Importance of Audiometric Testing in the Workplace

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While some may see the the need to undertake audiometric testing when starting off in a new job as a threat to their persons and their job, especially if they do suffer a hearing impairment, it is not so. These kinds of tests are put in place by most employers as a means of protection against for both the employer and employee. It has become a steadfast part of the OHSA and should be incorporated into any business and employment proceedings. This should ring true for any new employee entering any business within the workplace.

How Does This Kind of Testing Safeguard the Employer

 When a new contract is started with any new employee, audiometric testing should be part of the induction program. These tests should always be carried out by professionals who are certified by the health and safety board. Proper and correct documentation and storage of results is paramount. These initial test results will be held as baseline results against which any future test results will be measured. Audiometric testing should be carried out regularly, at lease once yearly. Results must be made available to the employee whether there are abnormalities noted or not.

Carrying out this audiometric testing on all employees safeguards the employer against future compensation claims that may very well not be the companies concern at all. An employee may very well have started off their employement period with a pre-existing hearing condition that went unnoticed due to lack of a baseline test. On carrying out such audiometric testing at a later stage, this impairment may be picked up and could be blamed on the noisy work environment. An employee may not necessarily admit that the condition was there before employment and may simply take advantage of the companies lack of evidence otherwise.

What could arise from a situation like this is that legal means are pursued either by the employee or the employer and in most instances the lack of proof of a pre-existing condition leaves the company wide open to compensation claims. This process can be tedious, time consuming and costly. What is worse is that it could have been prevented if the company followed procedures correctly.

How Does This Kind of Testing Safeguard the Employee

Ons tarting a new position of employment, an employee should request audiometric testing, especially if the environment in which they are going to work is a noisy one. As daunting as this kind of testing may be, this could be your saving grace. A baseline result will be kept on file against which all future results will be measured. Regular, annual testing will quickly reveal whether any decline in hearing has taken place during the period of work at the company and it will be safe to make assumptions that this has been caused by the noisy work environment. Claiming compensation for the damage caused will not need to be a long, drawn out process where it becomes a legal battle.

By identifying any hearing impairment to begin with allows the employer the opportunity of providing the best hearing protection available in order to prevent further damage to what hearing is left.

Danger In The Workplace

Many people do not realise how much you rely on your hearing to prevent you from entering harmful situations or injuring yourself. In an industrial environment where there are many machines and large construction vehicles which may be moving around. If you can’t hear these hazards approaching then you may as well strap a target to your back. Simple things like hearing someone shout a warning on the workshop or warehouse floor can be the difference between safety and injury. Besides putting yourself at risk, you also put those around you at risk at the same time. Studies has revealed shocking statistics which state that for every dB of hearing lost the risk of being hospitalised due to injury increases 1%. In any working environment where the noise levels reach over 100dB the risk of serious work related injuries increases two and a half times when compared with employees that are not subjected to loud noises. These statistics as alarming as they might be are very real and the dangers caused by hearing loss in the industry are a reality that nobody can deny.

How To Protect Your Hearing Impaired Workers In The Event of Fire

In any industry, fire is a hazard that is very real. It is best to incorporate smoke and fire alarms that have a low frequency siren as these are more eaily heard by those who suffer with hearing loss. If you, as a company, are aware that some of your staff may be hearing impaired it is for their own safety and your safeguarding that you implement these low frequency alarms into the workplace. Relying on normal smoke and fire alarm signals if you are hearing impaired is not going to work and should an emergency situation arise, injury will be a factor that could have been somewhat prevented.

Soft Noise Dangers

There are many dangers around us that don’t involve noise and alarms and these dangers can be just as hazardous as those associated with noise. The call of a co-worker for assistance in a quiet situation or even the reverse horn on a forklift are all soft noises that are often unheard by hearing impaired individuals. As it is daily life is filled with hazards and dangers and the inability to hear the normal warning signs makes you more vulnerable than most to injury and harm. If you are unable to hear loud or soft dangers you put yourself and all those around you at risk and it is time for an evaluation and thorough audiometric testing.

Hearing Aids

 Hearing aids in present times have become quite modernised and sleek and in many cases go completely undetected. This is not the time for vanity, the safety of those around you, as well as yourself is far more valuable. The thing with hearing aids is that often the wrong selection is made for an individual and because of the discomfort it causes, they just don’t wear it. A hearing aid needs to be fitted for comfort as well as efficiency. Chances are the first one you fit is not going to be the one for you. With such a wide variety and so many brands on offer, your perfect hearing device is out there just waiting for you to try it out. Take the time and make the selection that you know you will wear. Do it for your safety and the safety of those around you.

Types of Hearing Loss  

From birth – There are those who are subjected to hearing impairment or profound deafness from birth. These individual have never experienced what it is like to hear and in many cases this does stunt the development of a child, creating communication and social problems that go far beyond childhood.

Noise induced hearing loss – This type of hearing loss is the one most commonly found in industrial work conditions. Prolonged exposure to continuous loud noise damages the fine hairs on the nerves in the ear canal and the sound waves or impulses are prevented from reaching their destination. Noise induced hearing loss happens over an extended period and is not repairable. Hearing devices need to be used in order to hear clearly and with ease.

Tinnitus – Ringing in the ears. This affliction can lead to permanent hearing loss.

Temporary hearing loss – this occurs when you have been subjected to short periods of extremely loud noises for instance a music concert. Your hearing is impaired for sometime thereafter, however, it does revert back to normal after a short period.

Hearing loss no matter how minor or severe can seriously affect normal functioning. You may or may not even be aware that your hearing is slowing being lost until it is far gone. We rely on our hearing to converse and communicate, it is the foundation on which children learn language skills and develop into social beings that are capable of maintaining relationships. Without hearing your world is in disarray. What was once clear as crystal may now be muffled. You exhaust yourself simply trying to keep up with a conversation and often rely on your lip reading skills without even thinking about it.

I speak from experience here as my hearing loss developed over time. Mine is however rectifiable with two operations, one on each ear. In my case the three tiny bones that vibrate to relay the sound had calcified preventing any vibrations and of course the resultant sound. The bone in question was removed and replaced with a replica and voila, after a few days of very blocked hearing and vertigo my ear suddenly popped open and it took a while for me to adjust to the loud noise which to any other was normal. I haven’t undergone the second as of yet, but will definitely do so. Without even realising it I had become so accustomed to lip reading that when put under audiometric testing where the tester covered her mouth, I was at a loss. As is apparent there are some instances where operating does solve the problem, of course it is costly but can you really put a price tag on it?

Your hearing is a valuable asset, one that should never be squandered because once gone the chances of you getting it back as it was is virtually zero. This is something that you are lucky enough to have, as not all do and it makes life easier and safer on every level. Communication is a huge part of being human and without it every area of your life is affected. From learning language skills, developing relationships, following instructions and even dishing out instructions of your own. Don’t take your hearing for granted.

The bottom line is that should you even have an inkling of an idea that you may be experiencing hearing loss due to work related noise, be sure to request follow up audiometric testing before the problem becomes unmanageable. Yes, your company may hold annual audiometric testing, however that may be too far away to wait. Approach your employer immediately, they will never deny you audiometric testing and should a problem be recognised there is still time to apply additional precautionary measures to safeguard the hearing you still have. Besides this fact, you will help to prevent putting yourself at risk in the workplace as well as those around you. Audiometric testing is there to assist you, not shed you in a bad light to your employer. Taking initiative to prevent further damage when you recognise a problem will more often than not put positive thoughts about you into the mind of the employer. They may view you as responsible and concerned about the well-being of the company and your co-workers as well as your own health and fitness to perform your tasks successfully.

Take control of your life, your safety and your healthy today. Yes, a job is imperative to survival, however, the conditions must be adequate to maintain a healthy lifestyle which doesn’t affect your health in any way. Ensure your company allows you to undergo regular audiometric testing and follow up testing and verify the results with you. There is really no use carrying out tests and ignoring or paying no heed to the results. The results are an indication of whether or not additional action or precautionary measures are required and they need to be seriously considered from the point of view of the employer as well as the employee. As an employer is must be remember that a healthy, happy workforce is one that is productive and as an employee it must be remembered that having an employer who shows care and consideration for you personally rather than just the bottom line figure is something that is not heard of often so appreciate it and make the most of this amazing opportunity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onsite Hearing Test: The Business Side of Occupational Safety & Health

Managing an occupational safety and health noise monitoring program can be a time consuming, inefficient and non regulatory compliant task if not overseen effectively.  One approach to eliminating the myriad of barriers for a comprehensive monitoring program is to incorporate a third party vendor within it.

Onsite hearing test

Taking the necessary time up front to invest in a vendor during a vetting process will pay dividends in the near future.  This article will focus on what the vetting process is to consist of, specifically what to bargain for, so that you know if your investment is paying off like it should.

However, before we do, let’s take a quick look at the benefits of an onsite test.

  • Very little downtime for workers to leave their job to attend an offsite clinic appointment. Usually 10-15 minutes per person to complete the test. Employer is able to temporarily shut down a department or production line for a very short period of time.  Or substitute employees are placed to keep production going while a group of individuals are having the testing conducted.
  • More cost effective than making appointments at clinics due to group testing compared to individual testing. One schedule for a mobile unit is all that is needed; no multiple schedules for large groups.
  • Subject Matter Experts (SME) are experienced, trained and qualified personnel who understand how to conduct noise testing and are experts in noise regulations. Some medical centers may not have the expertise requirements.
  • Direct line of communication. SME’s available to ask questions and provide explanation prior to, during and after testing.
  • Required noise and hearing training done at time of testing. No need to schedule two separate time slots, one for testing and another for training.

Vendor Vetting – On site Hearing test Mobile Unit

Consider the mobile unit the vendor will bring onsite.  How many individual booths does it accommodate? Do the booths meet regulatory standards for audiometry assessments.  Are the calibration records of hearing test equipment current and up to date and available for review?

Is the trailer properly equipped with air conditioning and heat for the comfort of employees as well as for the audiometric professional?  Does the mobile unit have backup power?

Vendor Vetting – Audiometric testing Services & Cost

Does the vendor provide additional services besides audiometric testing tied to the cost?  Is the price structure easy to understand, competitive when compared to other vendors and is it all inclusive (watch out for hidden costs)?  What type of reports are provided for the employer and for the employee?  Is a retainer available?

Vendor Vetting – Referrals

Ask for at least three recent referrals from the vendor.  Do your due diligence and contact the referrals to ask about the vendor’s quality of service, professionalism of technicians, ease of scheduling for testing and accuracy of documents.

Vendor Vetting – Insurance & Business Documents

Does the vendor have the appropriate business entity documents to be in business?  Is their insurance applicable to meet employer and jurisdictional requirements?

The vendor vetting list is not all inclusive.  Many additional factors do play in the process such as employer specific requirements for vendors to come onsite to conduct a business activity.  Nevertheless, this article does provide a framework of the benefits for onsite hearing test and how to make sure the investment of doing so is protected.

Combat Noise Hazards In Workplace

Everywhere you are in the workplace, there is noise.  Exposure to workplace noise hazards can cause permanent hearing loss that can’t be corrected with surgery or even a hearing aid device.  Hearing loss from noise exposure is usually not noticed because it is gradual.  Generally a person loses the ability to hear higher pitches first.

Other hazards that noise contributes to include, but not limited to;

  • Creating physical and psychological stress.
  • Reduce productivity.
  • Reduce product quality.
  • Interfere with communication and concentration.
  • Be a contributing root cause factor in workplace injuries and incidents.

What can be done to reduce noise hazards in the workplace?

Noise in the workplace

Prevention of noise as an occupational hazard can be managed in three ways:

  • Engineer out the hazard. Includes modifying or replacing equipment.
  • Establish administrative controls such as operating noisy machinery during shifts with fewer workers are exposed.
  • Provide personal protective equipment such as earplugs to protect workers from occupational noise.

The best option is to apply engineering methods to either eliminate or minimize the hazard to an acceptable level of risk.  The reduction of a few dB’s can make a world of difference of improving noise related annoyance.

Labels and Sign Do Protect Workers From Noise Hazards

Do workers pay attention to labels and signs in the workplace that specify occupational hazards warnings and caution specifications?  Yes.  Labels and signage should be part of the communication procedure of any employer so that hazards, such as noise, can be repeated and reinforced every day.  The caution of using labels and signs is to not overdue it.  Too many can become a distraction and therefore be avoided by workers to review.

Labels and signs warn workers about noise hazards within their department or specifically at their workstation.   Customizing labels and signage is a great way to increase attention of workers by providing specific job related information about hazards and preventible measures.

Hearing conservation program

The purpose of a hearing conservation program , applicable to both general industry and construction industry, is to lay the foundation of preserving and protecting worker hearing.  A hearing conservation program equips workers with the knowledge and hearing protective devices necessary to protect them from noise emissions.  A few key components of an effective hearing conservation program include:

  • Conducting noise sampling at the worksite that include the use of personal monitoring devices. These devices will indicate which workers are exposed to noise hazards.
  • Informs workers about the risks from noise hazards and the results of the noise sampling process.
  • Provides worker training that educates workers on the purpose and deviation consequences of not complying with engineering, administrative or the use of personal protective equipment. An example would be consequence such as the severity of hearing loss.
  • Ensure proper selection of personal protective equipment based upon individual fit and manufacturer’s testing.
  • Annual audiometric testing program (hearing tests). A professional evaluation of the health effects of noise for individuals exposed to noise hazards, worker’s hearing.
  • Provide worker training on the proper use of personal protective equipment, maintenance and care.

In closing, noise is frequently present in the workplace.  Prevention and mining noise hazards is therefore necessary to protect worker’s safety and well being.  How well this hazard is managed takes both parties; employees and employer, to work together to combat noise hazards in the workplace.