A woman who required hearing aids after her ears were damaged by a faulty fire alarm at her workplace has been awarded over £241,000 in compensation for injury in the form of tinnitus and hearing loss arising from four hours of exposure to the noise in her workplace.
The employer, Indigo Sun Retail Ltd, was aware that the fire alarm on the premises was faulty, causing it to sound unnecessarily on numerous occasions. On the morning of 12 December 2015, the fire alarm went off making it difficult for the employee to concentrate on her work. She telephoned her manager who arrived at the premises at around 11am and attempted to muffle the sound of the alarm with tape, advising that an engineer had been called. The employee stated that she was not offered any form of ear protection and was told to keep working.
An investigation found that the employee had been exposed to an average of 87.5dB prior to her manager placing tape over the alarm and 82.9dB thereafter. She experienced ringing in both ears after her shift had ended and later noticed an impairment of her hearing. She was later diagnosed with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and a consultant otolaryngologist diagnosis was that the pursuer had sensitive inner ears and that most of her hearing loss had been caused by the exposure to the noise of the alarms.
Indigo Sun Retail Ltd was found to be at fault in common law and under its statutory duty under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. Miss McDonald should not have been exposed to the noise of the alarm and she should have been instructed to leave the premises after it had activated.
In considering damages, the Sheriff said: “In light of [the pursuer’s] young age, the immediate onset of symptoms, the hearing deficit being bilateral, the severity of the hearing loss as demonstrated by the audiograms and being accompanied by intermittent tinnitus, an award should be made at the upper end of [the solatium] bracket. Account should also be taken of the prospect of deterioration in her hearing.”