A ‘How to’ guide:
What you need to know about the EU Noise at Work Directive
- In Europe, anyone who wears headset should, by law, be protected for amount of noise exposure to his/her ears.
- You should demand to be protected for noise exposure limits from your employer.
- The directive says that no one wearing headset should be exposed to a sound pressure level (SPL) of more than 85decibels (85 dB SPL) in any eight hours shift in a 24-hour cycle.
- This directive does not protect you against acoustic shocks. You need to have a more comprehensive device to do that.
How to reduce the risk of acoustic shock to staff
- Perform initial and annual audits of the work environment, labour and management needs.
- Make an assessment of noise exposures.
- Evaluate the engineering and administrative control of noise exposures. Spread agents locations as wide apart as possible in the call centre. This will reduce the agent use of high volume levels. Also, use sound absorption materials for the partitions and walls as this will also reduce the agent use of high volume levels.
- Undertake audiometric evaluation and monitoring of hearing.
- Make appropriate use of personal hearing protection devices. Use equipment that is capable of reducing or eliminating the acoustic shocks. At the very least, have the right equipment in place to offer the minimum protection: that is, ensure that the kit is at least EC Noise Directive compliant. This is not sufficient, but could reduce the effect of acoustic shock.
- Consider education and motivation. Set up training sessions for EU Noise Directive and Acoustic Shocks safety needs – something that can be done by bringing the appropriate and independent expertise from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or the Acoustic Safety Programme. Remember: educational methods and materials should be tailored to the specific audience. The goal of education and training is not just to inform, but also to motivate. Dynamic, relevant training will imbue workers with a sense of personal control over their hearing health, lead to the development of intrinsic motivation to adopt positive hearing health.
- Make sure you keep records. This will help you regularly maintain the equipment and logging thereof. Remember to log any acoustic occurrence and incident.
- Undertake a programme evaluation to ensure effectiveness.
How to spot and deal with the symptoms of acoustic shock
- Immediately after a suspected acoustic shock event, look for discomfort or pain around ears, muffled hearing, fatigue, nausea and/or dizziness.
- In the hours or days after the event, look for signs of tinnitus, high sensitivity to sounds, and/or an agent’s loss of sense around sound direction.
- Remember that longer-term effects can include anxiety. This might manifest itself as a phobia or depression.
- Watch for regular agent absences due to illness.
- Keep a record of maintenance around the headsets and consoles.
- Then you are sure an agent is suffering from acoustic shock, recommend they go to their doctor and preferably to an audiologist.
- To prevent this happening, have a physician visit the site at least one or two times a year.
What to do if you are presented with an acoustic shock claim
- Keep a record of all the incidence/accidents.
- Keep account of the acoustic shock protector equipments used in your business.
- Keep evidence of maintenance of headsets and consoles.
- Keep notes on all your headset and acoustic shock related training sessions and what materials were used in those sessions.
- Keep record of the hearing health status of your staff and business by regularly inspecting it. This is a good thing to do especially when an agent is employed for the first time.
Contributed by Masoud Ahmadi, managing director of Tecteon technologies