Office worker sues over co-worker's shrieks

Last updated 14:39 21/03/2013

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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 Australian 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, he pushed unsuccessfully for the prosecution of his colleague Catherine Allcroft under work health and safety laws.

But an appeals tribunal has upheld a decision by workplace insurer Comcare to reject his bid for worker's compensation for acoustic trauma, acoustic shock and anxiety.

According to the evidence at the tribunal, the trouble began soon after he started working in the ground floor office at Garden Island.

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

He testified that on returning from a period of leave, he told 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.''

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

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

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- Canberra Times

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