COMBATTING INDUSTRIAL DEAFNESS CLAIMS
Hearing loss is common among workers in any sector, but where the condition is linked to their working environment, it can leave the associated employer facing the possibility of a costly claim.
It is estimated that around 250,000 workers across the UK suffer from some degree of industrial deafness while another one million are deemed at risk.
It is crucial, therefore, that employers in industries such as manufacturing, where the roar of engines or the whine of machines may be an everyday, if not constant, occurrence and potentially damaging to their workers’ hearing, are aware of their responsibilities and the risks they face.
Permanent, disabling hearing loss and tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ears, are the two most common repercussions of exposure to damaging noise levels of 85 decibels and above.
As hearing loss is common, for some it can be difficult to discern whether it has progressed naturally or been hastened by the environment. Yet for individuals that have worked in noise-heavy workplaces, there are four common symptoms that are indicative of industrial deafness:
1. Being unable to hear everyday signal noises such as a ringing telephone or the doorbell.
2. Having difficulty following conversations, and missing words or whole sentences.
3. Needing to turn up the volume on the television or radio to clearly hear what is being said.
4. Hearing a persistent ringing, buzzing or hissing noise in one or both ears, also known as tinnitus.
Avoiding the risks
A significant portion of industrial deafness claims may not come from current workers but from those who were employed 20, 30 or even 40 years ago.
While it is difficult to retroactively protect your organisation and employees, there are several strategies you can adopt to mitigate retroactive industrial deafness claims.
- Maintain well-organised records of any employee wellness programmes that you have instituted over the years. Include any collected results.
- Maintain records of noise-exposure levels throughout your operation. Include the decibel amount that tools and machinery produce.
- Produce a regular report detailing what potential risks have been identified and what measures have been taken to mitigate their damage. Include what safety equipment has been provided to your employees.
- Provide regular wellness assessments to monitor the health of workers’ hearing. Adjust your safety practices if workers’ quality of hearing starts to decline.
For more information, contact David Sinnamon, Risk Manager, Willis IRM on 028 9032 9042 or visit www.willisinsurance.co.uk.