While some of these employees may have hearing loss as a result of their noisy job, others have preexisting hearing loss. World Day for Health and Safety at Work aims to protect employees across the hearing spectrum, and promote safe and healthy workplaces.
If a workplace has deaf employees working for them, part of the Health and Safety at Work Act requires reasonable adjustments to be made to ensure that their employees would be safe in the event of an emergency.
All the workplaces that I’ve worked in, or am currently working in, have had to make some adjustments to ensure I would be aware and able to exit the workplace safely in an emergency.
A common example is the fire evacuation procedure. In an ideal workplace, flashing fire alarms should be installed for deaf/hard of hearing individuals who would require one. In my office, we have a backup alternative, which is a laminated sign that reads ‘FIRE’ that colleagues hold up in case there was one. In terms of practicality, the sign probably wouldn’t be used, as my colleagues would likely just focus on getting me out, rather than holding up a sign!
In my experience, the most important thing is for your colleagues to understand your hearing loss and your communication needs. A buddy system is also a good way to ensure your colleagues understand your needs. Pairing deaf people up with a hearing person in their department ensure someone is able to help them in emergencies.
Even if you tell your colleagues about your hearing loss, there are probably other people in the office who won’t know. For example, I’ve had maintenance workers come into the office who don’t know that I have a hearing loss. It’s up to the Health and Safety Officer in the workplace, but also yourself to make sure that they are aware. If they are giving out instructions, it’s vital that people with a hearing loss understand what is being said.
High workplace noise causes thousands of workers every year to suffer from preventable hearing loss, according to the CDC. In a new report, 2 percent of the more than 1.4 million workers tested across nine industry sectors between 2003 and 2012 had “moderate or worse” hearing loss.
“Workers in the mining, construction and manufacturing sectors were especially prone to noise-linked hearing loss,” the new report found.
It’s important that if hearing people work in these conditions, that they are provided with some noise cancelling headphones or earplugs. There’s nothing worse than going to work one day hearing everything and then coming home to no sound at all.
Some workplaces may offer Health and Safety at work training. It is quite an interesting course, I’ve done it myself. It makes you aware of all the risks and potential hazards that surround the workplace. One thing that I notice is that the training must be accessible for any deaf people taking part! This means either captioning the videos or providing transcripts, making sure that the trainer is deaf aware and can meet the deaf person’s communication needs.
There are very strict Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations to prevent work-related hearing loss and safe work places for hard of hearing employees. If you feel like your work place isn’t doing enough to ensure your safety, please learn about your rights and educate them.
Do you have any work place safety tips or experiences to share for World Day for Health and Safety at Work? I’d love to read them in the comments!