Hearing Screening

Why You Need Hearing Screening At Your Business

Posted By Kerry Budworth on 2015-07-27 18:51

Exposure To Noise At Work

Exposure to noise at work can cause irreversible hearing damage. It is one of the commonest health problems and can be difficult to detect as hearing loss happens very gradually over time. Throughout all industry in the United Kingdom, industrial hearing loss remains the occupational disease with the highest number of civil claims accounting for about 75% of all occupational disease claims.

For this reason alone it is important for every business who has employees working in noisy environments to ensure they are providing hearing protection and healthcare surveillance. It simply makes sense to protect the hearing of your employees and indeed the business. 

What do the regulations require you to do?

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (Noise Regulations 2005) require employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work. Employees also have duties under the Regulations. The Regulations require you as an employer to do the following:

  • Assess the risks to your employees from noise at work;
  • Take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks;
  • Provide your employees with hearing protection if you cannot reduce the noise exposure enough by using other methods;
  • Make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded;
  • Provide your employees with information, instruction and training;
  • Carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health.

Noise levels

Louder Than 85 Decibels

Do we know that noise causes hearing loss, but what noise and at what levels? Any sounds  that are louder than 85 decibels can cause permanent irreversible hearing loss depending on the length of exposure (dose). But just how loud is 85 decibels? Take a look at these decibel ratings and permissible dose times.

Intensities of Common Sounds in Decibels

Sounds Intensities Permissible exposure time
City Traffic, inside the car 85 dB 8 hours
Bulldozer 88 dB 4 hours
Jazz Concert 91 dB 2 hours
Power Mower 94 dB 1 hour
Nightclub 97 dB 30 minutes
Ambulance Siren, inside driver window down 100 dB 15 minutes
Rock Concert, Leaf Blower 115 dB 30 seconds

What are the action levels and limit values?

The Noise Regulations require you to take specific action at certain action values. These relate to:

  • the levels of exposure to noise of your employees averaged over a working day or week; and
  • the maximum noise (peak sound pressure) to which employees are exposed in a working day.

The Values

 

lower exposure action values:

  • daily or weekly exposure of 80 dB;
  • peak sound pressure of 135 dB;
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upper exposure action values:

  • daily or weekly exposure of 85 dB;
    • peak sound pressure of 137 dB.

There are also levels of noise exposure which must not be exceeded. These are called exposure limit values:

  • daily or weekly exposure of 87 dB;
  • peak sound pressure of 140 dB.

What is health surveillance?

Health surveillance is undertaken to monitor the ongoing health or a facet of the ongoing health of an employee as part of an occupational health strategy. Health surveillance for hearing damage usually means:

  • regular hearing checks in controlled conditions;
  • telling employees about the results of their hearing checks;
  • keeping health records;
  • ensuring employees are examined by a doctor where hearing damage is identified.

Ideally, health surveillance is begun before people are exposed to noise (ie for new starters or those changing jobs). Doing so gives you an identified baseline of someone's ability to hear before they begin to work for you. It can, however, be introduced at any time for employees already exposed to noise.

The initial hearing screening should be followed by a regular series of checks, usually annually for the first two years of employment and then at three-yearly intervals (although this depends if any problem with hearing is detected or where the risk of hearing damage is high). The hearing checks need to be carried out by someone who has the appropriate training.

The whole health surveillance programme needs to be under the control of an occupational health professional. You, as the employer, have the responsibility for making sure the health surveillance is carried out properly. For this reason alone you should always use professional occupational health service providers with a verifiable track record.

Who is health surveillance provided for

You must provide health surveillance (hearing checks) for all your employees who are likely to be regularly exposed to noise levels above the upper exposure action values. You must also provide health surveillance to any employee who is at risk for any reason, eg they already suffer from hearing loss or are particularly sensitive to damage.

The purpose of health surveillance is to:

  • warn you when employees might be suffering from early signs of hearing damage;
  • give you an opportunity to do something to prevent the damage getting worse;
  • check that control measures are working.
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Consult your trade union safety representative, or employee representative and the employees concerned before introducing health surveillance. It is important that your employees understand that the aim of health surveillance is to protect their hearing. You will need their understanding and co-operation if health surveillance is to be effective.

How can I arrange health surveillance?

We can undertake the initial hearing screening and then arrange ongoing healthcare surveillance. We can undertake the tasks on your site ensuring that there is the minimum of disruption to your workforce. The testing procedure is quickly undertaken and we can take moulds for custom ear protection at the same time if you so wish. 

Noise Protection in the Workplace, PPE Management

Health Screen Ltd  can manage the use and provision of hearing protection so that “reasonable care” can be legally demonstrated from the initial assessment.  We can advise on such areas of suitability and sufficiency, frequency attentuation, medical exemption from PPE and in the event of all other types of PPE being unsuitable we can mould employees ears  in order that they can have personalised hearing protection. 

Custom made noise protection can offer the ultimate protection for your most valuable assets – your staff. You’ll be amazed how competitively priced this protection can be. Our service will include visiting your site, taking impressions, and the provision of one pair of custom made ear plugs for each employee.

What should you expect from us as an occupational health service provider?

As a professional occupational health service provider we advise you on a suitable programme for your employees including;

  • set up the programme;
  • provide suitably qualified and experienced staff to carry out the work;
  • provide you with reports on your employees' fitness to continue work with noise exposure.

Remember
By law, as an employer, you must assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to noise so that you can protect the hearing of your employees. Where the risks are low, the actions you take may be simple and inexpensive, but where the risks are high, you should manage them using a prioritised noise-control action plan.

Where required you need to ensure that:

  • hearing protection is provided and used;
  • any other controls are properly used; and
  • you provide information, training and health surveillance.

If you are interested in learning more about industrial hearing screening, looking for health & Safety services in Leicester, or you are looking for help with your health and safety strategy, call us on 01455 234 600 or contact us online now. 

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