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Can shipyard workers claim workers’ compensation benefits for hearing loss?

On Behalf of | May 18, 2023 | Workers' Compensation |

A shipyard is home to many different and interesting sounds, such as metal clangs and welding torches’ sputters. But not all industrial noises are pleasant to the ear – some noises are so hazardous that they can lead to permanent hearing loss for shipyard workers.

Occupational hearing loss is a real risk for shipyard workers. But can they claim compensation should their hearing suffer due to their work?

Shipyard processes and excessive noise

Certain operations in a shipyard can generate excessive noise that can lead to hearing loss over time. These operations include:

  • Abrasive blasting/sandblasting
  • Carbon arcing
  • Grinding
  • High-pressure steam cleaning
  • Needle gunning
  • Pneumatic pumps
  • Scaling
  • Ventilation equipment

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has advised that if a worker needs to raise their voice for a person just three feet away to hear, their workplace noise level might be over 85 decibels (dB). Noise above 70 dB over a continuous period is enough to damage hearing.

Compensation based on the severity of hearing loss

Shipyard workers can file a claim on their occupational hearing loss, but the compensation they can receive depends on how severe their hearing condition has become. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission has a table that can help determine how much benefits a worker with occupational hearing loss is entitled to. Workers that have lost 100% of their sense of hearing can receive the equivalent of 50 weeks of compensation benefits.

While the state workers’ compensation commission can cover hearing loss, the authority also generally considers hearing loss a result of old age. This means that shipyard workers filing claims for their hearing loss have a higher burden of proof and should demonstrate that their ailment is the direct result of their profession.

To help prove their occupational hearing loss in a claim dispute, shipyard workers may want the advice and guidance of a legal professional experienced in workers’ compensation law. Attorneys can help workers collect proof of their claim, coordinate with healthcare professionals who can testify on behalf of the worker, and even represent the worker in formal hearings.