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Hearing loss warning

Published: 30/06/14

Hearing loss due to noise used to be about workplace noise but now it appears employees are putting their own hearing at risk with headphones. Apparently, employers will be responsible for the volume of headphones too!

A quarter of the UK’s workforce are at an increased risk of noise induced hearing loss because they use headphones while at work, according to a study from an audio technology company. In a survey of 2,000 UK workers, Limitear found that the nation’s workers listen to an average of 110 minutes of audio in the workplace, and a further 92 minutes outside of work hours. In total, an estimated 7.6m people are exposed to over 3.5 hours of reproduced sound each day. European regulations stipulate that workers should not be exposed to average noise levels of more than 85dB, equivalent to busy city traffic from a kerbside, over an eight hour period. However, when listening to an MP3 player at full volume, this generates 100dB of sound, meaning you should only listen to it for a maximum of fifteen minutes or risk hearing damage. The survey also found that despite 48% harboring concerns about loss of hearing, 79% of respondents were unaware their employer is legally required to protect them from hearing loss.

Mike Barraclough, QBE senior risk manager said that noise induced hearing loss claims have increased 40% since the implementation of the Jackson reforms. “Employers need to take pro-active steps to manage their employees’ exposure to noise. In addition, employers must also provide evidence of such actions in the event of a noise induced hearing loss claim being pursued, to increase the prospect of successfully defending such claims” Barraclough said.

Health and Safety Executive noise and vibration specialist inspector Andrew Thompson added that employers retain responsibility for their workforce even in cases where employees are controlling the volume of audio on their own devices. “As well as potentially contributing to hearing damage the uncontrolled wearing of personal headsets in the workplace may also have safety implications because of an impaired ability to communicate or hear warnings, alarms, moving vehicles etc”. Thompson said “Employers allowing staff to use their own headphones or earphones must ensure that they’re adhering to regulations and sufficiently protecting staff”.

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