Mitigating the Risk of Employee Hearing Loss

Preventing hearing damage is an important risk management consideration for many businesses. The risk may be obvious for businesses in loud industries, like construction. But employees also can be exposed to dangerously high volumes in less obvious circumstances. 

How does hearing loss become a business loss?

Work-related hearing loss potentially presents two sources of risk for a business, one regulatory and the other financial.

Regulatory risk arises in cases where an employer’s safety program has failed to take adequate steps to protect employees from foreseeable hearing injuries. Failing to comply with federal and state OSHA requirements, to the extent they apply to a particular business or work site, can lead to costly investigations, fines, and mandatory mitigation.

Insurance costs are the other source of hearing loss risk. The coverage requirements under state workers’ compensation laws vary. Where hearing loss is covered, the employer needs to understand the thresholds of coverage. Once an employee suffers significant hearing damage, where recovery is unlikely, the employer may be responsible for long-term expenses.

Strategies for mitigating hearing loss risk.

The first step every employer with loud work environments should take is to incorporate hearing protection into its everyday safety routines. A safety consultant can evaluate noise as part of a broader review of potential hazards. Using objective measures, the employer can determine when and where protective equipment needs to be worn. In turn, policies and habits need to be developed to ensure safe practices.

Many employers in high-noise industries, like fire departments, conduct routine hearing screenings as part of their employment process. By testing a new hire’s hearing early in the employment relationship, the employer establishes baseline information that can be used to measure the extent of hearing loss related to a work-related incident.

For example, if a new employee already has some hearing loss at the start of employment, and later files a workers’ compensation claim for hearing loss, the company may be able to limit its liability to the damage traceable to the work event.

A risk management consultant can help the employer evaluate whether hearing tests need to be a part of the employer’s regular employee onboarding process.  In some cases, adopting such a program can help to lower workers’ compensation costs, especially in the long run.

Gunnin Insurance works with clients to resolve workers’ compensation challenges.

The risk management and insurance professionals at Gunnin Insurance provide comprehensive strategic advice to help clients bring down costs and get more from their workers’ compensation programs. Helping our clients protect their employees against injuries like hearing loss is part of our broader strategy to improve insurance outcomes. Reach out to Gunnin to make an appointment with one of our specialists.