RSI represented Andre Derick Knoetze in an appeal against a decision by a Tribunal, constituted in terms of s 91 of COIDA, which dismissed his claim for compensation for noise-induced hearing loss that he sustained while working as a gold mine worker.
After 39 years of working on a gold mine and dealing with noisy machinery, Knoetze sustained hearing loss and was medically boarded. He lodged a claim for compensation with Rand Mutual Assurance (RMA), which repudiated the claim on the basis that Knoetze had experienced rapid hearing loss which was inconsistent with occupational noise-induced hearing loss. Knoetze objected to RMA’s decision in terms of s 91 of COIDA. The Tribunal hearing for his objection held that Knoetze had failed to show that his hearing loss resulted from his employment and not any other possible cause. As such, his objection was dismissed.
Knoetze appealed to the High Court, Gauteng Local Division. The Court considered that s 66 of COIDA contemplates that if an employee contracts a disease listed in Schedule 3 of COIDA, it is presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that such disease arose out of and in the course of his employment. Hearing impairments caused by work involving exposure to noise is a disease listed in Schedule 3.
The Court stated that the Tribunal had wrongly decided that Knoetze needed to show a casual connection between his disease and his employment. Instead, the s 66 presumption was triggered once an employee could show that he contracted a listed disease; and performed work mentioned in schedule 3 in respect of that disease (here, work that exposed him to noise). Knoetze had raised evidence that the mine used loud and noisy machinery, which was not disputed by RMA. RMA further did not provide evidence to rebut the s 66 presumption or show that rapid hearing loss cannot be induced by noise. The High Court therefore upheld the appeal and ordered the Tribunal to determine the compensation payable to Knoetze.
Counsel for the Appellant: Emma Webber