Exposure to workplace noise can cause permanent hearing damage and even deafness, among other workplace exposures, noisy environments in the workplace requires a health surveillance check with audiometry testing.
As an employer, it is your legal obligation to carry out health surveillance if your employees are exposed to noise within mandatory hearing protection zones (regulation 5 of the Management of Health and Safety at work Regulations 1999 (MHSW Regs).
Health surveillance is: “The ongoing systematic collection, analysis, interpretation and dissemination of data for the purpose of prevention. Surveillance is essential to the planning, implementation and evaluation of OH programmes and to the control of work-related ill health and injuries, as well as to the protection and promotion of workers’ health. Occupational health surveillance includes workers’ health surveillance and working environment surveillance” (ILO, 1998).
OH surveillance usually takes the form of a periodic clinical screening and/or medical examination of an individual who may be exposed to harmful substances or physical hazards at work that may affect their health. The tests need to be standardised and reproducible. Noise is a physical hazard and hearing loss can be measured, and audiometry is a measurable and reproducible testing procedure – so it is an ideal candidate for health surveillance.
Hearing damage caused by exposure to noise is permanent and incurable. It is usually gradual in onset and can result in deafness when combined with gradual hearing loss in old age.
Audiometry testing is a technique used to detect early damage to hearing, from exposure to noise. Identifying any damage allows appropriate action to be taken, as well as a referral of the individual. Audio Surveillance may also find changes in hearing due to other causes outside of work.
At the beginning of the assessment, it is important to obtain the individual’s medical history and other exposures to noise. During follow up examinations, questions should be asked about:
- The use of hearing protection
- Any changes in working patterns and noise exposure
- Any complaints relating to the ears or hearing.
After performing the hearing test, any issues arising with an employee are brought to the attention of the company management and a referral service is offered.
A hearing assessment is performed to set a baseline for hearing, this is normally done the first year. Then a comparative test should be undertaken 12 months later. If these tests don’t flag any problems, your schedule of testing should then fall back to every two-three years dependent upon your requirements. All new starters should be seen immediately and then fall into the process as above.
For further reading: Current practice in health surveillance for noise – with HSE
LATUS Health provides a full spectrum of occupational health services to keep your business protected and fit for work, as well as bespoke employee wellbeing programmes to improve physical health in order to increase resilience and performance at work.
Audiometry testing is one of our core services, contact us today to get a Free Quote 01482 633048 or email firstname.lastname@example.org