Police techniques to prevent firearms instructors suffering from the effects of regular exposure to loud noises could be used by employers to prevent noise-induced hearing loss, claims a leading health and safety organisation.
The condition is one of the most common health problems in the UK, yet it can be difficult to detect as the damage occurs over time.
Following a presentation by Greater Manchester Police on the subject of protecting firearms instructors, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is calling on employers to implement some of the same control measures in the workplace.
Noise-induced hearing loss
Impulse sounds generated by accidents at work can cause noise-induced hearing loss by rupturing the eardrum or damaging middle ear bones.
Immediate industrial deafness caused by sudden bursts of sound can be both temporary or permanent.
Prolonged exposure to noise levels exceeding 80 to 85 decibels (dB) can also cause the condition, gradually damaging the sensitive structures within the inner ear. Victims do not even notice any change to begin with in the majority of cases, with sounds becoming muffled or distorted over time.
Loud noises of 80 to 85 dB and above are typical of those generated in factories, in workshops or on construction sites.
Greater Manchester Police’s Health and Safety Adviser Andrew Stephenson says the force uses a hierarchy of noise controls. This starts with controlling the noise at source and looking to reduce the exposure time to the noise, while the last part of the hierarchy is choosing personal hearing protection.
Philip Grundy of IOSH believes employers could go a long way to preventing noise-induced hearing loss by copying the techniques used by Greater Manchester Police.
They could also:
- Implement noise-reduction measures
- Provide adequate hearing protection, such as ear muffs, plugs or semi-inserts
- Provide training in the use of hearing protectors
Hearing protection provided for workers in environments requiring hard hats or other protective gear must be compatible for use in combination with the specified protective wear. Protectors must also be available in sufficient sizes to ensure a proper fit for all employees.
Both impulse sound and prolonged exposure related forms of noise-induced hearing loss can affect one or both ears.
Conditions may be temporary or permanent, but even temporary loss of hearing that disappears after a day or two may be enough to cause long-term damage.
Date Published: January 20, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown