ECC grants benefits to miner for hearing loss

Baltazar Bodtan was granted compensation benefits by the Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC) after sustaining noise-induced hearing loss in his twenty four years service as an underground environmental supervisor at a mining firm located in Tuba, Benguet. As a supervisor, his responsibilities included installation and maintenance of ventilation equipment, proper waste disposal and ensuring adherence to standard operation procedures in the use of mining machines or equipments.

On September 27, 2007, Bodtan underwent audiometry examination and it was discovered that he had moderate and sensorineural hearing loss with a 49% hearing handicap. In 2008, Bodtan filed for an EC Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) claim but was denied because of his failure to submit additional Audiometry examinations showing that his hearing impairment progressed to a state of permanent disability.

Two years after his retirement, in March 2015, Bodtan underwent another Audiometry examination and the results showed monoaural impairment with a total hearing handicap of 44%. On March 24, he underwent medical examination and was diagnosed with spinal arthritis; hypertension and noise induced hearing loss at 44%.

Bodtan filed a claim on April 6, 2015 for EC disability benefits at the Social Security System (SSS) Baguio branch, but the claim was denied on the ground of no causal relationship. The SSS main office sustained the denial on October 12, 2016 and their findings stated that Bodtan could hear conversational voice at a distance of 4-5ft and also there were no reports or documents of illness from the employer that would prove that the other illnesses he claimed were work-related.

On December 16, 2016, the case was elevated to the ECC for review. The Commission sustained the decision of the SSS denying the claim for EC disability benefits due to hypertension and musculoskeletal disorders because it failed to find substantial evidence to link the said ailments on Bodtan’s working conditions and on the ground of no employee-employer relationship.

However, the ECC recognized the dangerous conditions of working underground and noted that Bodtan’s hearing loss may have been caused by exposure to high-frequency noise.

The ECC stated that Bodtan met the conditions for compensability of Occupational Hearing Loss wherein he was exposed in the workplace to harmful noise levels in the higher frequencies such as explosive blasts and long sustained noise from drilling machines. Bodtan’s tenure of twenty four years as an underground environmental supervisor was also considered since he may have been exposed to these factors on a daily basis.

Thus, the ECC ordered the SSS to grant Bodtan EC disability benefits plus reimbursement of medical expenses for his succeeding consultation due to Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.

The ECC has a regional extension office in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) located at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) building at Cabinet Hill, Baguio City where information and assistance can be provided regarding ECC related concerns. The regional extension unit is manned by Information Officer II, Dennis Garret Lee and Administrative Officer II, Wendy Salada. They can provide assistance in the filing of EC claims, provide information on status of appealed cases and conduct ECP advocacy seminars to companies and government offices. The ECC-REU also assists Persons with Work Related Disabilities (PWRDs) on their application as Katulong at Gabay sa Manggagawang may Kapansanan (KaGabay) Program grantee. The program provides rehabilitation services through partners institutions, such as physical/occupational therapy and/or vocational training and other related services in the CAR region.

The ECC-REU focal officers may be reached via mobile numbers 09296913911 and 09493022984 respectively and landline numbers (074)619-0275 or (074)443-5338.

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ECC extends retired miner EC benefits

Retired miner Gabriel Tumitit was granted additional EC benefits after the Employees’ Compensation Commission (ECC) reviewed the decision of the Social Security System (SSS) pertaining to his spinal condition, acquired during his employment with a mining company in Itogon, Benguet.

Tumitit was hired in April 1975 as a mine bullgang which entailed him to work underground clearing mud piles, waste materials and constructing canals. He also installed timber supports for the tunnel walls and assisted heavy equipment operators during his shift. He worked for the mining firm for forty years until his retirement in January 2015 at the age of 60.

On May 21, 2007, Tumitit experienced nape, waist and back pain when the company bus he and his co-workers were riding jumped over road humps. In December 2007, he underwent a series of X-ray examinations which revealed findings of old fracture and deformity. After a month, Tumitit underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging and it revealed that he had a compressed spine and spinal arthritis.

Records revealed that Tumitit was granted EC and SSS benefits for some of the conditions that was discovered in the examinations. Notably, fractures of his right hand in July 1992 wherein Tumitit was granted fifteen months EC benefit, in January 2000, for his left ankle injury for four months EC benefit and in November 2002 for a fracture of his left thumb and got three months EC benefits; all of which fell under the Permanent Partial Disability category of the ECC schedule of injuries with the total amount of P42, 492.02.

On June 10, 2015, Tumitit sought medical consultation at the Notre Dame Hospital in Baguio City due to low-back pain. He was diagnosed to be suffering from spinal arthritis, gout and hypertension. Medical records revealed that he was suffering from noise-induced hearing loss. However, during his employment with the mining firm, there was no showing that Tumitit experienced the symptoms of hearing loss and hypertension. In January 2016, Tumitit filed a claim for EC disability before the SSS Baguio City branch for the said ailments. On August of the same year, the SSS branch denied his claim on the ground of no causal relationship.

In denying the EC claim of Tumitit regarding his musculoskeletal disorders, the SSS stated that the condition degenerative in nature and are age-related ailments, which in turn have no connection to his occupation. However, the ECC considered the hazards that Tumitit faced as a miner for over forty years.  The working conditions underground involved tiresome manual labor which can cause trauma or strain over his musculoskeletal system. It can also be surmised that in his duty as a miner, Tumitit had handled different mining equipment and tools that may have led to vibrations, strains and sprain. Considering further in 2007 that Tumitit sustained various injuries on various parts of his body while riding in a company vehicle. The ECC concluded that the said incident may have led to the manifestation of his work –related musculoskeletal injuries or disorders.

The ECC ordered the SSS to grant EC disability benefits plus reimbursement for medical expenses for his succeeding consultations regarding his spinal arthritis with degenerative disc disease and low back pain. However, it sustained the denial of the SSS regarding his hypertension, gout and hearing loss claim on the ground of no causal relationship.

ECC awards miner’s disability benefits for musculoskeletal disorder

The Employees’ Compensation Commission granted EC disability benefit to a miner due to Musculoskeletal Disorder.

Rafael Austria, 59 years old and a resident of Villasis, Pangasinan, occupied the positions of Security Guard and Mill Plant Operator from 1983 until 2014 at the Mills Operations Department of Philex Mining Corp., Tuba, Benguet.

On December 20, 2014, Austria sought medical consultation at the Saint Louis University-Hospital of the Sacred Heart, Baguio City, due to multiple joint pains. It was also noted that he had elevated glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides in his blood. He was also subjected to X-ray and Ultrasound examinations.

On December 22, 2014, Austria was discharged from the said hospital with diagnosis of Frozen shoulder, bilateral; Multiple Degenerative Osteoarthritis; Hypertension with Pulmonary Edema; Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia; Hyperuricemia and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss, but there is no proof that he submitted himself for Audiometry examination to support his claim that his hearing impairment has progressed to a state of permanent disability.

He filed a claim for EC disability benefits before the Social Security System (SSS) Baguio Branch but it was denied on the ground of no causal relationship.

On appeal, the ECC decided to award him with EC disability benefits plus reimbursement of medical expenses for his succeeding consultations due to Musculoskeletal Disorder subject to the limitations prescribed by the Commission.

In granting EC disability benefits in this case, the ECC ruled that the working condition of Austria satisfied the conditions for compensability of Musculoskeletal Disorder under Annex “A” of the Amended Rules on Employees’ Compensation. In particular, “exposure to high levels of whole body vibration, repetitive motions, lifting, performing work in flexed or hyperextended posture or performing other manual handling tasks such as pushing or pulling.”

However, the claim for EC disability benefits due to Hypertension, Diabetes Mellitus, type 2; Dyslipidemia, Hyperuricemia and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss was denied on the ground of no causal relationship.

Banawis encourages workers in the Cordillera Autonomous Region who want to avail EC benefits to coordinate with the ECC Regional Extension Unit CAR. The line of communication of the ECC-REU CAR is always open and the ECC staff are always willing to assist all the workers and/or their beneficiaries who suffered from work-related sickness, injuries, disability or death.