Concern as headsets deafen workers
Over 1,500 workers who believe their hearing has been damaged by the use of high pitched noise fed through workplace headsets are taking action against their employers. Tony Rupa, head of legal services at the communication workers' union CWU, the union backing compensation cases on behalf of affected workers, said: 'People traditionally associate hearing damage with heavy manufacturing and music industries, but there are many people who work in the communications sector who are exposed to loud, continuous and high pitched noises.' He added: 'This noise can cause lasting damage and it's essential that we take steps to cut out the noise at source. If this can't be done then workers need to be given equipment to protect their ears.' Isobel Lovett, an industrial illness specialist at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, is representing around 130 clients who suffered hearing damage working at British Telecom. These include both current and former BT employees who believe their hearing was damaged by 'green set' and 'yellow set' oscillators - devices which transmit a constant high pitched sound through a headset, allowing the user to listen for changes in tone to track cable faults. BT has already admitted that these oscillators have caused hearing loss and tinnitus to a large number of users, and has now replaced them with an adapted model. But Lovett says other businesses must follow suit and take action to protect their workers. She said: 'Workers have the right to expect to go to work and carry out their duties without any adverse effects on their health, and employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees.' CWU is assisting over 1,500 members with claims arising from the use of these oscillators or amplifiers in their work, many of whom are suffering with tinnitus.
Issued: 11 February, 2011