Damages for hearing loss

Damages awarded against Department of Transport for former worker’s hearing damage Trial Result: The High Court has ruled that the Department of Transport (DfT) is liable to pay compensation to the family of a man who suffered from industrial deafness as a result of working on steam railways in the 1960s. John Wignall, who died in 2014, was employed from the late 1950s until 1966 as a fireman on the footplate of steam trains, and was struck by industrial deafness in his later years. In a statement before his death, Mr Wignall said the trains were so noisy that he had to shout to be heard by colleagues standing only two feet away. His lawyers began a damages claim against the government in 2012. His family continued with the claim after Mr Wignall’s death. On 4 July 2016 at the High Court, Judge Philip Butler ruled the Department of Transport liable to pay compensation to Mr Wignall’s family. Rejecting arguments that the claim had been brought too late, the judge said it was only late in life that Mr Wignall had made the link between his work on the railways and his deafness. He said British Rail, Mr Wignall’s employer at the time, had ‘guilty knowledge’ of the risk of industrial deafness from 1961 or 1962 onwards, but had not done enough to warn its footplate workers. Comprehensive noise surveys should have been carried out by the middle of 1962 and workers given information and training to protect themselves. He ruled that Mr Wignall’s lawyers had proved his deafness was, at least in part, due to ‘hazardous noise exposure’ on the railways. He valued the overall claim at £6,000, but ruled that only a relatively small proportion of blame was attributable to British Rail. LNB News 04/07/2016 188/Lexis Nexis