Your hearing loss rights at work

Thousands of workers everyday are exposed to sound levels that could be causing them hearing loss. By law your employer has to protect you from these or you could develop deafness and be eligible to make a hearing loss claim for compensation against them. In America alone over 37 million people suffer from hearing loss and a percentage of these will have been caused by work environments.

You may think that only extreme noises cause hearing loss but this isn’t the case. Sounds over 85dB have the capacity to cause industrial deafness and we are exposed to sounds of this level everywhere. As a hair dryer exceeds this sound so you can image it is easy to be confronted with dangerous noises at work. Length of exposure also has an impact, the louder the sound and the longer you are subject to it, the more likely you are to experience noise induced hearing loss.

This can be calculated;

  • 8 hours of exposure to sound levels of 85dB and above can cause deafness
  • 4 hours of exposure to sound levels of 90dB and above can cause deafness
  • 2 hours of exposure to sound levels of 95dB and above can cause deafness
  • 1 hour of exposure to sound levels of 100dB and above can cause deafness
  • ½ hour of exposure to sound levels of 105dB and above can cause deafness

You will notice that there is a pattern; for every 5dB increase in sound the time needed to potentially cause hearing loss is halved. This means that people working with tools such as jack hammers can develop serious issues after very short use.

Workers need to be protected from these noises as the risks are clear. The first action should be to manage these noises at source. It isn’t good enough to just provide personal protection to the workers as this should only be a short term solution. Methods such as new machinery, lubrication, sound proofing, alternative functions and remote control can help in reducing exposure to noise at unsafe levels. Protection such as ear plugs and ear muffs can be used in the short term whilst a long term solution is implemented. If your employer fails to implement any of these safety measures in a noisy environment they would be subject to industrial hearing loss claims.

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If you suffer from hearing loss (regardless how caused) you have rights in work due to this. Hearing loss per-say isn’t classed as a disability so these rights aren’t as clear cut as other conditions. Although not being able to hear could drastically affect your life and work, there will be varying degrees that people suffer from. Also technology such as hearing aids can assist deaf people to hear and function as well as others. Being able to lip read and sign are not considered the same though.

To be classed as disabled, your hearing loss has to affect your quality of life and ability to work. If you are considered as disabled you must make employers aware of this and they must accommodate you in areas such as;

  • Interview process
  • Changes to the environment in which you work
  • Consideration taken in methods of communication
  • Providing aids such as phone amplification and text translation.

When it comes to hearing loss you have a lot of rights whether it is protecting you from it or making sure you are treated fairly if you suffer from deafness. If your employer doesn’t follow these procedures then they are breaking the law and you should raise the issue. I would recommend to speak to management first but if they still don’t accommodate you, the best course of action would be to seek legal advice.

Author Bio; Chris Evans – Atrium Legal

Atrium specialise in workers compensation cases, helping people whose health has been affected by their job. Hearing Loss Claims are an area of expertise as a growing number of workers are suffering from noise induced hearing loss.

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