The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

World Hearing Day – Seven Tips for Hearing Protection 

World Hearing Day – Seven Tips for Hearing Protection 
03 March 2021 | Updated 19 April 2021

David Ford, Compliance Lead at CHAS, highlights seven areas to consider to prevent work-related hearing loss. 

Ford has more than 30 years of experience in the construction sector, and has managed health and safety projects for companies such as Redrow Homes, Wates Construction and Alfred McAlpine Construction.


Irreversible Hearing Damage Accounts for 75 Per Cent of All Health-Related Civil Claims 


Exposure to elevated levels of noise at work can lead to irreversible hearing damage and it remains one of the commonest occupational health complaints, accounting for 75 per cent of all health-related civil claims in industry according to the latest HSE data.

However, there are many ways to reduce noise and noise exposure in the workplace and most often a combination of methods works best.


1. Noise Assessments


Noise assessments need to be carried out where an issue of elevated noise has been identified. The HSE has provided this helpful guide for businesses on how to recognise if noise in their workplace could cause potential health issues. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 stipulates specific noise exposure action levels which employers need to measure themselves against and noise assessments must be carried out be someone who is competent and understands what needs to be done to comply with the law – be it in-house personnel or external contractors who specialise in noise risk assessment.


2. Eliminating the Noise at Source 


Eliminating the noise at source should always be the first measure for reducing the effects of noise exposure, according to the HSE, either by removing the noisy work process or machinery altogether or outsourcing it. Segregating noisy work from other work activities and using walls, screens and barriers will limit exposure. Duration of exposure can be reduced by rotating shift patterns or by the provision of a noise refuge. Substituting noisy machines for quieter ones is the next best option where elimination can’t be achieved completely.


3. Machinery Supplier Obligations


Machinery suppliers are under obligation to make products generate as little noise as possible according to the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008 so liaise with manufacturers prior to purchase to understand the likely noise levels their machinery will emit. Consider implementing a positive noise-reducing purchasing policy. The HSE Buy Quiet guide is about manufacturers, importers, suppliers and users of equipment working together to reduce the risks from noise in the workplace. Where applying noise control solutions to existing machinery is necessary there are many products that can significantly reduce decibel levels in resonant areas while offering little to no change in how effectively it operates.


4. Personal Protective Equipment


PPE is useful but as with all PPE, hearing protection should be the last line of defence. The aim is to eliminate or reduce the risk to hearing by all other means first. Hearing protection can offer its own set of risks with ‘over protection’ reducing the ability for employees to communicate effectively with each other or be alert to impending hazards and warning signals. In some workplaces hearing protection with active listening features is now being mandated which protects workers from damaging noise while still allowing them to hear at a safe level.

Employers are required to provide hearing protection to employees if they ask for it and if the noise exposure exceeds the upper noise action levels. Equipment must be well-maintained, correctly fitted and appropriate for the specific task and employees should be trained in how to use it properly where required.


Hearing CHAS

Picture: a graphic showing a human ear with soundwaves emitting from it


5. Workplace Signage 


Workplace signage alerts employees to where the noise hazards are and where the wearing of PPE is mandatory. Innovative noise-activated warning signs can be triggered to illuminate when noise reaches a specific decibel level and some interactive signage can even log data and track noise levels. Workplace signage isn’t just necessary to highlight where the noise is but also where it isn’t. Signs directing employees to noise exclusion areas and refuges are just as important in the overall management of limiting the impact of noise exposure.


6. Health Surveillance


Health surveillance and early intervention are key to ensuring the best outcome for workers exposed to noise. It’s important to teach employees how to recognise some of the early warning signs of hearing damage in themselves. The HSE recommends regular hearing checks, annually at first and then at three-yearly intervals after the first two years of employment.


7. Training


Training is vital for workplaces where employees are exposed to noise likely to be at or above the lower action value. Training should cover the types of risks the employee may face, action and prevention, PPE and what they should be doing as individuals to minimise damage to their hearing.


Picture: a photograph of some protective ear defenders

Article written by David Ford | Published 03 March 2021


Related Articles

Building Services Sector Backs Industry Prequalification Standard

Companies from the building services sector are encouraging the construction industry to embrace the new Common Assessment Standard, following the announcement of a...

 Read Full Article
Schools Reopening – Dealing With COVID Testing Waste

As the roadmap to returning all pupils to schools and colleges begin this week, what do FMs working in education need to consider regarding COVID testing and the...

 Read Full Article
Footwear and Musculoskeletal Disorders – What are the Risks?

Musculoskeletal disorders affect one in four of us, and selecting the right safety footwear can significantly reduce the risk.  Simon Ash, UK Sales Manager at...

 Read Full Article
PPE May Be Responsible for Dermatitis Increase

More than one in ten workers suffer from occupational dermatitis, potentially exacerbated by PPE being worn for long periods and hand sanitiser use. UK PPE supplier...

 Read Full Article
Winter Hazard Planning – Keeping Safe in Storm Darcy 

With parts of the UK experiencing significant snowfall overnight, there are several hazards that these freezing conditions can bring to the workplace, even for those...

 Read Full Article
Face Mask Disposal Still a High Concern

Litter pickers across the UK are reporting a huge increase in the number of dumped contaminated disposable face masks being spotted during their patrols, as the number of...

 Read Full Article
Centurion to Incorporate Patented Brain Protection System in Hard Hats

Centurion Safety Products has announced a partnership with Swedish helmet safety technology company Mips, to incorporate their technology within their Nexus...

 Read Full Article
COVID-19 Testing in the Workplace – What Do Employers Need to Consider?

With businesses interested in conducting their own private workplace coronavirus testing for employees, what do employers need to bear in mind? The government’s...

 Read Full Article
Building Industry Urged to Redouble Site Safety Efforts

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has warned against safety complacency on construction sites during the new lockdown period. It congratulated the...

 Read Full Article
Ten Ways To Mitigate Supply Chain Risk in 2021

CHAS, the supply chain risk management expert, highlights ten ways to mitigate supply chain risk in 2021. The Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS) is...

 Read Full Article