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Not every long-term workplace injury is immediately obvious

When a person gets hurt on the job, the injury becomes apparent immediately. This is typical of a laceration or impact injury. However, sometimes a workplace injury does not become evident at the moment it occurs, or the severity of the injury may not be obvious. Injury to a worker's hearing, in particular, often falls into this category.

One Vancouver health care worker describes excessive noise as one of the greatest hazards faced by construction workers. WorkSafeBC reports that there were over 300 noise-induced hearing loss claims made in 2015 alone. To compound the problem, the injuries tend to result from prolonged exposure to noise, rather than a single incident.

In British Columbia, hazardous noise is defined as averaging 85 decibels during an eight-hour shift. Many occupations regularly expose workers to such conditions, including drywallers, electricians, concrete workers, ironworkers, roofers and truck drivers. Once that threshold has been reached, an employer is required to monitor sound levels and to implement a hearing loss prevention initiative, which includes supplying employees with approved hearing protection.

Symptoms of a hearing injury may include diminished hearing or outright hearing loss. It can also include tinnitus, an irreversible condition that causes ringing, roaring or buzzing sounds in the ear. Treating tinnitus may require cognitive therapy, counseling and, ironically, the avoidance of silence.

If the severity of a workplace injury is not immediately recognized, a worker could have difficult initiating a claim later on. It will be important to prove the injury resulted from the negligence of the employer at the time, and that it was not acquired at some later point. Before seeking compensation for any on-the-job injury in Vancouver, it might be advisable to contact a lawyer who handles labour and employment issues routinely.

Source: journalofcommerce.com, "Hearing-related injuries can last a lifetime", Shannon Moneo, February 9, 2017

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