'Hearing loss' bill hits £15m after car plant staff complain of tinnitus

Melvin Palmer

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First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

INSURANCE payouts to former workers at the Cowley car plant who are suffering with hearing problems have now topped £15million.

And some believe there are still many more claims to come from workers unaware of the damage caused to their ears.

Industrial disease solicitor Peter Lodge, who has been dealing with some of the claims, said: “There were 25,000 people working at the plant during the years when this was a problem.

“There are probably people who don’t know anything about it and think their symptoms are age-related. The truth is that they probably won’t know their symptoms are related to their work until they see a specialist.”

Mr Lodge said the hearing problems affected workers who were at the Cowley car plant from the 1960s until about the year 2000.

He said the symptoms include hearing loss and tinnitus, which is the perception of a ringing or whining sound within the ear.

Melvin Palmer, from Appleton, worked at Pressed Steel between 1972 and 1999 and is one of the former workers currently making a claim.

The 69-year-old said: “I have got a ringing in the ears. It is a dreadful, horrible pain. I would imagine it was caused by my time working at Cowley because I was exposed to noise all the time.

“If you wanted protection then you could ask for it but they didn’t say you had to, and it was a little tiny ear plug. After about an hour with that in your ear it was aching.”

The bulk of the claims have been pursued against BMW, the current owner of the Cowley plant, which inherited the liabilities of previous companies such as British Leyland and Pressed Steel when it purchased the plant in 1994.

BMW spokesman Rebecca Baxter said: “As the current owner of the site BMW Group is keen to be as helpful as possible to former workers who were employed by previous owners of the site and believe they have a claim.

“The company is doing as much as it can to get claimants in contact with the correct historical insurer quickly.

“If any former plant worker believes they have a claim they should contact a solicitor or their former trade union in the first instance.”

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