A South Australian employer has been ordered to compensate a worker who developed noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus eight years after he left the company.
The worker was employed by Australian National Railways from 1980 to 1997. In 1999, Transfield Services (Australia) Pty Ltd took over its workshops and maintenance work.
The worker continued to work full-time for Transfield until he left in 2002.
During his employment with the company, he was required to work in enclosed workshops and was exposed to background noise from equipment including blacksmith's stamping, drop hammers and locomotives.
He also operated a range of industrial equipment, and conducted track work within metres of noisy trains.
The Workers Compensation Tribunal heard the worker was not provided with hearing protection until "probably" the last two years of his employment.
When leaving the company, he did not notice any problems with his hearing and over the next eight years was employed at a range of workplaces, none of which exposed him to high levels of noise.
In 2010, he sought medical attention after he noticed he had difficulty hearing and there was a ringing in his ears.
The worker claimed that the "employment in which he was last exposed to noise capable of causing noise induced hearing loss" was with Transfield.
Transfield accepted that the worker had been assessed with a five per cent whole person impairment. However, it argued that there needed to be more proof that it was the last employer to expose the worker to noise capable of causing industrial deafness.
It also contested the opinion of an ear, nose and throat specialist, who included tinnitus in the impairment assessment. It said there could be "no rateable assessment for tinnitus to be added to the hearing loss component".
Deputy President Judge Helen Parsons rejected the employer's argument that the worker needed to prove his case against it beyond reasonable doubt.
She said s31 of the State Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1986 contained "a presumption that if a worker suffers a disability of a kind set out in Schedule 2 of the Act and is employed in work of a corresponding type set out in that schedule the worker's disability is presumed, in the absence of proof to the contrary, to have arisen from employment".
She also said that the whole body impairment should include a component for tinnitus.
"There is a common association between excessive noise levels and tinnitus," she said.
"[The specialist's] report supports that association because his assessment of whole body impairment is predicated on the basis that the tinnitus is a result of the same occupational noise exposure as that which is responsible for the worker's hearing loss."
Sellar v Transfield Services (Australia) Pty Ltd  SAWCT 16 (3 May 2012)