Noise is a part of everyday life, but being exposed to too much noise, or noise that is too loud can do permanent damage to our hearing. This damage can sometimes develop over time, or sometimes set in very swiftly – for example after being exposed to a very loud noise. In other cases tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) can be a symptom of developing hearing loss. Hearing damage can be prevented, and your employer has a duty to do what they can to minimise the risk of hearing damage to all of their employees.
Is my work noisy?
Depending on the type of job you do, exposure to noise can be very different. Some people work in noisy factories where powered tools and machinery operate at high volumes, where as others might not seem like a loud environment; for example a call centre, yet the potential for damage is just as great.
What should my employer be doing?
All employers have a responsibility to minimise the damage to hearing so they should look at:
- Using quieter machinery
- Making changes to reduce noise at source
- Using screens or barriers to shield noise
- Looking at workplace layout to create quiet areas
- Limiting the time you spend in noisy areas
What are my responsibilities?
Alongside your employers’ strategies for noise minimisation, you have responsibilities too:
- Co-operate with your employer – play your part
- Wear any hearing protection you are given – there’s no point in having protection if you don’t use it
- Look after your hearing protection – treat any PPE with appropriate respect
- Attend hearing checks – you need to be aware of the status of your hearing
- Report any problems – if you have any noise issues you must inform your employer.
What type of protection should I use?
There are different types of hearing protection available; some suit different situations better than others:
Earmuffs. These should totally cover your ears, fit tightly and have no gaps around the seals. Helmet-mounted earmuffs can need particular care to get a good seal around the ears.
Earplugs. These go into the ear canal, not just across it, and can feel a little uncomfortable at first use, however they can provide a good level of hearing protection.
Semi-inserts / canal caps. These are held in or across the ear using a plastic band.
What if it’s too late?
If your hearing has been damaged and you think it is due to your employment, contact one of our solicitors today – they will swiftly be able to tell you if you have a case, and if so how much that claim could be worth.