Personalised Noise Monitoring Technology

A modern approach to noise-induced hearing loss prevention

Protecting workers and employers with personalised noise monitoring technology

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) impacts a staggering number of workers throughout the UK. And despite regulations which require employers to control the amount of noise to which workers are exposed, the HSE estimates that two million workers are still exposed to unacceptable levels of noise at work.

Controlling noise in a dynamic workplace can be a difficult task, especially for teams who rely exclusively on a combination of traditional risk assessments and earplugs or ear protectors. Without personalised noise monitoring, it’s almost impossible to guarantee that workers are adequately protected when switching between tasks and environments.

But what can complicate this issue even more is the cumulative nature of NIHL, which is a condition that worsens and compounds slowly over time1. As a result of the nature of the condition, it can be very difficult to determine exactly when a workers’ hearing loss occurred, and exactly what caused it. And this can be particularly problematic for employers, who often find themselves defending against claims of NIHL by employees. In fact, NIHL is the second most common reason for employers' liability insurance claims for occupational health.

Given the legal landscape with regards to NIHL, it’s crucial that employers have the tools they need to identify whether and to what extent their employees have been exposed to potentially harmful levels of noise at work. In this article, we’ll review how a personalised noise monitoring solution can improve your approach to risk management in this critical area and help ensure that your organisation is well-positioned to defend against liability insurance claims with regards to NIHL. All while driving better health and safety outcomes for your workers.

Traditional approaches to occupational noise monitoring aren’t designed for the modern workplace

Traditional approaches to noise monitoring and management at work fall short of truly protecting employees from potentially harmful levels of noise. If your team is still relying upon traditional risk assessments to inform your health surveillance programmes with regard to occupational noise, it’s unlikely that you have access to reliable information about your workers’ exposure to noise on a day-to-day basis.

This is because traditional risk assessments can only provide a snapshot of your risk environment with regard to noise. But as we know, workplaces are incredibly dynamic, and the amount and type of noise that workers are exposed to is changing all the time. And when it comes to traditional ear plugs and ear protectors, the reality is that they may also be unfit for the dynamic nature of your modern workplace. Ear protectors which are designed for specific industries and attenuation levels can easily result in some workers being over-protected. When this happens, a worker may need to remove their ear protection in order to hear their colleagues or to remain situationally aware.

For these reasons, it’s critical for employers to go beyond bare regulatory compliance and consider a noise monitoring solution that’s purpose-built to protect the hearing health of employees in a modern workplace.

NIHL isn’t always caused at work, but employers can still be held liable

We know that current approaches to occupational noise monitoring fall short of well and truly protecting workers. Millions of workers are still exposed to harmful levels of noise at work, and thousands of new cases of NIHL due to occupational noise are reported in the UK each year. From these statistics, it’s clear that NIHL remains a persistent problem within the workplace, and it’s made all the more difficult to address due to the fact that NIHL, once it’s occurred, is incredibly difficult to attribute to any one source of noise or sound. So, where an employee has experienced NIHL and has also worked in an environment where they could have been exposed to harmful levels of noise (such as a construction site), it’s entirely possible for an employer to be held liable for that claim, even if the NIHL wasn’t caused by occupational noise.

Given this reality, it’s absolutely critical that organisations implement an approach to noise monitoring at work that’s designed to provide valuable information that everyone can use to determine whether and when a worker has been exposed to potentially harmful levels of noise.

Personalised noise monitoring is good for occupational and organisational health

Without a continuous, personalised noise monitoring solution, workers will continue to be exposed to potentially dangerous levels of occupational noise, and employers will continue to find themselves at risk of liability for NIHL, even where it hasn’t been caused (in whole or in part) by occupational noise. 

With modern technology, like Smart Alert by Minuendo, teams can take better control of their risk environment with regard to noise. Smart Alert monitors ambient and in-ear noise levels to ensure that workers are being adequately protected, and to ensure that Smart Alert is being worn properly. Smart Alert can even warn a worker as to when protection is needed. And with natural hear-through technology, workers will always remain situationally aware. With this sophisticated, purpose-built technology, teams are best-positioned to simultaneously protect the health of their workers and their organisations. 

Powered by your Reactec Analytics, this purpose-built, Cloud-based technology automatically collects and collates data about your workers’ daily exposure before transforming it into actionable insights that you can use to identify hotspots, trends and patterns, areas of improvement for individual team members, and more. With attractive, dashboard-style information at your fingertips, you can immediately begin refining your controls and improving your ways of working. 

Importantly, with this unprecedented level of visibility into your workplace risk environment, you’ll be able to confidently identify the who, where, and how much with regard to individual workers’ exposure to risk from occupational noise. Personalised noise monitoring at work is a necessary step forward for teams who are looking to protect the hearing health of their employees, and the organisational health of their wider business.

To learn more about NIHL prevention at work, you can explore this page.

1). NIHL can also be caused by a single exposure to a very loud noise, but workers in environments across the construction and manufacturing sectors, in particular, are known to experience NIHL as the result of frequent exposure to harmful levels of noise which occurs over time.

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