Woodworkers encouraged to check noise levels at work

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Woodworkers encouraged to check noise levels at work

16th August 2010

An occupational injury specialist has said that new guidance on the threats to hearing posed by woodworking jobs could help protect thousands of people from deafness.

Karl Tonks, a partner with Fentons Solicitors LLP who specialises in workplace injury cases, welcomed the guidance made available by the Health and Safety Executive, entitled Noise - What you need to know.

"Heavy engineering and industrial work have long been associated with causing hearing problems, but woodworking has some of the noisiest workplaces in the country," said Karl. "The powering of band saws, the buzzing of chainsaws and the screeching of lathes all adds up to a particularly noisy environment. It is well documented that short exposure to high noise levels can cause temporary hearing loss, but longer exposures can lead to permanent damage," he said.

Employers are under a duty of care to control the risk of potential hearing damage their employees are subjected to at work. "If they cannot eliminate noise, they must try to reduce it as low as possible at source," said Karl. "There are noise exposure limits that must not be exceeded."

He said that many sufferers often do not realise their hearing is being damaged, as any hearing loss tends to happen slowly and over a period of time. But some effects, such as tinnitus, can develop more quickly.

"Tinnitus can cause a permanent ringing sound in the ears which can be very distressing, particularly when it's quiet, such as when you are trying to go to sleep," he said. "It is one of the most common issues arising from a noisy workplace, but one that can be avoided."

"The HSE guidance goes into detail about the kinds of noise exposure workers can expect to be exposed to, and protected from," said Karl. "There are also suggestions on ways to minimise the potential damage to hearing, and how to measure and determine if noise levels are excessive."

Karl, who has specialised in occupational injury and disease for a number of years, said that hearing issues can seriously affect victims. "We have seen hundreds of cases where an individual's life has been turned upside down because of damage to their hearing," he said. "It's important that anyone who does develop a hearing problem through their work seeks legal advice to determine if they could be entitled to compensation.

"Medical expenses can soon mount up, and discrete hearing aids can be very expensive," said Karl. "While we can help anyone with work-related hearing issues, we would prefer to see the number of victims reduce each year and this guidance could go a long way to making that happen."

Noise - What you need to know can be found on the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/woodworking/noise.htm.

How can Fentons Solicitors help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of work-related hearing loss and occupational illness or injury.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.