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Agricultural Worker Pursues Claim for Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can be difficult to detect in old age as your hearing naturally begins to fade. But if in the past you’ve worked in a loud environment with no protection from noisy machinery, your hearing problems could be due to negligence on the part of your past or present employer for which they could face legal action.

Slater and Gordon’s client worked in the agricultural sector for much of his life, beginning as a farm worker. In 1962, he worked for Latham Farms, where he remained for 12 years. He was exposed to excessive levels of noise from driving a Massey Fergusson tractor, fitted with a steel fabricated cab. The client mainly operated the tractor for harvesting, which was limited to about 10 weeks of the year during the summer months, giving a total condensed period of exposure of about 2.5 years during the course of his employment. In later life, the client noticed that his hearing wasn’t what it once was, but put this down to his advancing years. In September 2011 when he went for a hearing test, he was alerted to the possibility that his hearing loss was caused by noise at work.

The client’s NIHL was linked back to his time at Latham Farms when he frequently drove a tractor. The Massey Ferguson tractor had been fitted with a metal cab to shield the driver from the elements, but a side effect was a noisier working environment for the driver due to vibration and reverberating sound.

Many people are subjected to noise at work without being aware that it is their employer’s responsibility to ensure staff are protected from prolonged exposure to loud noise whilst carrying out their duties. But a noisy working environment can result in long-term hearing loss that can become problematic later in life. 

Slater and Gordon Senior Personal Injury Lawyer, Simon Rosser, said, “This was a particularly challenging claim to pursue. Although it was pretty obvious the client had been exposed to excessive levels of noise from driving tractors, the limited exposure time (10 weeks a year) and the fact that the Defendant, and the farming industry in general, relied upon a date of industry knowledge for liability purposes of no earlier than 1974 – even July 1976 (allowing for a reasonable bedding in time after The Agriculture (Tractor Cabs) Regulations 1974 came into force). All of this meant that there were numerous obstacles to establishing a breach of liability. However, we did manage to persuade the court that the Defendant’s, and farming industry in the wider sense, would have the necessary knowledge from December 1972 (8 months after the 1972 Codes of Practice for Reducing the Exposure of Employed Persons to Noise were introduced to allow for some reaction/investigation time) that noise levels produced by the tractor in question were excessive and damaging to the client’s hearing.”

What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is caused by prolonged and repeated exposure to loud noise. The effects can build over time, which makes diagnosis difficult – especially in old age when many people’s hearing naturally diminishes. 

Visit our blog What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss? for additional information.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers are experts in cases of Industrial Deafness and deal with all types of industrial deafness claims including noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus and acoustic shock compensation.

Our specialist team of Occupational Deafness Solicitors can give you free initial advice to help you understand if you have an industrial deafness claim. We may also be able to help you bring a claim if your employer has gone out of business or claim against multiple employers.

If your hearing has been damaged by exposure to excessive noise at work, call our Personal Injury Solicitors for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9046 or start a hearing loss claim online.

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