Tinnitus Awareness Week

Tinnitus awareness week in the UK is from the 5th to the 11th February this year so we’d like to talk about what you can do to protect your workers’ hearing.

As an employer you have a legal duty to identify and put in place measures to protect your employees’ hearing by either eliminating or reducing risk or exposure to excessive noise.

Excessive noise can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. Generally, hearing deteriorates over time when someone is exposed to prolonged excessive noise, causing problems in later life such as trouble using the telephone or taking part in group conversations.

Hearing loss isn’t the only problem caused by prolonged exposure to noise though. Tinnitus is another condition, which is ringing, whistling, buzzing, or humming in the ear which can be particularly distressing and can lead to disturbed sleep.

As an employer, you should ensure that where necessary:

  • hearing protection is provided and used
  • any other controls are properly used
  • you provide information, training, and health surveillance
  • you review the measures put in place if there are any changes to noise exposure

But how much noise is considered excessive in the workplace? As a guide ask yourself:

  • is the noise intrusive for most of the working day?
  • do your employees have to raise their voices to carry out a normal conversation when about 2 metres apart?
  • do your employees use noisy power tools or machinery for more than half an hour each day?
  • do you work in a noisy industry, for example construction, demolition, or road repair; woodworking; textile manufacture; general fabrication; forging, pressing or stamping; or foundries?
  • are there noises from impacts, such as hammering, pneumatic impact tools etc, or explosive sources such as cartridge operated tools or detonators, or guns?

Noise can also be a safety hazard, making communication difficult and warnings hard to hear.

If you think you have a noise problem at work, firstly see if the noise can be reduced by:

  • housing noisy machinery
  • using quieter equipment or processes
  • finding engineering or technical controls to reduce the noise at the source
  • using screens or barriers to reduce the amount of noise reaching people
  • limiting the amount of time workers spend in a noisy area

Only once all other options have been exhausted should hearing protection be issued. Hearing protection should never be used as an alternative to controlling noise by other means.

For further advice and information, please do get in touch.