How Hearing tests went bananas - Tom Parker of WorkScreen
Until coronavirus got on its plane from.... wherever, the expectations around ensuring staff are safe at work was pretty simple.
You come to work, and your employer ensures you are safe - generally by following the law and what the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says.
Like most things, that has changed a lot recently and as the UK eases lockdown measures, organisations are embracing new approaches to work that fit the "new normal" of life after lockdown with the threat of COVID-19.
Right now, the general advice coming from HSE as well as the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, The British Occupational Hygiene Society and British Safety Council on returning to work is:
- Only go to work if you cannot work from home
- Social distancing should be applied at all times
- The use of shared spaces should be minimised
- Personal protection equipment (PPE) should be worn where appropriate
However, this throws up some problems - especially when it comes to managing wellness and health. In particular, health surveillance threatens to become a major headache - especially for tests which are typically carried out face-to-face.
These are things like hearing tests, vision tests, hand/arm vibration tests, lung function tests, skin tests and so on. Like it or not, most of us rely on one of the above during our working day.
In fact, the HSE acknowledges that there is a riddle to be solved here and has done its temporary best by allowing either paper testing (i.e. questionnaires) or deferment.
Except that - in the case of some of the tests - (hearing for instance) a questionnaire or phone interview is not sufficient. And - just like your kids' homework (remember that?) the test still has to be done. It's often a legal requirement. The final point is that as the fear repeat outbreaks will be present, the new normal cannot work with a temporary solution.
Does hearing really matter?
Just in case you are wondering why this matters, COVID-19 has done us a bit of a favour by demonstrating the link between working from home, wellness, productivity and hearing.
Take a moment to consider your recent experiences: if you've been working from home or the office using whichever video platform, you won't be the first to notice how signal dropouts, poor volume or not seeing a colleague talk is frustrating.
Imagine that being every day, all the time.
You therefore have a valuable insight into everyday activities that become more tiring, difficult and frustrating if you can't hear perfectly. In fact it is THE most common problem cited in AoHL Working for Change research. Something to consider if the new normal continues to include the home office.
So not only is your hearing important for your wellness and safety (how else can you hear a warning or training?), but it really has a huge productivity impact too.
How to go Bananas
The question remains then - if the new normal is about limiting contact, how do we provide health tests that cannot be completed by questionnaire?
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the concept of no-contact hearing tests could seem a bit bananas to some people. But suddenly, no-contact tests are accepted as the route to providing hearing surveillance in a consistently safe way that visibly reduces staff risk and anxiety.
ABC of no contact tests
1. Minimise opportunities for cross infection - typically this is other people (especially from outside the organisation) and close contact between people. This also includes creating a test environment that can be cleaned easily - a cleared table can be wiped down, a cluttered desk less so.
2. Create cleaning guidelines - handwashing and PPE are the basics, plus specific advice for any equipment and furnishings.
3. Communicate with staff - this essential step is about reminding staff why testing is important, what you are doing to keep them safe and what they are expected to do.
Hearing and vision tests at work from WorkScreen
This is a brief introduction to contactless hearing tests by WorkScreen - there is more information and resources here.
WorkScreen specialises in providing high quality, self-operated, No-contact hearing tests at work. We can help you implement a system in your organisation that will keep your team safe and productive at the minimum fuss and cost.
If you are a punchline reader, contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information, help or advice.
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