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  • 11 May 2015
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How to protect employees from industrial hearing loss

Exposure to loud noises can cause irreparable damage to employees. In this new blog, find out your responsibilities as an employer, and how to protect your workforce from harm.

Noise induced hearing loss: understanding your responsibilities

As an employer, you are responsible for adequately protecting your workforce against occupational hazards, whatever industry you operate in.

With the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimating that over two million people in Great Britain are exposed to unacceptable levels of noise at work, it is crucial that measures are taken to protect employees that work in such surroundings.

The following guidelines should help employers understand their duties for taking care of staff members in noisy and potentially harmful workspaces.

High risk industries

There are specific environments that are considered high risk, such as:

  • Building sites
  • Factories
  • Live music venues
  • Nightclubs
  • Airports
  • Railways

Working in such environments without the necessary safety equipment can cause damage, even if employees are exposed for short periods of time.

Equipment

If your employees work in noisy areas, they should be provided with relevant protective equipment in order to avoid sustaining damage to their hearing.

Whether they are exposed to high levels of sound through vibrating tools and machinery or loud music, ear plugs or ear protectors should be used to block out the noise.

If an employee is not provided with the correct equipment and loses their hearing as a result of such negligence, your business can be held legally responsible. The employee may also be able to pursue a claim for compensation for the impact the carelessness has had on their health and finances.

To ensure that you cannot be held liable for any damage caused to an employee’s hearing, it is crucial that you have strict safety guidelines in place, and where necessary, equipment is provided and regularly serviced.

Safety equipment must be frequently checked to make sure that it continues to provide sufficient protection. By servicing existing equipment and replacing anything that is no longer fit for purpose, you can help safeguard employees from any potential harm.

Training

Employees should also be provided with training on how to protect their hearing while working in high risk areas.

Any training given should be regularly refreshed to ensure it remains effective and provides sufficient guidance to protect employees, particularly if new equipment is introduced.

The professional who carries out the training should have experience or knowledge in health and safety so that employees are correctly advised on the safety procedures they need to follow. If an employee is given the incorrect or inadequate training and consequently loses their hearing, you could be liable.

It is important that managers and supervisors are heavily involved in the training process so that they can identify when an employee fails to adhere to guidelines.

In addition to verbal guidance, all safety procedures and guidelines should be documented for employees to reference. In high risk areas, it is beneficial to have health and safety posters on the walls to prompt employees to wear their hearing protectors.

Communicating with your employees

As the employer, it is your duty to make sure all possible risks are understood by your employees. Within their safety training and any written guidelines, it can be beneficial to reiterate what you are doing to control the risks and what they should be doing to protect their hearing.

Protect your business as well as your employees

If you fail to take adequate measures to protect employees, this can not only endanger staff members, but also have a detrimental impact on your business. By making sure that routine checks are carried out to ensure employees work in a safe environment with suitable protection, you will find that it doesn’t eat up a lot of your time and pays off in the long term.