Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 1315 21
K. Iima
  • Initial entitlement (eligibility)
  • Parties (accident employer)
  • Hearing loss (sensorineural)

A worker sought initial entitlement for noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) arising from many years of work as a laborer and electrical technician, which involved using high voltage equipment for several hours per day, and later as a bylaw enforcement officer and patrol supervisor, which involved exposure to city traffic and radio noise.

Board policy indicates that a worker with occupational NIHL may be entitled to benefits when there is hearing loss of 22.5 dB in each ear when four speech frequencies (500, 1000, 2000 and 3000 Hertz [Hz]) are averaged. This threshold for NIHL hearing loss was not disputed in this worker's case; however, the Vice-Chair was tasked with determining if the hazardous level of noise arose from the worker's employment as a technician or while employed as a bylaw officer.
In the NIHL Adjudicator's memorandum, which relied on the WSIB Hearing for Life Services fact sheet, it was found that city traffic stood at 80 dBA, and even with 27 years of parking enforcement, there was insufficient exposure to meet WSIB criteria. This took into account that the worker was not exposed to firearm training as part of his employment, did not do any paid duty at concerts, and spent varying amounts of time within his vehicle. In contrast, while working as a laborer and technician, the worker was regularly exposed to the noise from power tools over the course of five years, which in manufacturing plants can rise to the 90 to 100 dBA range of harmful noise levels. Based on a minimum of three years, this would qualify the worker as having been exposed to hazardous levels of noise.
The Vice-Chair determined that the worker had initial entitlement for NIHL based on his work as a laborer and technician only, and as such, the police services employer was not the accident employer and was not responsible for the claim.
The appeal was allowed.