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Claims for Acoustic Shock Injuries

I have just started working in a call centre and have severe ear pain after which started after hearing loud noises through my headset. A colleague told me other employees have suffered similar problems. Can claims for acoustic shock injuries be made against an employer?

The rise in the number of call centres in the UK has made claims for acoustic shock injuries much more common and telephone call centre staff is a high risk group for this type of injury. Whether an acoustic shock injury claim will be possible in your case will depend on if your employer is found to have been negligent, such as by failing to employ adequate control measures to reduce the risk acoustic shock injuries being sustained by the staff.

There have been a number of cases where successful claims for acoustic shock injuries have been made against employers, although this type of personal injury claim has potential to be complicated because the use of headsets at work is not specifically covered by UK legislation, although the HSE is currently monitoring the situation.

However, exposure to noise at work has been addressed in the Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005) and more recently by EU Noise at Work Directive (2006). Current UK legislation serves to protect workers from being exposed to noise levels above 80 decibels, with the EU directive aimed at preventing workers from being exposed to noise levels of over 87 dB. Modern telephone headsets use acoustic limiters to prevent short duration impulses and other noises above 118dB from being transmitted, although noises at well under this level are more than capable of causing an acoustic shock injury.

In order for a claim to be made it must be established that your employer has been negligent. This has potential to be problematic as even high quality modern telephone headsets may not totally eliminate the risk of this type of injury from being sustained. It is therefore not reasonable to expect an employer to totally eliminate the risk of this type of injury from being sustained. However, employers can take steps to reduce the risk to workers to an acceptable level by the provision of high quality headsets with acoustic limiters.

Since your work colleagues have informed you that this is not the first time that a worker from your company has suffered an acoustic shock injury, it suggests that the headsets provided to you may not be of a high quality and are not preventing loud noises from being transmitted. This could amount to negligence, and a claim for compensation for acoustic shock injuries may therefore be possible.

We strongly recommend seeking legal advice from a personal injury solicitor about making an acoustic shock injury claim against your employer. A solicitor will investigate your case and if your employer is found to have been negligent and this can be proven, a solicitor will attempt to recover your maximum entitlement to compensation for acoustic shock injuries on your behalf.