Staff at the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General's office have hired lawyers to help prevent “debilitating and life altering problems” caused a fault with transcribing and court reporting system.
Maurice Blackburn says Queensland staff working for the State Reporting Bureau, part of the Department of Justice and Attorney General, have suffered injuries due to the fault, which causes ear splitting noises to come through headsets.
Two staff have lodged workers compensation claims, and others have contacted Maurice Blackburn confirming that their health and safety is under threat.
Claire Jackson, Maurice Blackburn lawyer representing the staff, said the health and safety risks for transcribing staff were unacceptable.
“These staff are performing highly skilled work critical to the operation of our legal system, and unfortunately we believe the problem is not limited to the Southport office, but may also be occurring in other offices across Queensland,” Jackson said.
The problem was identified at SRB’s Southport office, where Maurice Blackburn lawyers are representing staff. Around half of the 19 staff based at Southport reported acoustic spikes, but the SRB has not been able to identify the source of the problem.
The SRB provides a recording and transcription service for proceedings in the Supreme and District Courts, the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) and various other tribunals throughout Queensland.
“Having acoustic spikes come through headsets while working is unacceptable, and puts at serious risk the health and safety of these highly skilled transcribers, leaving many with debilitating and life altering problems.
“It is impossible to predict when the noises might come through, and in some instances they have been severe enough for people to throw head phones off.
“Exposure to this sort of acoustic trauma does not just affect people’s ability to work - some staff have been redeployed to other duties, but it can also have a very damaging impact on people’s broader lives.
“If affected, you can become very sensitive to loud and sudden noises and may become isolated or unable to enjoy things we all take for granted like going to the movies or having lunch out with friends.
“People can also experience a mixture of symptoms including Hyperacusis, (hearing sensitivity) sharp pain in the ear, irregular tinnitus and dizzy spells,” she said.
One of the affected staff, Linda McFadyen, said the impact of the incident on her career had been significant.
“I’ve lost the career that I love. People at work are afraid to report these spikes because they are fearful of losing their transcribing jobs and they don’t want to be redeployed to another area of government,” she said.
“I’m trying to live a normal life but it is proving impossible. I have constant ear-aches of varying degree of severity from dull ache to very painful in either or both ears. It gets a lot worse after being in a noisy environment, but sometimes can be quite painful for no reason. I have constant tinnitus and no matter how much sleep I get, I feel exhausted.”