In the United Kingdom, almost a quarter of one million workers have some form of hearing issues that result from working in noisy work places. The two common hearing problems are tinnitus and industrial deafness.
What causes industrial deafness? Prolonged and excessive exposure to extremely loud noise at work can lead workers to suffer industrial deafness. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that more than a million workers may suffer from industrial deafness in the future because of their current work conditions.
Certain occupations tend to suffer industrial deafness more than others. Among these occupations are in the factory, engineering, music, and construction industries. Some of the tools that may cause industrial deafness are bench finishers and grinders, 40 ton presses, brake pad grinders, electric cable braiders, CNC punch presses, coating pans, concrete vibrators, cold cut circular saws, hammer mills, powder mills, pedestal grinders, and press flywheels, among other tools.
There are four main types of industrial deafness: permanent hearing loss, temporary hearing loss, tinnitus, and acoustic trauma. Some industrial deafness symptoms include: missing full or part sentences while listening to conversation; hearing lack in both ears or one, turning up the radio or TV to high levels in order to properly hear; struggle to listening speech amid background noise; permanent or temporary hearing loss; constant buzzing, ringing, droning, hissing, ticking, and roaring noises can indicate tinnitus.
How can one prevent industrial deafness? The employer has certain responsibilities to protect employees from industrial deafness. By law, the employers must reduce or prevent risks to safety and health from exposure to workplace noise. If an employee works in a place conducive to high noise, the employee should be offered ear protectors like ear plugs, semi-aural inserts, and ear defenders.
Some steps that may help against industrial deafness:
- Ensuring that hearing protection provided by the employer is correctly used and at the proper times.
- Wearing ear defenders.
- Workers must be trained to use properly any equipment for hearing protection.
- Hearing protectors should be maintained and fitted properly.
- Considering machinery used that creates the noise.
- Ensuring regular risk assessments on noise level are done in the workplace.
- Not staying in high risk areas for longer than needed.
- Optimizing the workplace so that quiet and noisy processes are kept separate.
However, despite the protection provided in the workplace, there are some instances wherein the employee would suffer from industrial deafness. This is where the employee may file a claim for industrial deafness. The employee must seek medical attention and establish that he or she suffers from industrial deafness. The employers must also be proven to be negligent regarding their feeble efforts to protect the employee. The employee must show proof that his or her hearing has been damaged during working.
Time limits are in effect for claims related to industrial deafness. Thus, it would be wise for the employee to talk to a certified legal professional to explain the merits of the employee’s possible claim. To avoid legal and medical consequences, employers must be able to provide employees with the right equipment to protect their hearing.