It’s the start of 2021 and despite best laid plans…..
So as the world continues to be distracted by other issues, including the small matter of a global pandemic, can we really afford to put everything else on hold?
So we thought we would have a look at WHY organisations test – and should continue to test – staff hearing in the workplace. Fortunately, it is pretty straightforward and logical stuff. It may even be a lighter read than the diet we have got used to in 2020.
So here are 9 reasons to protect staff hearing using checks at work, based on a Twitter thought from the whiteboard piece back in 2019.
#1: It’s the Law, Innit
The Law governing noise (NAW 2005) requires a program of hearing surveillance for staff who are risk of damage to their health due to noise. It is clear what you need to do.
“noise” is sound at (or exceeding) 85dB. This is the “upper action value”
The law specifies that “surveillance” should “include testing of their hearing”.
Employers who expose their workers to 85dB or over and do not provide hearing tests are therefore breaking the UK law. It should be noted that there are plenty who suggest surveillance should be employed from lower noise levels, so 85dB should be regarded as a maximum before action is taken.
“You must provide health surveillance (hearing checks) for all your employees who are likely to be regularly exposed above the upper exposure action values, or are at risk for any reason, eg they already suffer from hearing loss or are particularly sensitive to damage” .HSE
#2 Protect your Yourself and your Company
The UK has the HSE, the USA has OSHA and Australia has Safework creating policy to protect health and safety at work. Because regulations can be enforced on companies and/or individuals, the threat of action for non-compliance can be directed at responsible managers and directors, in addition to the companies they represent.
It goes without saying therefore that the best way to protect yourself and your organisation from regulatory action is to stay compliant with the relevant legislation.
#3 Meet Insurance Requirements
Insurance is not a replacement for following regulations – which is another way of saying that an organisation which does not provide adequate PPE or health surveillance is unlikely to be insured.
Getting value from your investment in high quality insurance therefore depends on also investing in required staff health and safety – otherwise wasting company money could be the least of your problems.
#4 Staff Reassurance & Value
The world’s first management trope claimed employees are a company’s greatest asset (more than likely). Meanwhile, your mum – the first manager in our lives – was spot on when she said that actions continue to speak louder than words. Which means that visible, proactive measures to secure and protect your colleagues at work demonstrates a commitment to their well-being and a recognition of their value.
Being employed and valued by a responsible organisation, who protects your interests and who’s actions and rhetoric align? Reassuring stuff.
#5 Educate & Protect your Staff
If risk is a 24/7, 360degree issue with parameters as individual as there are members of staff, then mitigating and managing risk requires an inputs approach that is similarly dispersed and granular.
Hearing surveillance – including WorkScreen’s noise information fact sheet – can help staff contribute to a positive health & safety culture, where staff understand and support approaches to secure their safety and reduce the impact of risks to their health – both inside and outside the workplace.
#6 Earmuffs are not Enuff
If the definition of a zero sum game is one where everyone loses, then the case of workers who are issued hearing protection but no hearing surveillance is tough to beat (in our little world of surveillance audiometry).
Staff are at risk from noise, yet are not protected to the required level.
Employer clearly recognises the risks from noise at work and noise induced hearing loss, yet they are not taking the relevant control measures.
Regulator have to address employers arguing that “something is better than nothing”
Turning this into a win all-round is a case of providing surveillance audiometry and remembering that when it comes to addressing Noise Induced Hearing Loss, providing hearing protection on its own is not enough to acknowledge the importance of hearing health and to comply with the law.
It’s simple: if staff are working in noise, hearing protection AND hearing surveillance is essential.
#7 Understand Hearing as a Risk Factor
Hearing has a massive impact on individual well-being and can be a lifesaver, especially where warnings, training and other information is audible – e.g. proximity warnings and toolbox talks in construction. Understanding an employee’s ability to hear – and their personal risk profile – is therefore an essential piece of safety information.
In fact, a hearing test may well be even more valuable than other common health checks at objectively identifying risks, since studies show that people are reliably poor at evaluating their own hearing ability.
After all, how would you rate your hearing ability, if you don’t know what you can’t hear?
#8 Improve systems
Hearing surveillance forms a core component of a company’s control measures and provides essential input to evaluate and support the effectiveness of noise control and noise safety in the workplace. According to IOSH, hearing Surveillance helps
monitoring failures or shortfalls in the implemented control measures
#9 It’s That Time Again!
Hearing surveillance should be conducted regularly – WorkScreen’s recommendation is that an annual hearing check will address staff requirements. Annual surveillance is also more convenient to implement than the HSE’s recommendation which changes with length of service and an individual’s hearing risk factors – including hearing ability (think about it…..).
To make annual hearing tests even more attractive, WorkScreen offers multi-year discounts, helping you cover all the bases by making hearing tests at work better value.
So whichever is the priority for you and your company – our view is that the moral and logical arguments for conducting hearing surveillance are hard to top. But we accept that even the best intentioned managers and companies have limits to their resources.
Which is why we created WorkScreen to reduce cost of conducting hearing tests at work, so that everyone who needs a hearing test at work can get one.
Safe staff. Low costs. Quality testing