Construction Workers Suffering From Hearing Loss
If someone asked you what the second most common health issue affecting construction workers in the UK was, you probably wouldn’t guess that it’s hearing loss.
It is your employer’s responsibility to provide you with adequate hearing protection if you work in construction and if you are often working around a lot of loud noise. If they fail to do so, they could be to blame for any damage you suffer to your hearing.
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Hearing Loss in Construction Workers
Why are Construction Workers at High Risk of Hearing Loss?
There are a range of reasons why construction workers are likely to experience a loss of hearing.
The primary cause is working nearby to noisy equipment and machinery, including jackhammers, chop saws, chain saws and hammer drills. It has been proven that regular, eight hour exposure to 85 decibels can cause hearing damage. Construction tools like the above often reach over this noise level.
Even an hour per work day of exposure to the noise a jackhammer creates is enough to damage your hearing permanently.
Going hand-in-hand with noisy tools as a cause for hearing damage is a lack of protective equipment. Although it’s unlikely that you will be able to completely block out the noise on a construction site, protection such as noise-cancelling ear plugs or ear muffs is essential to wear.
It is your employer’s responsibility to provide you with any protective equipment – if they tell you that you must buy the equipment yourself or else put up with the noise, they are breaking the law.
Are you a construction worker suffering from hearing loss?
It might seem inevitable that as a construction worker you will suffer some sort of work-related injury over the course of your career due to the nature of your work, and while this may be true, it doesn’t mean that you have to suffer and accept it as a part of the job.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Construction Workers
Hearing loss is not something that should be taken lightly by you or your employer, because it can actually have a lasting impact on your life. It is also a gradual problem that often gets worse over time. It could even take years before you notice the signs.
There are a range of symptoms which can affect those whose hearing loss is work related that you should watch out for if you work in construction. These include:
- You find it hard to hear very well for hours after work. You may have trouble hearing the phone ring or have to have the television on a high volume
- What you hear sounds muffled, especially in conversation with others
- You experience ringing or swishing noises when you’re in a quiet environment – this is a sign of tinnitus which is a common side effect of work related hearing loss and damage
- You’re talking loudly without realising, perhaps others will often point this out to you
You might also experience physical symptoms too, such as headaches, ear, jaw or neck pain, nausea, tinnitus and fatigue. These symptoms can often have a significant impact on your life. Your relationships could become strained, you could suffer from stress and anxiety, and if the problem gets too bad you might not even want to leave the house.
It’s a good idea to be aware of the common symptoms of hearing loss in construction workers, so if you do start to notice them in yourself you can get help quickly.
What Should Employers be Doing to Prevent Hearing Loss in Construction Workers?
Employers in any workplace have a responsibility to protect their staff from injury and illness. This includes protecting construction workers from hearing loss or damage. If they fail to do so and their employees suffer as a result, there’s no going back: hearing damage and loss are irreversible.
Under UK law since 2005, employers must provide you with hearing protection if the work or area you’re working in reaches over 85 decibels. Employers must also regularly assess the risk the noise has on your health, and provide you with training and information on hearing loss if your work or work area frequently reaches 80 decibels or more.
Thus, by law, employers or contractors in the construction industry should be ensuring that all staff are provided with adequate damage prevention equipment, such as over-ear protectors or in-ear plugs, as well as providing training about hearing loss prevention.
They should also make sure that they minimise noise from machinery as much as possible. Where this isn’t possible, for example if loud tools like jackhammers are being used, employers should make sure that their staff are given adequate breaks and rotated to quieter areas of work on a regular basis.
Your employer should also make an effort to carry out health surveillance on you if they see that you’re at risk of suffering from hearing damage or loss. This means they should monitor your hearing on a regular basis, or refer you to someone who can do so, to make sure that your health isn’t suffering because of the fact you work in construction.
Claiming for Compensation for Hearing Loss as a Construction Worker
Suffering from hearing loss from construction work can have a devastating impact on your whole life, so understandably you’ll want to do something about it.
It is possible to claim compensation for hearing loss and tinnitus, or any other damage you’ve suffered to your health or hearing because of working in construction. Bear in mind that you’ll have to be able to prove that your hearing has been made significantly worse by working in construction in order to be successful in your claim.
Are you suffering from hearing loss from working in construction?
With the help of a solicitor you could pursue an industrial disease claim for hearing loss in construction. If you’re successful, you’ll be awarded compensation for your pain, suffering and any financial losses you’ve been subject to because of your condition.
Remember, even though hearing loss in construction workers is common, this doesn’t mean that you have to suffer.
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