Findings that construction workers are most at risk for hearing difficulties
has prompted the HSE to crack down on health and safety
Workers in the construction industry are at greatest risk of being exposed
to noise and suffering hearing difficulties, research by the Health and Safety
Executive has found.
The finding comes as the HSE has launched a crackdown on health and safety
in the industry after provisional figures showed fatal injury rates were at
their highest for 10 years.
The report, Occupational Exposure to Noise and Hearing Difficulties in Great
Britain, aimed to identify the occupations where hearing difficulty and
tinnitus are most common. It also assessed whether these were occupations in
which workers often had to shout to be heard in an average day.
It found significant difficulties in hearing and tinnitus are quite common,
especially in older men, and symptoms were strongly associated with years of
exposure in a noisy occupation.
Among men, hearing difficulty was most prevalent among transport and
machinery workers, construction workers, material moving and storage workers
and repetitive assembly and inspection workers. For women, it was cleaners and
caterers who suffered most.
The prevalence of moderate or worse hearing difficulty in construction
workers was 11.5 per cent, compared with 5 per cent for all occupations. For
severe hearing difficulty it was 5 per cent compared to 1.9 per cent for all
Construction workers quite often received insufficient audiometric screening
and tended to show poor compliance in wearing hearing protectors.
The executive is currently looking at the feasibility of setting up a
dedicated national occupational health scheme for the construction sector.
Concerns about the high rate of fatalities in the industry has led the HSE
to give its chief inspector of construction, Kevin Myers, extra freedom to
tackle the issue.