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Hearing loss compensation: Covered by employer’s liability insurance?

While the industrial industry can be a fun and dynamic place to work, it also poses its own set of dangers and considerations. Sometimes employees are placed in dangerous circumstances that require protective gear. In these situations, sound protection is often overlooked. Noise exposure at a high decibel level can affect your hearing permanently and eventually lead to complete hearing loss. 

In this article, we will explore how to make an occupational hearing loss claim, what employer’s liability insurance, or workers compensation, covers and the steps to take to win industrial deafness compensation.

Eligibility for a claim

Many workers with hearing loss retire without ever filing a claim because they don’t know that they can, or are reluctant to file against their employer. However, if you are 26 years of age or older with signs of hearing loss, you may be eligible for compensation from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Filing a claim does not necessarily mean you harbour resentment or ill will against your employer. It only indicates that you believe you were subject to unsafe conditions that have negatively affected your life and, likely, the life of your coworkers. 

You deserve compensation to cover the costs of your injury. Here are some parameters for eligibility:

Depending on the symptoms you demonstrate, you may need to provide further evidence of loud noise hearing loss to make a claim based on your pure-tone average (PTA). PTA is your hearing sensitivity at 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 4,000 Hertz (Hz), or the frequency unit of the vibration cycle time by your decibel (dB) hearing level. Here are some of the qualifying conditions according to Hearing Choices:

  • You have difficulty speaking and listening (you will need to provide additional evidence to support your claim).
  • Your hearing impairment is less than 65 dB in your good ear (you will need to provide additional evidence to support your claim).
  • You have a permanent hearing loss of greater than 65 dB in your good ear.
  • You have a permanent hearing impairment of greater than 90 dB in your good ear. 

Filing for a workers compensation claim involves working closely with a lawyer to gather evidence and information about the working conditions. Key needs include showing evidence of your noise-induced hearing loss and demonstrating that the hearing loss was due to the working conditions at the job site, not from aging or a preexisting condition. 

There are three options for proving hearing loss occurred on the job site, especially if you are experiencing hearing loss at a young age:

  1. Documentation of some kind that proper ear protection was not provided and/or enforced.
  2. Testimonials from coworkers, friends and family about your hearing loss experience.
  3. Doctors’ notices you’ve collected while getting tested for hearing loss and the items that were prescribed to you, such as medication or a hearing aid. 

It’s important to work quickly after you’ve been diagnosed with industrial deafness. The time limit for workers compensation is six months after you have been diagnosed with hearing loss, according to Section 261 of the Workplace Injury Management & Workers Compensation Act 1998. This may be difficult to pin down because of the nature of industrial workers’ duties, but with the help of a lawyer and their team of experts, you can make a claim as quickly as possible. 

Types of workplaces where employees are at risk

There are a variety of noises professionals are exposed to on an everyday basis in their workplace. While all noise exposure is not a risk, there are levels of noise that when experienced over time or all at once can cause permanent impairment. 

You can damage your hearing in one of two ways: one-time exposure or long, repeated exposure. Noise such as an explosion for demolition can permanently damage your hearing right away, where the sound of a hammer nailing down a roof can eventually cause hearing loss over time. 

The threshold for needing protective hearing protection devices (HPDs) is at 90 decibels. Some tasks that are commonly performed at an industrial worksite that create noise levels at or above 90 decibels, according to EHS Today, include:

  • Installing trench conduits: Between 96 dB and 119 dB.
  • Welding and burning: Between 98 dB and 119 dB.
  • Demolition: Between 99 dB and 112 dB.
  • Masonry grinding: Between 100 dB and 119 dB.
  • Operating a bulldozer: 100 dB and 112 dB.
  • Chipping concrete: 103 dB and 120 dB.

The best way to prevent hearing loss is by using HPDs that are either noise suppressive or noise-cancelling, depending on the dB level of the workplace. While you may be experiencing hearing loss already, taking preventative measures to minimise further damage is still possible. 

Who is eligible for employer’s liability insurance?

All employers are obligated to take out liability insurance in case an employee is hurt on the job. The rules and legislation for liability insurance varies from state to state, however, there are basic principles that apply across the nation. 

Liability insurance in all states covers:

  • Recurrence of an existing disease or condition as a result of work.
  • Aggravations of an existing condition as a result of work.
  • Mental health injury.
  • Physical health injury.
  • Diseases that have been contracted during employment.

Workers compensation is designed to cover a range of employees from full-time to seasonal, contractors and pieceworkers due to changes in the Fair Work Act to include casual employment in workers compensation insurance, according to Business Australia. The law outlines, however, that an employee must be working at the same business for at least six months in order to be eligible for workers compensation.

What happens after your diagnosis?

If you’re experiencing hearing loss or tinnitus, your workplace injury claim could cover your hearing aids and other medical costs such as batteries, servicing and doctor’s visits. If you win compensation, you will receive a lump sum payment to relieve medical finances. 

Suffering from acoustic trauma and permanent hearing impairment is nothing you need to deal with alone. Gerard Malouf & Partners are not only  specialists but we are one of the largest employer liability insurance lawsuits in Australia winning in excess of $4 billion for our clients. Contact us for no-obligation legal advice about your hearing loss injury claim.

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