With today, March 13, being Ear Muff Day we explore the heritage of the humble (but essential!) ear-defender, remind ourselves of the legislation and provide a few tips to prevent hearing loss in your workplace.

What started 146 years ago as a homemade invention to keep your ears warm whilst ice-skating has evolved into vital protection for everyone who works in noisy environments. From civil engineering to air travel, the military, live events industry and any other workplaces where sound levels exceed 85dB, protective measures must be taken - because when hearing is lost, it will never come back.

Do your workers’ ears take a bashing?

Many people have to work in environments that assault the senses, with extremes of light, heat, fumes, and also sound. Of all these, it can be our sense of hearing that gets taken for granted the most, yet can also be the sense that is under the most pressure. Hearing loss is the most common work-related injury today.

We hear of cases every day where long-term exposure to workplace noise results in damage to people’s hearing - be it from high-impact machinery, industrial turbines or constant engine noise. At the same time, engineers working on the first hovercraft over 40 years ago swear by their Silenta ear defenders, and still enjoy good hearing today! Taking the right precautions and using the correct PPE will give you long-term benefits.

So how do you know if noise is a problem in your workplace? Here are a few indicators that  noise may be a problem in your workplace:

  • You have to raise your voice or shout to be heard by a coworker who is only an arm's length away.
  • Employees hear ringing or humming in their ears when they leave work.
  • Workers experience temporary hearing loss when leaving work.

A timely reminder of the PPE EU Directive 2016/425

Ear Muff Day also gives us a chance to look ahead to next month, when on 21 April 2019 the transition period comes to an end and PPE EU Directive 2016/425 completely replaces the old PPE Directive 89/686/EEC. The new directive moves the PPE category for hearing protection from II to III and recognised it as: ‘Complex PPE - includes exclusively the risks that may cause very serious consequences such as death or irreversible damage to health’.

Top tips to protect hearing in the workplace and avoid litigation

Most claims for hearing loss are cumulative, as a result of exposure to noise for months or years, rather than due to an acoustic shock. So, action and precautions now will pay dividends in the long run.  What can you do to prevent damage to hearing in the workplace?

  • Carry out a noise survey within the risk assessment - Carry out workplace noise sampling including personal noise monitoring to identify which employees are at risk from hazardous levels of noise.
  • Confirm noise exposure - You can only know what you’re dealing with once it gets measured.
  • Inform workers at risk - Tell workers the results of their noise monitoring and explain any hazardous levels of noise that they are exposed to.
  • Proper selection of hearing protection - Choose the right hearing protection based upon individual fit and manufacturer's quality testing indicating the hearing protection meets the correct legislation.
  • Implement comprehensive hearing protection follow-up procedures - Make sure to implement a follow-up regime for workers who show a loss of hearing after completing baseline (first) and yearly audiometric testing.
  • Train employees - They’ll feel more empowered and better positioned to exhibit reliable safe behaviours when they understand the risks and how personal protection benefits them.

The type of hearing protection required will vary according to the person using them and their working environment. We stock a comprehensive range of hearing protection, from Uvex disposable earplugs to helmet mounted ear defenders and top-of-the-range Silenta bluetooth, radio and level-dependent headband earmuffs.

Remember - once lost, hearing never comes back. In a high hazard environment, you should protect your ears so you can continue to appreciate films, birdsong, warning alarms, music and your family’s voices for the rest of your life.

Tell us what you think!

Are there any particular issues with noise at your workplace? Does your workforce prefer or need certain types of ear-protection over others? Or are you struggling to find the perfect hearing protection to suit your working conditions and your staff?

Tell us your challenges and we’ll help you find us a solution. Check out our full range here.