The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate that more than 2 million people in the UK are exposed to unacceptable levels of noise at work. This can have hearing loss as a result if staff do not wear proper hearing protection. One of the most common consequences of the lack of proper hearing protection is tinnitus. The Tinnitus UK survey estimate that one in ten noise-exposed manufacturing workers suffer from tinnitus. In their survey, 39% of respondents said they were exposed to noise at work but had never used hearing protection.
Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a permanent and irreversible condition caused by prolonged exposure to excessive noise levels. Industrial settings, such as manufacturing plants, construction sites, and factories, are notorious for generating loud noise from heavy machinery, power tools, and various industrial processes. Without proper hearing protection, workers become vulnerable to developing NIHL over time.
Industrial hearing protection, such as earmuffs, earplugs, and noise-cancelling headphones, function as a barrier between the ears and the harmful noise. These protective devices reduce the intensity of the sound reaching the ears, effectively preventing NIHL and preserving workers’ auditory health.
Industrial hearing protection is not a luxury; it is an essential component of a safe and healthy work environment. By proactively implementing effective hearing protection measures, employers can prevent noise-induced hearing loss, enhance workplace safety, boost employee morale and productivity, and ensure compliance with legal requirements.
There is legislation in place, which states that employers are required to provide their workers with hearing protection if the noise levels are above 85dB. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations from 2008 was the first step in this direction and it was further strengthened by the personal protective equipment (PPE) rules of April 2022.
The benefits of custom hearing protection
The big question for businesses is whether they are providing the right hearing protection to employees. While businesses can just provide their employees with standard foam earplugs or off the shelf ear defenders, this may not be the best solution for a number of reasons. Let’s consider the pros and cons of all possible solutions.
These commonly used hearing protection devices have several strikes against them. Firstly, they restrict all noise, making it impossible for staff to have a conversation without removing the hearing protection. This creates other health and safety issues, not to mention how it effects productivity. Removing these to have a quick conversation leaves the wearer vulnerable to hearing damage. They can also lead to isolation.
Secondly, they are usually only available in one size, meaning that they don’t always fit properly so damage is being done. Disposable foam earplugs do not protect hearing as well as they claim they do. Research has shown that they can offer as little as 25% of the protection level claimed.
Custom solutions, which Minerva Hearing offers, provides better protection. They are all made to fit the individual and not only is the hearing protection better, but they are much more comfortable for the wearer. There are several options available, such as filtered plugs. These earplugs allow staff to still hear instructions or hold a conversation without having to take them out. The filter can allow the sound of a human voice through while blocking any damaging noises. This makes for a safer and more productive work environment all-round.
Environmental and cost advantages
Custom filtered plugs last for 4 years. While foam earplugs appear cheaper initially, over the same lifetime, foam earplugs work out to be more expensive. Since foam earplugs are disposable, staff typically replace them several times throughout the day and so costs mount up. Ear defenders can be reused of course, but they also need replacing on average twice a year.
When calculating the cost over the timespan of 4 years for a team of five employees, a customised solution is the more cost-effective solution. Foam ear plugs will cost close to £2500 for four years, ear defenders little over £1100 and a customised solution from Minerva Hearing will cost £550. By opting for a custom hearing solution, businesses can in fact save a worthwhile amount of money. The more employees using hearing protection, the greater the savings.
By choosing Minerva custom work plugs, businesses can reduce usage of single use plastic. As the products are made in the UK this helps companies reduce their CO2 footprint also.
Boosting Employee Morale and Productivity
Uncontrolled noise levels in industrial settings can have a detrimental impact on employee morale and productivity. Constant exposure to loud noise can cause fatigue, stress, and irritability, leading to decreased job satisfaction and motivation. Additionally, the cumulative effect of noise-induced stress can result in physical and mental health issues, including anxiety and sleep disturbances.
Employers who provide adequate industrial hearing protection demonstrate their commitment to employee well-being, fostering a positive work culture. By investing in measures to reduce noise levels, companies show that they value their workers’ health, which can enhance employee morale and job satisfaction. When employees feel safe and supported, their productivity increases, leading to improved overall performance and organizational success.
The real cost of poor hearing protection
As of the latest figures from 2022 there were an average of 11,000 annual cases of hearing problems reported to the HSE between 2019 and 2022, including 10 cases of total deafness in 2021 alone. This is included in the 810 cases of total deafness reported to the HSE between 2012 and 2021. The claims for compensation resulting from hearing loss or issues range in severity from slight tinnitus to total deafness and with financial values between approximately £7,000 and £110,000 on average depending on severity.
Using the figures above, it can be calculated that the average annual potential claims value for noise induced hearing loss in the UK is around £550m, taking an average financial value of £50,000 from the £7,000 – £110,000 range and the 11,000 annual cases.
Wherever there is compensation, there is a ‘claims industry.’ Searching on the internet for information on this demonstrates the large number of businesses assisting employees in making claims for work caused hearing damage or loss.
Given the prevalence of noise-induced hearing loss and the legal obligations of employers, providing high quality hearing protection is essential for businesses. While generic solutions may be readily available, custom hearing protection offers superior comfort, better protection, and cost-effectiveness. By embracing custom solutions, businesses can safeguard their employees’ well-being and create a safer working environment.
Remember, when it comes to industrial noise, prevention is key. Let us not underestimate the importance of industrial hearing protection and work together to create a quieter, safer, and healthier future for workers in industries around the globe.
Contact us today if you are interested in a sound survey – Contact us – Minerva Hearing