Life has its risks. Just getting out of bed in the morning opens a person up to all sorts of dangers. It’s a reality that people just learn to expect and come to live with. Most people in Pennsylvania don’t think too much about it. But as a society, we know that there are ways to mitigate risk and that’s one reason why workers’ compensation is a universal reality in our state and across the nation.
Sometimes, though, the source of injury may be so much a part of the everyday routine that it ceases to be recognized as a danger. The claim of injury that results may be valid and worthy of workers’ compensation, but it might be rejected because the source of the problem was never understood as a danger.
That may be the basis of a suit by four firefighters in Pittsburgh. They reportedly filed suit recently claiming that they have each suffered irreversible hearing loss due to the fact that the sirens on the fire trucks they ride in are too loud. Three of the firefighters have been on the job since at least 1981. The fourth has only been in the service with the city since 2000. All claim to have suffered hearing damage.
Their suit alleges that the makers of the trucks and the sirens knew, or should have known, that the devices could cause damage and failed to provide adequate warnings. It also says the cabs of the trucks lacked sufficient insulation to deaden the noise, representing a manufacturing defect.
The city of Pittsburgh is not named as a defendant.
Some might be inclined to dismiss the claim of these individuals as nothing more than a money grab. Why didn’t they wear earplugs? But such an attitude fails to address the deeper issue: that constant exposure to noise represents a potential threat to workers that could, and perhaps should, be addressed through a generally applied policy.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Pittsburgh firefighters sue over siren hearing loss” April 23, 2013