Weird workers comp claims: shrill voice kills hearing

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A bureaucrat at Australia's Garden Island Naval base has been unsuccessful in his claim to receive compensation for hearing damage and mental health problems sustained at work, allegedly from a noisy coworker

William Red claimed his neighbouring colleague’s piercingly loud voice left him with permanent hearing loss as well as mental health issues. The former naval base official said his colleague “shrieked, cackled and chortled” while on the phone at their office at volumes exceeding nightclub music levels (100 decibels).

Red moved to another workplace following a complaint against the same colleague, and has previously tried to push through this compensation in 2007 and 2010.

According to Red's evidence, his tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, was caused by the noise made by the colleague during the years spent in that office, which had high ceilings and poor acoustics. However, medical evidence was accepted by the tribunal, that it was more likely that the worker’s hearing difficulties, which are not disputed, were caused by noise exposure before he commenced working in the public service.

Anne Britton, a tribunal senior member, along with member William Isles did not accept that the worker had been exposed to vocal noise levels exceeding Safe Work Australia's Exposure Standards. “We think it improbable that Mr Red was exposed to noise levels of 100 dB or higher,” they wrote. The claim that Red’s mental health issues were exacerbated by management’s handling of the dispute was also rejected.

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