Industrial Deafness Advice Sheet

Don’t damage your hearing in the workplace

All employers have a responsibility to protect the hearing of workers, as it can easily be damaged by exposure to noise. Therefore, if your hearing has been changed for the worse by your working conditions then you have the right to seek legal damages (compensation).

Signs of hearing damage range from tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and having difficulty hearing in everyday life (conversations / telephone / television), through to complete industrial deafness. This damage can be confirmed in audio hearing tests. Although it is most common in engineering and manufacturing environments, exposure to noise can happen in many different jobs.

What is legally considered loud?

What is actually classed as loud in the eyes of the law? This question is crucial to issues involving noise in the workplace. The legal limit where ear protection becomes necessary is set at 85 decibels. To put this into some kind of context, a normal conversation is about 60 decibels, while a jet engine is a humongous 140 decibels.

The level at which someone suffers hearing loss varies from person to person. If you suffer any noticeable change in your hearing, or ringing in the ears after work then you should request ear protectors. Your employer has a legal duty to provide them if requested.

Noise at work – the law

The law relating to noise at work in England and Wales is The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. This states that all employers must take responsibility to reduce the risk of hearing damage to the lowest level which is reasonably practicable.

When the level of noise in the workplace reaches 80 decibels, the employer must undertake a risk assessment. They must also give information and training about hearing risks to staff and provide ear protection if requested.

At a noise level of 85 decibels, further action by the employer is needed in conjunction to the steps outlined above. This includes:

  • Provide ear protection to all staff, and clearly mark zones where use of the protectors is mandatory.
  • Reduce noise exposure by means other than providing ear protection
  • Provide hearing tests for staff

Ear protection and prevention

Many steps can be taken to reduce noise levels in very loud workplaces. These include using the quietest possible tools for the job, changing the layout of the workspace, and limiting the duration of exposure to noise.

Ear protection should be seen as a last resort, when steps have been taken to reduce noise, but it is still at dangerous standards. There are many different kinds of ear protection available, both ear plugs and ear muffs. Either type can reduce the decibel level to the ears by up to 20 or 30 decibels.

If they are provided by your employer then they must be worn.

Seeking compensation for hearing damage

Unfortunately, despite the laws in place to prevent it, damage to hearing in the workplace still occurs. As each case varies on the exact circumstances involved, it is best to get free legal advice about your situation. Compensation can be sought if your employer has failed to protect you.

Contact us here for more information and a no obligation assessment of if you can claim.

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