Between October 2013 and October 2015, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) paid out £11.9 million compensation for workplace hearing loss.
The substantial amount of compensation for workplace hearing loss relates to 2,415 claims made by current and former PSNI officers for a variety of injuries ranging from tinnitus to partial deafness. However, according to the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, there are still thousands of claims waiting to be resolved.
The large number of claims is attributable to the PSNI´s failure to provide adequate hearing protection during weapons training. The amount of compensation for workplace hearing loss is unrelated to thousands of claims made by former RUC officers for noise-induced hearing loss also due to a lack of protective equipment from the 1960s onwards.
The volume of compensation for workplace hearing loss was revealed following a Freedom of Information request made by Sein Feinn MLA and Policing Board member Gerry Kelly. Mr Kelly expressed concern about the “staggering” number of hearing loss claims. However a spokesman for the Police Federation for Northern Ireland was keen to stress that PSNI officers should be treated no differently than other employees injured at work.
“There were deficiencies in the ways in which officers were protected from damage to their hearing”, he said. “These claims come forward because damage has been caused and all officers are awarded is what the courts deem to be appropriate settlements. The average amount of £4,969 reflects the damage that was inflicted on an individual’s hearing.”
A statement from the PSNI’s legal services branch said the service was confident that all claims against the organisation, whether brought by officers or staff or members of the public, were dealt with appropriately. “Legal advice is provided by PSNI’s legal services branch, with advice sought from the Crown Solicitor’s Office and counsel, in appropriate cases,” the statement read.