Some workplace advice well worth listening to

KEEPING track of the noise levels in the workplace isn’t just an issue for those in the construction and mining industries. Increasingly, rock and roll is being drawn into the mix.

Corporate Health Professionals programs manager Mark Mason said a range of different industries required services to safeguard the hearing of their workers.

“We do noise surveys and hearing conservation for the full gamut of industries, mining, construction, government and even corporate,” he said.

“What that involves is us being called in by clients to identify the level of [noise] exposure, measure what it’s doing and put in measures to decrease noise in the workplace.”

The group provides base line hearing tests for employees, allowing employers to track any damage to the delicate bones of the inner ear.

These tests can also protect employers from compensation claims

“We can do hearing tests for employees, which also protects employers from bogus claims,” Mr Mason said.

“The hearing test is pretty straight forward. It works out to cost about $30 for a base line test.

“If someone is doing their first test it will be a base line test and if they then have another it’s called a subsequent test.

“If there is 10 per cent loss they can get compensation.”

To avoid the incidence of hearing loss in the workplace a number of businesses employ what’s called a ‘buy quiet’ policy.

“Depending on where the equipment is manufactured, many countries have [noise] standards. Businesses will try to purchase equipment that complies with these standards, Mr Mason said.

Large companies will often employ a noise officer to monitor noise levels and ensure employees are utilising protective equipment.

Mr Mason stressed that all employers should be aware of the level of noise the employees were exposed to.

The entertainment industry is one of the sectors where noise exposure is an obvious workplace hazard.

“The entertainment industry is becoming more aware of what its responsibilities are,” Mr Mason said.

“Even some kitchens can be quite noisy; pubs are certainly a concern.

“The entertainment and hospitality industry certainly needs to look at the level of noise employees are exposed to.”

There is also the question of noise exposure from activities adjacent to work-places, such as building sites.

Although Mr Mason was not aware of any cases where an employee suffered damage from such a situation he said the question of responsibility was interesting.

“It’s a good question and an arguable one,” he said.

“The employer is responsible and has a duty to provide a safe working environment and that does include noise.

“The only way to be sure it was safe would be to undertake a noise survey.”

Worksafe provides information on safe noise levels in the workplace, with levels of 85 decibels or more deemed to create a hazardous workplace.

From the perspective of workers’ compensation, 90 decibels or greater over an eight-hour period or longer is defined as putting workers at risk.

It’s not just the nine-to-five job that affects an employee’s hearing. There are also some high risk extra curricular activities, including rock and roll.

“We see quite a lot of people in regular jobs who are in bands and increasingly they have some hearing loss, Mr Mason said.

Worksafe publishes material and marketing matter to encourage awareness of preventative measures.

Occupational Safety and Health Regulations include standards with regard to noise exposure.

There are two parts – one is to guard against gradual hearing loss and is based on a daily noise exposure of 85 decibels.

The other level of 140 decibels is deemed to cause immediate damage to the inner ear.

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