A study suggests that 25% of UK workers are risking noise-induced hearing loss by using their headphones at work.
Audio technology company Limitear surveyed 2,000 employees and found that they used headphones for an average of 110 minutes, potentially at a volume that could cause lasting damage.
According to European regulations, workers must not experience noise levels above 85 decibels (dB) during an eight hour day. An MP3 player at full volume blasts 100dB into the user’s ear.
79% unaware of employer responsibility
However, while 48% of those surveyed admitted they were concerned about the possibility of hearing loss, 79% of respondents were unaware that their employer had a responsibility to protect them against this.
This includes situations where a member of staff is controlling the volume of their own audio device. An industrial hearing loss claim can hinge on an employer’s ability to provide evidence of the measures taken to guard against hearing loss.
As well as an increased risk of hearing impairment over time, Health and Safety Executive noise and vibration specialist inspector Andrew Thompson cited further dangers for staff who are distracted through using headphones at work.
He suggested that alarms and warnings may be more difficult to hear, while staff may also be left unaware of moving vehicles nearby.
“Employers allowing staff to use their own headphones or earphones must ensure that they’re adhering to regulations and sufficiently protecting staff,” he said.
Making a hearing loss claim
While industrial hearing loss has previously been associated with louder working environments such as factories, building sites and nightclubs, this survey opens up the possibility of employees in any job making a claim.