Welcome to 2022: if there’s one thing that COVID-19 has reinforced, it is the value of good health and safety at home and at work. All too tellingly and painfully, it is also highlighting the relationship between health, safety, wellness and their mutual influence
Through this lens, the health of our senses plays an active part in our safety and wellness. Which is why WorkScreen’s message of making hearing tests more accessible supports a growing appreciation the value of hearing health at work. So here’s a quick look at some of the industries and organisations doing audiometric tests with WorkScreen.
2 Helpful Questions – To Test or Not to Test?
UK law requires a hearing test for anyone at risk due to noise at work. Technically, the way to quantify this is to conduct a noise assessment. WorkScreen can point you to some of our partners who can provide this. In addition, if asked to sense-check who should be tested, WorkScreen invites clients to imagine staff answering these 2 simple questions:
- Do you frequently have cause to wear hearing protection as part of your work/ does your employer supply you with hearing protection?
- If you described your role, would you say that you regularly experienced noise, without information whether it was potentially harmful?
If the answer is yes to either (or both), without evidence to the contrary, then the indications suggest staff are exposed to noise at work and should be under hearing surveillance. In fact, by issuing hearing protection, the employer may be confirming this assumption
Hearing Test Organisations & Sectors
Here’s a selection of sectors and organisations that WorkScreen supports with surveillance audiometry hearing tests. To talk to WorkScreen and find out more, contact us.
Manufacturing and Engineering
The UK has a proud history of manufacturing and engineering as major employers and SMEs. Hand tools, specialist machinery and even moving material around are all significant sources of noise. The beauty of WorkScreen in a large company environment is that we provide endless capacity in virtually any location, so that everyone can get tested.
In smaller organisations, where any downtime has a very visible impact at the bottom line and where managers often have multiple responsibilities, our flexible solution can reduce production downtime and organisational burden, while organising and implementing tests for any number of staff.
Food production & Farming
Farming may not employ the numbers it used to, but the UK food sector is a true behemoth. Grower-producers are particularly at risk due to noisy specialist machinery, such as potato graders or picking rigs. In addition, a high proportion of migrant labour means these clients benefit from our translated hearing tests.
Meanwhile, process industries such as food preparation, packing and processing present their own hearing test challenges and noise – particularly due to extraction and chilling. Conveyor systems, bottling lines create constant noise and hard surfaces make for reverberant acoustics. Operationally speaking, 24/7 shift patterns; plenty of new starters and a high focus on hygiene and site access controls mean that any hearing test solution needs to provide the flexibility to test staff quickly, hygienically and effectively around their shift patterns.
Hearing Tests for Furniture Makers and Specialist Products
One of the things that we love at WorkScreen is calls from niche manufacturing successes out there. In 2022 we have already started working with an international aquariums manufacturer, in addition to our previous work with some of the UK’s leading bed manufacturers and window factories. In all cases, woodworking tools, specialist handtools and machinery create high levels of noise.
Hospitality, Music and Entertainment
The UK is undoubtedly one of the world’s music and entertainment powerhouses.
And when you consider the typical age profile of staff working into the night – not to mention the acoustic environment – it is not surprising that WorkScreen is one of many organisations that promotes noise protection, awareness and noise surveillance for the often young, casual staff working in the UK’s music industry and pubs, clubs and entertainment venues.
Helping the UK’s leading nightclub open its doors at short notice after lockdown in June 2021 was therefore one of 2021’s high points. Because lockdown was under constant review, the exact opening date was vulnerable to change right up to the last minute, which made flexibility a key consideration right through the launch process. We are incredibly proud that that we could help at short notice and that staff now undergo hearing tests before they start work and are part of an active surveillance programme. In fact, we’d love to be able to do the same for more of the UK’s coffee shops, pubs, go Kart tracks, dog tracks, bowling alleys and all the other places from our misspent youth….
Facilities Maintenance, Grounds Maintenance Arboriculture and Horticulture
Another UK speciality is contracted services, such as arboriculture, external services and maintenance to universities, councils institutions and private individuals. Even with the advent of battery powered gardening tools, the average worker is exposed to a high noise dose on a regular basis – in particular, the noise from log chippers and chainsaws make even mowers and strimmers seem quiet. (However, strimmers and leaf blowers are often particularly close to the operator’s ears, which poses its own problems.)
Specific concerns for horticultural noise is that the age profile of workers is often young – which arguably makes hearing preservation more important. Meanwhile, small, depot-based teams places a premium on the flexibility that WorkScreen provides, facilitating testing whenever/wherever time allows. On this basis, in the summer of 2020, WorkScreen provided hearing tests to around 100 staff across 20 caravan sites all around Scotland, working around the staff’s busy hosting duties.
Hearing Tests for IT & Data Centres
Where there are data centres there is also air conditioning which can mean high noise levels for the few members of staff allowed in these areas. WorkScreen has worked with telecoms companies and also it hardware manufacturers to protect the staff.
Hearing Tests for Shooting Schools and Clubs
The noise risks from firearms and shooting needs little introduction: suffice to say one of the UK’s leading shooting schools had this to say about our service:
“ WorkScreen was easy to book, simple to set up and administer, and allowed us the flexibility to complete the testing to our own schedule, in line with our H&S Policy.“ RBSS Shooting School
Hearing Tests for Logistics, Construction & Construction Services
The risks from noise in logistics and construction are considerable, varied and potentially serious – an undiagnosed hearing loss can present a major risk on site: where warnings matter (around truck movements for instance) good hearing can be a lifesaver.
We believe it is therefore highly important to understand staff hearing ability before they go on site. Like so many of WorkScreen’s client organisations, our customers appreciate high quality instant hearing test results, value for money and planning flexibility so that they can test their team without disrupting productive work, where time is money.
Hearing Tests for Printing & Binding
As the original process industry, printing is notorious for making a lot of noise – constantly. A quality hearing surveillance provider is just one part of good noise management strategy. It is therefore also not surprising that one of our printing clients holds the record for the most tests conducted with a single WorkScreen handset in 24hrs. Operating 24/7 and superb organisation gave them a significant advantage: we were delighted to be able to provide hearing tests at a lower cost and faster than previous solutions. They had this to say:
”The whole process from start to finish feels like it has been thought through to ensure the end user is at ease and has all the information they need. We will be using WorkScreen for all our hearing screening needs and look forward to a continued strong working relationship.“ TJ Books Ltd
Hearing Tests for Developers, Customer services & Colleague support
If the immediate assumption that desk work is the quiet option, think again….. And this is not about colleagues with a dodgy telephone manner having a “private call” at full volume. The real concerns for understanding noise and monitoring hearing health for desk workers are 3 fold:
- Hidden Noise. If staff habitually use earphones as part of their regime to focus, it is VERY easy for the quiet developer in the corner to be quietly doing permanent damage to their hearing at work. And that’s the employers’ responsibility. Again, we feel this is particularly important, due to the relative youth of these workers and – as we said back in 2020 – earphones are probably more important to kids than their underwear
- Communication and wellbeing. It’s really important to understand someone’s hearing ability in an office setting where communication is paramount to engagement and success. This is because the body is expending energy compensating for hearing problems well long before we are even aware there is one:
Hearing loss can lead to withdrawal from social situations, emotional distress, and depression. Research shows that it increases the risk of loneliness, but only for those who don’t wear hearing aids. (rnid.org.uk/about-us/research-and-policy/facts-and-figures/)
One in four of the hearing impaired respondents cite stress and burn-out as the reasons for calling in sick, as compared to just 7 percent of those with normal hearing. (www.hear-it.org/absenteeism-higher-among-hearing-impaired-people)
- Maximising Productivity and Opportunity: undiagnosed hearing problems have been shown to reduce career opportunities and earnings. Once identified, this effect can be dealt with simply:
Hearing aids were shown to reduce the risk of income loss by 90 to 100% for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65 to 77% for those with moderate to severe hearing loss (hearinghealthfoundation.org/hearing-loss-in-the-workplace)
So whatever sector you operate in, please make room for understanding noise and hearing this year and be aware in 2022 that:
- Even with Covid around, you can organise effective hearing tests at work – even for staff working at home
- 2 simple questions can help inform hearing tests at work
- Noise is not the preserve of “noisy” jobs!
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