The European Physical Agents (Noise) Directive means employers have a legal duty to protect the hearing of their employees.
Exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing damage Long-term effects can involve loss of hearing and a permanent sensation of noises or ringing in the ears, known as tinnitus.
Hearing loss caused by exposure to noise at work continues to be a significant occupational disease.
Research shows that 170,000 people in the UK suffer deafness, tinnitus or other ear conditions as a result of exposure to excessive noise at work.
In accordance with the European Physical Agents (Noise) Directive, employers have a legal duty to protect the hearing of their employees, reduce the risk of damage to their hearing and take specific action where the noise exposure of their employees is likely to be at or above any of the levels where action is required.
Not only is it the employers duty to assess noise levels, but they are duty bound to offer all workers exposed to noise audiometric assessments on a regular basis.
The process for checking hearing involves playing a range of tones at different frequencies and levels through a set of headphones. When the employee hears a tone they acknowledge this by pressing a button. This determines the hearing threshold for each level and frequency. If the measured hearing level is outside the normal range then the contribution to this loss due to noise exposure at work has to be considered.
In addition to this, a questionnaire will be completed by the employee to record their level of exposure to noise in previous and current working environments.
A wise precaution would be to introduce this programme to all new employees to help avoid liability for hearing damage caused by the environment in previous jobs.
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