Protecting your employees’ hearing in a noisy working environment

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-girl-listening-her-hand-ear-image17293989Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is irreversible damage to the ears caused by prolonged exposure to high levels of noise. Over time, individuals may slowly lose their hearing; sounds may become distorted or muffled, which may make it difficult to understand other people when they talk. Tinnitus can also develop (a ringing, buzzing or roaring in your ears), which can continue constantly or occasionally in one or both ears. This also makes it more difficult to understand people when they are speaking, especially when there is a lot of background noise.

NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that can be prevented. Employers have a duty of care to protect employees who are exposed to high levels of noise at work. Although the number of claims for NIHL at work are falling, there were still 120 new claims in 2013 and an estimated 18,000 people in Great Britain currently have NIHL that was caused or made worse by work.

Preventing NIHL involves undertaking a risk assessment of noise exposure, which will include taking noise levels measurements and identifying who is exposed and to what levels; controlling the noise levels by buying quieter equipment, controlling the noise at source, designing the workplace to reduce the noise on the path to the people, and limiting time people spend in noisy areas; using personal protective equipment such as ear defenders and ear plugs where appropriate; and detecting damage to hearing by placing employees under suitable health surveillance which will involve regular hearing checks.

Health surveillance for noise is mandatory in certain circumstances and may be recommended in other circumstances depending on the outcome of the risk assessment. An occupational health specialist can help you identify if health surveillance is required for your working environment for noise or any other hazard. Health surveillance is usually conducted by an occupational health nurse, and consists of asking employees about any previous or current hearing issues, examination of the ear canal, conducting a hearing test and informing the individual of the possible health effects of exposure to noise, what they can do to protect themselves and symptoms to report that may need further investigation. An occupational health assessment is also recommended at any time if an employee working in a noisy environment reports any concerns regarding their hearing.

Please call us today to help identify if health surveillance is required for your organisation and for general advice on protecting your employees’ hearing in a noisy environment.

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OnJanuary 5, 2015, posted in: Occupational Health Posts by

Fitness to attend a disciplinary meeting

Have you ever invited an employee to a disciplinary meeting only to find that they go off sick the following day with stress?

Attending a disciplinary meeting is likely to cause anybody feelings of anxiety and worry, but in many cases, delaying any formal investigations or hearings is likely to increase the anxiety further and can delay recovery if the employee has a condition affecting their psychological wellbeing. For employees off with a mental health condition, quite often the root cause is related to the reason they are being disciplined, so the sooner the issue can be resolved, the sooner they know the outcome and can start dealing with the consequences. All the uncertainty is only likely to add to the anxiety.

fitness to attend disciplinary occupational healthIn order for an employee to be fit to take part in a disciplinary procedure, they need to be able to understand the process and be able to take part in the process (either in person, by written submission or through instructing a third party).  There needs to be a medical judgement made that the proceedings are not going to cause the employee harm, and consideration needs to be given on any adjustments that will make the process easier for the employee to attend (regular breaks, meeting time kept to a reasonable length, consider neutral venue etc)

There are times when a GP may state that the employee is not fit to attend a disciplinary process. In these circumstances getting an occupational health assessment is appropriate, as the occupational health professional will be able to provide an independent opinion and can liase with the GP to inform them of the adjustments that can be made to make it easier for the employee, and can discuss the risk of prolonging the illness by delaying the process. In most cases, the employee will be fit to attend.

If you need advice on whether your employee is fit to attend a disciplinary meeting or hearing, or any other occupational health advice, pick up the phone and call us today.

 

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OnDecember 2, 2014, posted in: Occupational Health Posts by

High Costs of Work-Related Ill-Health

musculosketal ill health occupational health servicesThe latest data from the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), which covers workplace health and safety for 2013-14, shows that work-related illness and injury caused the loss of 28.2 million working days and cost £14.2 billion.

Stress, anxiety, depression and musculoskeletal disorders continue to top the league table for work-related ill health, accounting for almost 20 million working days lost each year and costing society an estimated £8.6 billion.

Contact us if you’d like to reduce the cost of work-related ill-health in your organisation.

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OnNovember 28, 2014, posted in: Occupational Health Posts by

20 tradespeople die each week from asbestos related diseases.

occupational health services | asbestosThe Health and Safety Executive have launched a new safety campaign as they claims that 1.3 million tradespeople are at risk from the dangers of asbestos. Tradespeople including construction workers, carpenters and painters and decorators could come into contact with asbestos on average more than 100 times per year, states a recent survey commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive.

Asbestos can be found in walls and ceilings and within the structure of the building, as well as in many other places such as floor tiles and guttering. Asbestos can be disturbed by basic maintenance activities such as drilling holes and sanding, and once disturbed, microfibres can get into the lungs causing significant lung disease, including cancer.

The survey also showed that there were a lot of common myths around asbestos, which were inaccurate and only one third of people were able to identify all the correct measures for safe asbestos working.  A key feature of the campaign is the creation of a new web app for phones, tablets and laptops that help tradespeople easily identify where they could come into contact with the deadly material as they go about their day-to-day work and gives them tailored help on how to deal with the risks. To download the app, visit http://www.beware-asbestos.info

If you need any further advice on how to protect the health of your tradespeople from asbestos-related disease and other diseases that can be caused through their work, call us now.

 

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OnOctober 26, 2014, posted in: Occupational Health Posts by

Benefits of napping for night shift workers

occupational health services|shift worker

For people such as night shift workers, who sleep during the day, the amount of sleep obtained is frequently below recommended levels and its quality is poorer than in those who are able to sleep at night. A qualitative study on nurses found that restorative napping on breaks during night shifts helped to improve energy, mood, decision-making and vigilance. Restorative napping, defined as a purposeful, brief sleep period, has long been considered effective in reducing fatigue and improving performance and vigilance in non-heathcare work environments.  An article in the Nursing Times looks at the benefits that night napping can offer nurses doing shift work. The key points are summarised below:

KEY POINTS

  • Most adults appear to need seven to eight hours of sleep per night
  • Nightshift workers frequently sleep fewer hours than recommended
  • Shift work, patient care demands, individual sleep characteristics, domestic responsibilities and environmental factors can affect nurses’ sleep health
  • Nurses and healthcare organisations need to find sleep health solutions to support staff health and reduce nurse and patient safety risk
  • Restorative napping is effective in reducing fatigue and improving performance

STRATEGIES TO REDUCE FATIGUE AT WORK

  • Prioritise sleep health
  • Try to come to work well-rested
  • Recognise your personal energy limits and restrict overtime so you do not work more than 12 hours a day or 60 hours a week
  • Recognise the signs of fatigue in yourself and colleagues – slowed reaction time, cloudy thinking, struggling to stay awake, increased clumsiness, irritability, impaired memory
  • Document and report working conditions that contribute to fatigue or safety risks
  • Use a buddy system to monitor fatigue levels; work as a team to reduce fatigue
  • Promote work schedules that foster regular circadian rhythms, rapid adaptation and adequate rest between shifts
  • Develop and implement sleep health policies promoting sleep health and fatigue reduction
  • Provide sleep health education, optimise shift scheduling and create safe, accessible nap and rest environments

EFFECTIVE NAPPING STRATEGIES

  • Ensure nurses take uninterrupted breaks and plan to take a rest or nap (20 minutes)
  • Ensure they plan a recovery period before returning to work (15-20 minutes to get over sleep inertia)
  • Create a nap room that is quiet, safe, clean, close to the unit, has a private area for each user, and that is not a multi-use or lounge area
  • Offer places to lie down such as beds, couches, stretchers or reclining chairs
  • Offer amenities such as blankets and pillows or a locker so staff can bring their own
  • Use dimmer switches in the room and keep lighting low
  • Include timers to alert nappers at the end of the nap period
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OnOctober 25, 2014, posted in: Occupational Health Posts by

Ebola update – workplace risks

The International Labour Organisation has produced a briefing note in conjunction with the World Health Organisation on the existing  guidance and recommendations for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). The article explains occupational risks and how to prevent EVD in the workplace. The risks remain largely with healthcare workers directly exposed to those with EVD, but also provides advice for business travellers, where the risk remains generally low.Handout of a health worker, wearing personal protection gear, offering water to a woman infected with Ebola virus desease at a treatment centre in Kenema Government Hospital in Kenema

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OnOctober 20, 2014, posted in: Occupational Health Posts by

Ebola – The facts

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The risk to the general public in the UK is still believed to be very low.

The likelihood of catching Ebola virus disease is considered very low unless you’ve travelled to a known infected area and had direct contact with a person with Ebola-like symptoms, or had contact with an infected animal or contaminated objects.

While it is possible that people infected with the virus could travel to the UK, our robust and experienced health system means that there is still minimal risk that an outbreak could happen here.

The virus is passed through body fluids only and is not thought to be airborne. Therefore anyone who cares for an infected person or handles their blood or fluid samples is at risk of becoming infected. Hospital workers, laboratory workers and family members are therefore at greatest risk.

The NHS website provide more detailed information on the virus, transmission and treatment.

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OnOctober 17, 2014, posted in: Occupational Health Posts by

UK employee absence levels falling

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Employee sickness absence levels fell from 7.6 days to 6.6 days per employee in 2014, according to the latest CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence Management Survey.

The falling levels are thought to be related to the rise in the number of organisations developing line manager capability , from 39% of organisations in 2013 to 61% in 2014. Click here for the full article.

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OnOctober 16, 2014, posted in: Occupational Health Posts by

A case management approach to facilitate an early return to work

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The case managed style takes the view that a structured approach to designing return-to-work programmes and utilising a multidisciplinary team in conjunction with the employer stakeholders, is an effective means of helping organisations reduce the burden of long-term absence. This is achieved by creating an atmosphere of flexibility resulting in employees sustaining their work role long after an extended absence. To find out how a case management approach can help to facilitate an early return to work for your absent employees, please contact us for more information.

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OnOctober 13, 2014, posted in: Occupational Health Posts by

Companies need to provide more support for mental health at work

A recent report by the Guardian states that seventy million working days are lost each year due to stress, depression and other mental health conditions, costing Britain £70-100bn annually, equivalent to 4.5% of the nation’s GDP. Since 60-70% of people with common mental disorders are at work, it is crucial that companies recognise the need to provide appropriate help and support to keep working “to benefit their own health as well as the economy”.

mental health occupational health st albans

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OnSeptember 15, 2014, posted in: Occupational Health Posts by