Compulsory Audiometry (Hearing Testing), when is this required?

Outsource Safety LtdSafety newsCompulsory Audiometry (Hearing Testing), when is this required?
July 28, 2023 Posted by Roger Hart

Many of our clients operate practical businesses in construction, engineering, manufacturing and similar sectors which expose their staff to noise.  Almost all of these businesses will have assessed employee exposure to noise and a majority of them will have had noise assessment completed by one of our consultants and a report issued explaining the exposures, legal duties and what might be able to be done to reduce or otherwise control noise exposures.

What is often less understood is that you also have a clear legal duty to carry out health surveillance for staff who are regularly exposed above the Upper Exposure Action Level of 85 dB(A).  Your noise report will identify who these staff are and you will then be required under the Regulations (Regulation 9) to provide audiometry (hearing tests.  Interestingly the employee is under a duty to attend these tests in addition to the employer’s duty to provide one but please note that these tests are typically required to take place during the employee’s normal working hours (in the absence of other arrangements being agreed by both parties.

Exceptions are rare but you may have staff who are only present in these hearing protection zones for short periods.  Please be wary of any signed disclaimers by staff (these are very likely worthless and likely to get you into further trouble) and beware of making audiometry ‘optional’ or making appointments and leaving it to staff to attend or not. Your duty of care means that you retain a duty to ensure staff do attend these appointments where they fall into scope.

Ideally, you will have a system which covers all staff already but if you are only just putting this into place then look to check all employees at first employment (if practicable) and every annually for the first two years of employment.  Beyond this, you may choose to move to less frequent checks unless otherwise advised with three yearly checks not being unusual.

Make sure whoever you are working with is qualified and reputable.  You will often find that a health surveillance partner is able to offer fr more than audiometry and so you can often combine checks for lung function, hand-arm vibration and similar with a single provider which can be useful as a single source of contact and be more efficient.  Make sure you retain the results of this health surveillance for at least 40 years as they provide very useful information in the event of a claim.

Finally, don’t be afraid of beginning this type of health surveillance.  At worst, you are only uncovering what is already there and you will then be able to make changes to address any concerns.  People will lose hearing as they age and some staff will have experienced hearing loss which has nothing to do with their work. However, being able to identify this through tests across your staff (for example, not everyone in a workshop will also play in a rock band at the weekend!) you will have great data to defend a health claim from the outliers in your data.  You will also be able to help your insurers defend a historical claim using data from other staff who have worked in the same or similar areas and not suffered hearing loss.

If you choose to bury your head in the sand and not complete any audiometry tests you are not only breaking the law, you’re also missing all of this data for your defence of any claim and your staff are still going deaf – whether from your own workplace or what they do when they’re not working!

If you would like to talk through noise exposure monitoring or if you are (or would be interested in becoming) a member of our Safety~net competent person scheme please get in touch or ask us to call you back

You can find further guidance on the HSE website here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/healthsurveillance.htm