Businesses in New South Wales have been reminded that they have an obligation to manage noise levels in their workplaces.
WorkCover NSW issued a statement this week (May 2) in which it sought to highlight the dangers that hazardous noise posed to workers and provide businesses with advice about how to safely manage it.
Between 2008-09 and 2010-11, there were more than 10,000 claims for hearing loss in the workplace made in NSW.
According to John Watson, general manager of WorkCover’s Work Health and Safety Division, those claims totalled $171 million.
Mr Watson said that hearing damage generally happens slowly over a number of years, or instantly on exposure to extremely loud noises.
In either case, the damage is often irreversible.
“Hazardous noise can destroy the ability to hear clearly and make working safely more difficult,” said Mr Watson.
Under work and safety laws, NSW businesses have to manage the risk to their workers of hearing loss due to noise in the workplace.
They are obligated to ensure the noise employees are exposed to doesn’t exceed the exposure standard for noise, and also to provide audiometric testing to workers frequently required to use personal hearing protection, to ensure the noise doesn’t exceed this standard.
“By managing the risks associated with noise, businesses can protect workers from hearing loss, improve conditions for communication and create a less stressful and more productive work environment,” Mr Watson stated.
Businesses may need to make improvements to lessen the risk of hearing loss, and WorkCover provides a code of practice which provides guidelines on how to identify, assess and control noise hazards.
Mr Watson said that WorkCover realised that finding the money to improve safety in the workplace wasn’t always easy.
However he said that through the WorkCover Small Business Rebate Program, small businesses and sole traders in NSW could benefit from a rebate of up to $500 on the purchase and installation of safety improvements.
In addition, businesses can seek help from WorkCover NSW.
“WorkCover inspectors can provide advice and assistance to businesses on the basics of managing noise and preventing hearing loss in the workplace as well as who is responsible and how to identify and manage noise hazards.”
Where an employee suffers loss of hearing such that they can no longer work in their occupation, they may be able to make a claim for total and/or permanent disability (TPD).