Is your workspace affecting your hearing? A Gloucestershire businessman can give you the answer
By James Young | 6th August 2019
A test that can determine if your work environment is detrimental to your long-term hearing has been developed with the help of a Gloucestershire-based expert.
And that could lead to a barista in a coffee shop being forced to wear ear defenders as they go about their daily grind, according to Tom Parker a director of audiology equipment maker WorkScreen.
Health and safety legislation states that employers must provide hearing protection if noise levels rise above 85 decibels and training and information to staff if they are above 80 decibels.
Mr Parker says that the risks to workers on the factory floor are taken as read, but there is often no thought given to the risks of working in a busy job like a coffee shop.
"The modern coffee shop is interesting," Mr Parker said.
"If you are sticking your staff in an environment where there is continuous music, chatter and your baristas are banging out coffee grains, then we don't really know what the long-term effects will be.
"And although employers have to take action at 85dB, in reality the safe level may actually be just 70dB, according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in the USA."
To help solve that riddle, WorkScreen have developed easy-to-use, portable equipment that can be hired or bought by companies to measure noise levels at the office or on the shop floor.
Their test kit can be user-operated and helps establish an individual's baseline hearing ability.
The easily transportable box - the company will even courier them out to businesses and collect - is a cost-saving way for employers to live up to their obligations to look after their staff.
So, it can be used in any environment, from a busy office full of chatter, to a coffee shop where noise is coming from all angles.
"Our kit is designed to be as simple as possible. It comes ready to use in an armoured case for the workplace, complete with an adjustable stand in it," Mr Parker said.
"You then simply go through the process. Once you have a baseline hearing level, you can establish if hearing is getting worse over time.
"The theory is well established - hearing tests have been around since the 1800s."
"We can sell you a system for a few hundred pounds, or smaller companies can even rent it for just one test.
"Either option is good value, when you consider your staff can remain in work and you can do the test at a time to suit the business, keeping disruption to a minimum."
For some of its big clients with hundreds, if not thousands of staff - like Dairy Crest and Muller - the WorkScreen kit was embraced for just these reasons.
If your staff may be exposed to noise, are scattered at different sites, if you need to keep production running, if you have one eye on costs but demand quality, it could be music to everyone's ears.
"The real win is that it helps businesses remove complexity around the issue," Mr Parker added.
"From staff not showing up for appointments to keeping down costs, WorkScreen removes admin charges because it gives instant results in the form of a downloadable report."
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