News in the loop - Hearing loss at work - still a cause for concern

News in the loop - Hearing loss at work - still a cause for concern

Standards for protecting against hearing loss and infection need to be improved. PWE reports.

With an estimated 20,000 workers suffering from work-related hearing problems, according to figures published by the HSE, the issue of hearing loss from noise at work is still a cause of great concern, particularly for high risk sectors like industrial applications and construction.

According to Simon Ashton of safety specialist, Simon Safety, a Eurosafe member, there are a number of issues associated with hearing protection that are common place across many sectors. They relate to how hearing is validated and how people are trained to identify, use and care for the equipment that is going to best protect their hearing.

Simon explains: “Because there are no cross industry standard practices when it comes to protecting workers from noise, there is a real variance in how businesses approach the potential issue of workplace hearing loss. Where industry leaders like PX Group are using new science based hearing validation technology, others are still using the older ‘thumbs up can you hear this’ approach, with some businesses just handing out ear protection with no training or validation at all.

“The fact that we still have such a differential is very worrying, as hearing loss is not like other workplace injuries that can be treated or healed. For me there are fundamentally three ways of protecting people from high levels of noise, which is generally over 80dB.

“The first and most obvious is to try and engineer out, to dampen the noise itself, by improving the overall noise containment and barrier setup within an operation. However, this is not always possible, so for those high-risk areas you will always need to use either earplugs or ear defenders. In most cases this will come down to personal choice, but there will be certain applications that will be better suited to one type.

“With hundreds of different products on the market varying in quality and performance, it can be very difficult to ensure individuals are getting the right level of noise protection to prevent hearing loss. The first step to achieving this is to actually measure the noise levels that employees are exposed to, only then can you map out the different protection zones and types of noise levels you need to cater for based on specific applications.

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