Viola Player Deafened By Brass Section Wins Right To Compensation

Viola Player Deafened By Brass Section Wins Right To Compensation

A musician won his claim for compensation because his employers were found to have failed in their duty of care. The orchestra’s rehearsals of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, which lasted three hours, caused irreparable hearing damage which led to this unusual claim.

The viola player was placed in front of the brass section throughout the rehearsal which caused him to experience acoustic shock. As a result, he suffered from hearing loss and tinnitus which stopped him working and halted his career in music. His lawyers claimed that the opera house failed in their duty of care citing the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.

The opera house argued that an orchestra produces noise and they had sought to protect the musicians and any decision against them would affect them adversely for the future.

The High Court found in favour of the viola player and took note of another viola player who had also said the brass section was unbearably noisy. The Court determined that no proper risk assessment or monitoring had been undertaken given that the orchestra pit was very cramped and that there had been complaints on previous occasions. Although earplugs were provided there was no instruction or requirement for the musicians to wear them.

The acoustic shock that caused the damage had been almost instant and even if the man had left the orchestra pit as soon as he felt uncomfortable it would have been too late to prevent the long-term damage. The level of compensation is still yet to be determined, but given the loss of his career, it is likely to be substantial.

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