraging workplace hearing loss claims
There is also increasing concern by insurance companies that, due to the recent crackdown on false whiplash claims, injury-based law firms are encouraging clients to put in claims against hearing damage. Injury-based no-win no-fee solicitors are now advertising for industrial deafness compensation online, for payments of up to £70,000.
Where whiplash and industrial deafness differ is by the fact the latter is much easier to measure, thus making it less difficult for insurers to either accept or decline the claim. If successful, a pay-out of between £3,000 and £5,000 is usually made to an individual suffering from either minor hearing loss and/or tinnitus.
For a claim to be successful, claimants must be able to prove their place of work was negligent about the hearing safety of employees. According to Industrial Deafness, an organisation that offers information and advice on industrial deafness, for compensation to be offered, a qualified medical professional must confirm through an official report that an individual is suffering from a hearing condition and/or tinnitus. To prove the condition was caused as a consequence of a working environment, it is also necessary for the claimant to provide documentary evidence that gives details of the workplace conditions.
The claimant will need to show they were exposed to levels of noise that caused their hearing loss. They will also need to prove the employer could have “reasonably foreseen” that the injuries could have been prevented by limiting the noise exposure of the workplace.
As Industrial Deafness states, the employer needs to be shown to be negligent with regards to their “ineffective efforts” to protect employees from noise in the workplace.
So what can an employer do to ensure they don’t find themselves open to industrial deafness compensation claims? And, if they do fall victim to a fraudulent hearing loss claim, they are not found guilty of negligence.
In a drive to ensure employers protect workers from excessive noise exposure, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 were established. The regulations stipulate that, in order to reduce noise exposure in working environments, employers must comply with the following:
- Assess risks to employees’ hearing from noise at work
- Ensure legal noise exposure limits are not exceeded
- Take action to reduce noise exposure
- If noise reduction cannot be accomplished through other methods, employees must be provided with hearing protection
- Provide workers with relevant training and information
- Where there is a risk to health, health surveillance must be carried out
To help ensure your company is compliant to the legal standards set by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 and therefore not liable to having to make a hefty pay-out, buy Pulsar’s noise at work measurement instrumentation.
Our wide range of high quality personal noise dosemeters, sound level meters, noise-activated warning signs and noise meters help companies of all sizes and of different industries, meet Noise at Work regulations, help safeguard both the hearing of employees and the business from expensive compensation claims.
Download here Pulsar’s latest FREE Guide for Employers: ‘5 Steps to Controlling Workplace Noise‘