We have already taken a look at controlling the risk of noise at work, so we thought this time we would bring you some top tips to protect your hearing in the workplace. With the winter months drawing in we will be digging out our winter woollies very soon. Did you know that the humble ear-defender was originally invented over 150 years ago, in order to keep your ears warm whilst ice-skating?
As they have evolved over the years, ear defenders have become what we mostly know them for today: protection for anyone who works in a noisy environment. From construction workers, to the military and live events, protective measures must be taken to look after our ears. If the sound level in your workplace exceeds 85dB, you need hearing protection. Once your hearing is lost, there is no way of getting it back – prevention is key.
Is noise a problem in your workplace?
Lots of employees have to work within environments that affect all of their senses – extreme light, heat, fumes and sound. That is why it is so important to make sure you are wearing the correct level of PPE to protect yourself from these dangers. Hearing is one of the most undervalued senses, and is something we are all too quick to take for granted. Scarily, hearing loss is one of the most common work-related injuries in today’s world.
More often than not we hear about people who have been exposed to long-term workplace noise and have now got damaged hearing. In comparison, you then have the engineers who were working on the first hovercraft over 40 years ago who wore the correct level of ear protection, and have no hearing issues whatsoever. This just goes to show the importance of using the correct PPE for the environment you are working in.
How do you know that there is an issue with noise in your workplace though? Here are a couple of indicators for you:
- You have to raise your voice and/or shout in order to be heard by someone who is about a metre away from you.
- You sense a ringing or humming in your ears when you leave work for the day.
- You experience temporary hearing loss when you leave work.
Tips to protect your hearing in the workplace
Most hearing damage comes from continued exposure to high levels of noise, as opposed to a one-off big burst of noise. Therefore it is important that you keep your ears protected at all times, to protect your hearing for the future. Here are some ways you can prevent damage to your hearing:
- Ask your employer to carry out a noise survey, with a full risk assessment
Before you even start looking at the different types of hearing protection that are available, workplace noise sampling should be carried out. This is to identify which employees are most at risk from hazardous levels of noise, and to identify the specific noise level present.
- Make sure you know the level of noise you are being exposed to
Employers are required to put other controls in place to reduce the reduce the exposure to risk as far as possible, before turning to the use of PPE. For example, a noise barrier like acoustic fencing could be set up in site, or loud machinery kept separate from where employees are working. Once controls are in place, and there is still a risk present, PPE should be used. In a sense, PPE is the ‘last resort’ of preventative measures.
- Identify the level of noise you are still being exposed to
Once the level of noise exposure has been measured, you will be able to research the level of hearing protection that you need, to the nearest decibel. Every employee that is exposed to hazardous levels of noise should be asked to keep a record of noise monitoring.
- Ask to be provided with the correct level of hearing protection
Not only does the hearing protection you are provided with need to be the correct level, it is also important that it fits you correctly. It will be marked with the manufacturer’s quality testing which indicates that the hearing protection meets the correct legislation.
- Undergo regular hearing tests
If you have been given hearing protection, it is important that there is a follow-up procedure too. There should be regular hearing tests carried out – one before hearing protection is given, and then yearly after that.
The type of hearing protection required really depends on the level of noise you are exposed to, and you as an individual. Here at BETAFIT we stock a wide range of hearing protection from earmuffs to earplugs and earpod headbands. If you would like any further information about the specific products that we have in stock, please contact our expert team who are on hand to help answer your questions.