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Colleague's voice ruined my hearing: compo claim

When William Red said his defence job ruined his hearing and affected his mental health, it was not bombs nor artillery that were blamed.

The office-bound bureaucrat claimed that a colleague's loud voice left him with permanent hearing damage and mental health problems, but he has lost his battle for worker's compensation.

The former procurement official said his co-worker ''shrieked, cackled and chortled'' while on the phone at their office in Sydney's Garden Island Naval base at volumes exceeding nightclub levels of 100 decibels.

Even after he had moved to a another workplace, the public servant pushed unsuccessfully for the prosecution of his colleague Catherine Allcroft under work health and safety laws.

But the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has upheld a decision by Commonwealth workplace insurer Comcare to reject Mr Red's bid for worker's compensation for acoustic trauma, acoustic shock and anxiety he said he suffered at Garden Island between 2007 and 2010.

According to the evidence at the tribunal, the trouble between Mr Red and Mrs Allcroft, an administrative assistant, began soon after he started working in their ground floor office at Garden Island. Mr Red and

three colleagues had partitioned offices in the building that had high ceilings and poor acoustics, while Mrs Allcroft worked at a desk in a large open area.

According to Mr Red's evidence, Mrs Allcroft was ''very loud'' and she often screamed and sometimes ''shrieked, cackled and chortled'', especially when she was on the phone or when colleagues gathered around her desk.

He testified that on returning from a period of leave, he told Mrs Allcroft that he had enjoyed a quiet, peaceful holiday. ''Well, that's going to change,'' she allegedly replied.

''I'm loud. I've been that way for 20 years.''

Mr Red said his tinnitus, a ringing in the ears, was caused by the noise made by Mrs Allcroft.

But medical evidence indicated it was more likely that Mr Red's hearing problems, which are not disputed, were caused by noise exposure before he began working in the public service.

Tribunal senior member Anne Britton and member William Isles did not accept that Mrs Allcroft exposed her colleague to noise levels exceeding Safe Work Australia's Exposure Standard.

''We think it improbable that Mr Red was exposed to noise levels of 100 dB or higher,'' they wrote.

The tribunal also rejected the claim that Mr Red's anxiety problems were aggravated by his bosses' handling of the workplace conflict.

22 comments

  • I'm not sure who i am more embarrassed for!

    Commenter
    BB
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    March 21, 2013, 8:37AM
    • I'm reminded of that scene from Seven.

      Brad Pitt: "If I accidentally shaved off a nipple, would it be covered by workman's comp?"
      Morgan Freeman: "If you were man enough to file the claim, I'd buy you one out of my own pocket."

      Commenter
      Chris
      Date and time
      March 21, 2013, 1:48PM
  • The man has my sympathy. I'm in a similar predicament albeit with a neighbour. In my case the woman in question not only has a terrible voice but in one of life's truly unfortunate double whammies, she exercises it a lot ...compulsively ... all the time ... never ending... penetrating walls...ceilings ... consciousness...What was it J P Sartre said?

    Commenter
    Paul Neri
    Location
    Australia
    Date and time
    March 21, 2013, 8:38AM
    • Nice to know that justice is still being delivered to malcontents.

      Commenter
      Dave
      Location
      St Kilda
      Date and time
      March 21, 2013, 9:01AM
      • I agree that the correct decision was probably made, but you do have to sympathise with the guy. People this loud can be very distracting in the workplace.

        Commenter
        PeterT
        Date and time
        March 21, 2013, 1:16PM
    • Whatever the findings, I think this Catherine Allcroft is obnoxious, and need to pull her head in! Actually yes, pulling her head in would stop people having to listen to the pain in the backside!

      Commenter
      Fdee
      Location
      NSW
      Date and time
      March 21, 2013, 9:06AM
      • I think this woman's sister was on my train this morning - they need a gag!

        Commenter
        linjellet
        Date and time
        March 21, 2013, 9:10AM
        • Sounds a bit like Julia Dillard in parlarment

          Commenter
          Bruce I vote
          Date and time
          March 21, 2013, 10:10AM
          • Bruce: sometimes women DO have to speak out, whether at work, at home or out in public, so they can get their message across. And sometimes no matter how LOUD they speak, people just dont to be able to hear them. But every now & again, the world does get to hear a woman give magnificient, widely applauded 15 minute speeches.

            Commenter
            Peter
            Location
            Melbawne
            Date and time
            March 21, 2013, 11:11AM
        • You have to feel sorry for the guy. There's always one work shy person in the office who is always talking loudly. They think they are the life of the office. Complain and they'll reply: "we're not just here to work you know, We got to have a bit of fun!!!". Actually, no, we ARE here to work, and then leave and enjoy our social and family lives outside work. There are also ample opportunities to socialise with work coleagues in and out of the office, they are called lunch and coffee breaks, or a works night out.

          They often have lots of pictures of their kids and troll dolls on their cubicle/pc/desk. Modern offices are designed to favciltate communication not be day clubs for the underperforming.

          Commenter
          StBob
          Location
          cubicle 27
          Date and time
          March 21, 2013, 10:17AM

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