Royal Opera House held liable for musician’s hearing loss

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The Royal Opera House is liable for the severe hearing loss that a musician suffered following a rehearsal at its premises in London, the High Court has ruled.

The High Court found in Christopher Goldscheider’s favour on 28 March, ruling that the Royal Opera House’s failure to comply with several parts of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 led to the musician suffering acoustic shock and hearing loss. Damages will be decided at a later date.

Goldscheider, a professional viola player employed in the orchestra at the Royal Opera House, was seated directly in front of the brass section during a rehearsal of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in 2012.

He claimed that he was exposed to noise levels during rehearsals that created a risk to and resulted in acoustic shock. He continues to suffer from severe hearing loss and hasn’t returned to music.

High Court Justice Nicola Davies identified “a clear factual and causal link” between the Royal Opera House’s breaches of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 and the high level of noise that ensued at the rehearsal.

Justice Davies explained: “It commenced with an inadequate risk assessment [and]continued with a failure to undertake any monitoring of noise levels in the cramped orchestra pit with a new orchestral configuration, which had been chosen for artistic reasons.”

“Even when complaints were raised, the three-hour afternoon rehearsal was commenced and completed in the absence of any live time noise monitoring. All of this was done against a background of a failure by the management at the Royal Opera House to properly appreciate or act upon the mandatory requirements of Regulation 7(3) of the 2005 regulations when it knew the noise would exceed the upper exposure action value.”

The Royal Opera House’s contention that Goldscheider had been provided with earplugs to combat excessive noise was dismissed.

Although Goldscheider had been provided with earplugs, he only wore them when he felt pain or discomfort, or in anticipation of a loud passage of music. The Royal Opera House didn’t require him to wear earplugs continuously throughout the rehearsal. “That is not a failure for which the claimant can be held liable in the absence of appropriate instruction,” according to Justice Davies.

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Mark Dugdale is the editor of Claims Media. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached via mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk