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Workplace noise still a health threat

Workers, some exposed recently, are still developing noise-induced hearing loss, recent compensation cases show.

The noise levels in the Leeds factory of Depuy International, where Alan Gosling was part of a team making knee and hip replacements, has permanently damaging his hearing. Now the 39-year-old has been awarded £6,500 in compensation for the condition and been transferred to another department at the firm. He worked as a fitter and polisher between 1996 and 2006 and worked on spindles to grind and finish surgical implant components. The spindles - and shot blast machines around 10 metres away - generated high levels of noise when in use. However, until 2001, ear protection was not mandatory.

Trade union Unite's Amicus section, working with Thompsons Solicitors, secured the payout for Mr Gosling. Sheffield shopfitter Peter Nelson, 65, has been awarded £12,000 compensation pay out after he contracted noise induced hearing loss caused by noise from power tools whilst working for Plumb Furniture Systems Limited. As a result of being exposed to noise from circular saws, routers, sledge hammers, brakers and drills Mr Nelson developed hearing loss which is irreversible and makes it difficult for him to follow conversations. He now has to wear a hearing aid.

Mark Allen from law firm Irwin Mitchell, who represented Mr Nelson, said he 'was never warned or advised about the dangers of noise induced hearing loss or was provided with any protective equipment. This case highlights the importance of health and safety policies. Employers have a duty of care to their staff which includes ensuring full protective equipment is provided so workers exposure to risk is kept to a minimum.'