As the UK eases lockdown measures, organisations are embracing new approaches to work that fit the “new normal” of life after lockdown with the threat of C-19.Right now, the general advice coming from HSE, IOSH, BOHS and British Safety Council on returning to work is:
● Only go to work if you cannot work from home
● Social distancing of 2m should be applied at all times
● The use of shared spaces should be minimised
● Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) should be worn where appropriate
All of which means, conducting mandatory HSE healthcare surveillance threatens to become a major headache for employers – especially for tests which are typically carried out face-to-face.
Hearing surveillance is one such test, which is why the British Academy of Audiology says not to conduct audiometric tests until further instruction, and the Health & Safety Executive have announced:
“Providing the worker does not identify any relevant [hearing] problems, audiometry can be deferred for a period of three months.”
However, hearing tests are a legal requirement and so cannot be deferred indefinitely: postponed tests still have to be completed, which means
companies will still have to conduct vital hearing surveillance checks – only they’ll have a shorter period of time to do it in and still have to manage the risks presented by coronavirus.
Hearing test infection areas to consider
There are several infection risk areas to consider, including:
Infection carriers: How to manage external visitors who could introduce infection into your workplace?
Communal areas & waiting rooms: How should these be arranged, cleaned and ventilated to lower the risk of infection?
Multiple test candidates: How to manage distancing between staff taking tests?
Testing areas & facilities: How should these be arranged and what procedures should be applied to reduce the risks of cross-infection?
It’s a lot to consider and – where possible – the surest solution is to eliminate the risk areas themselves.
For example, if you don’t need to bring in someone external to do your hearing tests, maybe you shouldn’t. In the same vein, it may be sensible to do without a waiting room.
A contactless self-test approach to hearing surveillance means you can achieve this. However, before a self-test system is put in place, it’s key you inform and reassure your staff on how you plan to implement hearing tests safely.
How to implement contactless hearing tests at work
Returning to work is going to feel stressful enough for employees, so throwing hearing tests into the mix might add to their anxiety – particularly if they think they’re about to be pushed into a sticky noise booth straight after someone else.
So, rather than jumping in feet first, a bit of reassurance can inform them:
Why you’re doing tests, including the importance of hearing health
Why you’re testing now and not in 12-months time
The steps you’re taking to keep them safe and reduce risks of infection
So, how can you implement tests safely? By following our simple guide:
Select your test environment
A prerequisite for staging hearing tests, even before the pandemic is a quiet room.
However, due to COVID-19, ensure the room:
Is airy/well ventilated
Has minimal furnishings and cleanable, hard surfaces
Is unoccupied by any other person/s
You should also make sure any instructional paperwork is laminated for easy cleaning. All testing areas need to be cleaned (and preferably sanitised) before and after every test, so including the bare minimum in the room will make cleaning quicker and easier.
Do away with the waiting room
By setting a rota, timetable or even going for a more radical “help yourself, free-for-all” for your tests, you can remove a ‘waiting room’ area, which means staff can stay at their desks until their pre-appointed time, or the test room becomes available. Although self-tests only take around 15-minutes to complete with WorkScreen, it’s advisable to work out timing rules, allowing more time – for example:
20-minutes per test
5-minutes to clean equipment
5-minutes to clear space at the end ready for the next test
And, to prevent people barging in or in case testing and cleaning overrun, an ‘Occupied’ or ‘Test in Progress’ sign on the door will prevent users from sharing the same space.
Provide staff with a ‘Sanitisation’ sheet
Sending an email with instructions is a good idea, but staff can easily forget this when it’s their turn to take a test. So provide a simple ‘Cleaning’ sheet for use before and after the hearing test.
That’s right: even if it’s not strictly required, double cleaning = confident staff.
The sheet should include basic instructions, including:
How to clean the test area BEFORE and AFTER use
How to clean the testing equipment BEFORE and AFTER use
A reminder to log their name and time in and out of the room
“No Sandwiches” and other safe test rules
You can never be too safe, so use the relevant guidance particular to your workplace in addition to:
No personal items in the testing room unless placed inside a wipeable, polythene bag – (a freezer bag, rather than a carrier bag).
No food or drink in the testing room
Or anything else you can think of which could lead to cross-infection of an otherwise safe area.
Giving your employees all the information they need to test themselves in the safest possible way is vital, so it’s important to check the testing room regularly, to make sure your guidelines are being met.
And to make sure your staff feel their issues are being taken on board, offer a follow-up chat (suitably distanced) to discuss the employees’ results or any concerns they have with either the test or their results.
But what’s the best way to carry out no-contact tests if you’ve never carried them out before, or have no previous experience with ‘self-test’ systems?
Getting Started with No-Contact Hearing Tests
The idea of a user-operated hearing test that is simple to use and can be carried out by the employee, without specialist training, instead of by an external body visiting your site may seem fanciful. But in fact, WorkScreen is an easy way to provide contactless hearing tests.
It’s easy to use
No previous knowledge using the system is needed
Result reports are automated and sent to your employees via email
The equipment is easy to clean, reducing the chances of cross-infection
And, to make life even easier, we’ve even created a range of useful documents which you can download, print and implement during your workplace hearing tests. There are three available, including a hearing test checklist, so your staff can make sure they’re completing their test correctly. Just click the links to download:
Download the WorkScreen Cleaning Guide
Download the WorkScreen User Cleaning Log & Checklist
Download the WorkScreen Suggested Hygiene Rules and Guidance
These can also be found on our FAQs Page
And because the WorkScreen handset can be left in place, staff who may work from the office on a reduced basis can take their test when they’re back in the building, or there is the option of a test kit being sent to their home address, before being returned after use.
If your staff have returned or are in the process of a phased return during the pandemic and you want to fulfil your HSE hearing test obligations, get in touch to ask us about how to implement WorkScreen contactless hearing tests in your workplace.