Common causes of noise and hearing loss at work

It creeps up on you. You don’t notice it to start with. It’s irreversible. It is work related noise induced hearing loss and it is one of the UK’s biggest workplace health and safety problems. The Labour Force Survey estimates that over 19,000 new cases emerged between 2009 and 2012 alone.

The Health and Safety Executive’s research had found that workplace noise will begin or continue to damage employees’ hearing or pose a safety risk if:

• Noisy power tools or machinery is used during more than 50% of an employee’s working day.

• An employee’s job includes a high number of noisy tasks.

• There are constant and intrusive noises, such as the sound of heavy traffic or the noise produced by people in a crowded space, for much of the day.

• At a distance of 2 metres voices have to be raised to be heard.

• There is difficulty hearing warning sounds, such as a vehicle’s reversing bleeps or a fire or other alarm or in receiving verbal warning communications such as ‘get out of the way!’ or ‘look out!’

Under The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, employers have a legal duty to prevent or reduce risks to their employees’ health and safety from noise in the workplace and it is not just noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) which can result from exposure to noise at work. Other conditions such as tinnitus, acoustic shock and acoustic trauma can also occur.

Some of these conditions can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss which permanently damages the functioning of the inner ear and its connection with the brain. If that weren’t enough to be getting on with exposure to substances called ototoxins, often found in chemical substances and medications, in conjunction with high workplace noise levels have been found to cause damage to the sensitive and critical part of the ear called the Cochlea and the ears auditory canals.

Why is there such a high prevalence of work related hearing loss? The two main reasons are:

1. Employers failing in their legal duty under The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 by not taking some of the following steps to manage risk:

• Avoiding or reducing noisy work processes.

• Using engineering to quieten noisy machinery and tools.

• Placing acoustic barriers between employees and the source of noise.

• Limiting employees’ exposure to noise.

• Issuing personal protective equipment in the form of ear defenders.

• Conducting regular hearing checks on employees.

2. Employees rapidly getting use to high noise levels in their workplaces and considering such levels normal. Hearing loss can take some months and usually years to become manifest and by that point the damage done is irreversible.

Considering a work induced hearing loss claim? Call our experts

If you have lost your hearing whilst at work and you believe that your employer’s failure to protect your wellbeing may be to blame, your should contact our solicitors to find out about making a work accident compensation claim.

To reach our work accident experts, dial 0808 901 9069, or

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