HSE’s Noise and Vibration Specialists make some serious points about hearing conservation while weaving in talk of soft furnishings… don’t worry, it’ll all make sense.
Can you remember walking into your new home for the first time? All of those empty rooms and bare floors like blank canvasses just waiting for you to decorate and furnish them? You might have noticed something else too: every noise in an empty unfurnished room seems that bit louder. Drop a bunch of keys in here and it’ll sound like you’ve kicked a metal dustbin.
Fast forward a few weeks (or months if you’re a slow decorator like me) and you have a nice comfy sofa with cushions in your living room, a carpet down and curtains at the windows. Now the room isn’t as loud and echoey as it was. Drop those same keys again and you’ll hear a muted jangle as they bounce on the carpet. Don’t try this with a full cup of tea though.
What happened? Well, without realising it you’ve increased the noise-absorbing properties of your rooms by adding the soft furnishings. Now, less noise is bouncing back at you from bare walls and floors, and, in terms of protecting your hearing, that’s got to be a good thing.
In fact, without thinking about it, we instinctively manage noise in our personal, home lives. Last time I looked vacuum cleaners weren’t fitted with silencers so we don’t do the cleaning while a baby is sleeping. If someone’s making an intolerable racket and we have the choice, we’ll naturally move to a quieter room. If it’s so intuitive to us to protect our hearing at home, why do we find hearing conservation good practice so difficult to apply at work?
Noise at work – the invisible menace
It’s funny isn’t it; at work we often take precautions when we’re dealing with tangible hazards such as nasty chemicals or high ladders. Yet because noise is invisible, and is a natural part of our everyday lives, many of us don’t appreciate that it can also be a significant hazard to health and safety.
It can take years to develop a disabling hearing loss and, sadly, too many of us don’t think it will happen to us. But hearing loss is sneaky; by the time you notice there’s a problem it’s too late. Occupational health screening will only pick up the loss once significant damage has already occurred. And the really troubling bit is that it’s not just deafness that’s the disability. Hearing loss can lead to social isolation and consequent mental ill-health issues such as depression.
Work-related hearing loss – it doesn’t have to be this way
Just as we naturally protect our hearing when we’re at home, we can take a number of steps to control the risks of hearing loss when we’re doing our jobs. A large proportion of noise problems can be eliminated quickly and cheaply by using simple engineering controls on the noise sources.
Want to know how? Well the good news is that HSE Training is running a 1 day workshop on Noise – Occupational Noise Control on the 21st September 2017 in London. It includes examples of easily installed solutions to the top 10 most common noise problems that can actually enhance productivity and reduce operating costs. Many organisations will be able to substantially reduce, or even eliminate, the need to wear hearing protectors and the need carry out repeated risk assessments.
Hearing damage is preventable, and with a bit of common sense and imagination we can all enjoy a quieter, safer and healthier workplace.
Is work-related hearing loss a potential issue for you? Do you have any ideas, experiences or questions around hearing conservation? Spark up a debate by adding your coment below.