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New Research from RNID Reveals 1000s of Employees Could be at Risk of Hearing Damage in the Workplace

New research from RNID, the largest charity representing the 9 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK, has found that 68% of employers surveyed in the music and entertainment industry are unaware that they must comply with new Control of Noise at Work regulations coming into force in April 2008. This means the UK's 568,000 (1) bar, pub and club workers are being denied the legal protection that should protect their hearing. These findings are announced at the start of Deaf Awareness Week (7-13 May 2007.) Perhaps more worryingly, 55% of the employers we surveyed, do not currently and have no plans to make hearing protection available to their workers, despite the fact that excessive noise in the workplace has caused an estimated half a million people living in Great Britain today to suffer deafness or other ear difficulties and is one of the most underestimated workplace risks. Indeed, those establishments surveyed (2), only 10% thought that excessive noise is the biggest risk to their staff.

Emma Harrison, Head of Campaigns, RNID, says: "Prolonged exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss and if properly implemented these regulations will save the hearing of literally hundreds of thousands of people in the music and entertainment industries. If they are ignored or implemented half-heartedly employers could face a wave of compensation claims from staff."

She continues: "RNID welcomes new Control of Noise regulations, but is concerned that the Government is clearly not doing enough to get the message across to employers in the music and entertainment industries that they must comply with them. Employers have a legal duty to cut down noise and protect their employees from the harmful effects of noise at work and must take these regulations seriously, otherwise the hearing of their workers will be at risk."

Under the new regulations the noise levels at which workers in the music and entertainment industries will be required to have hearing protection available, and the level at which they will be required to wear hearing protection have been reduced by 5dB(A) to 80dB(A) and 85dB(A) respectively. Hearing protection must ensure that average noise levels reaching a worker's ears is never above 87 dB (A). However, many employers are unprepared for the new, stricter regime while employees need to be educated about their rights under the legislation.

As well as these findings, RNID is launching Seven Simple Steps (www.7simplesteps.org.uk) during Deaf Awareness Week to encourage people to think about what their first step would be to change the world for deaf and hard of hearing people. RNID is also urging anyone who is concerned about their hearing to take RNID's five minute telephone hearing check on 0845 600 5555.

  1. According to HSE figures, Britain's pubs, bars and nightclubs employ 568,000 people, up by 153,000 from 1992, as bar staff glass collectors, security staff and DJs. There are 1750 nightclubs in the UK.
     
  2. Research conducted with 200 employers in the music and entertainment sector across the UK in February 2007.

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