When we think of WC claims, we usually envision an employee tripping/falling or some other isolated incident. Repetitive Injury or Cumulative Trauma are veritable swear words in the Workers Comp industry unconsciously prodding employers to shun from the mere mention of such cash flow inhibiting, premium-jacking calamities. However, to truly be successful at managing your workers comp program we need to meet these issues head on … one of such – seldom discussed – is Hearing Loss.
While hearing loss is a lot like a pot on the stove … just as water heats gradually until it erupts into a full boil. Hearing loss happens little by little, sometimes the employee isn’t even aware of it until it is has reached the full rolling boil of permanent loss. Most manufacturing & warehouse operations exist with (at the least) a low hum of mechanical movement – conveyor belts, fork-lifts, etc. Most have substantially higher normal thresholds of noise. As this happens over time, the permanent damage may come to rest squarely on the back of the most recent/current employer.
So, what can we do?
- Pre-employment Physicals are a great idea — If there is current hearing loss: 1) an employee can get help before it gets too late & 2) you have it documented
- Hearing Protection is vital & fairly inexpensive
- Quiet Space — This could be potentially a bit higher of a cost to implement, depending on the current building. Creating an office or break-room with increased insulation from the noise where employees can discuss production or take a break free from their earplugs or other protection device will be additionally useful.
As with most things WC – having a proactive plan is the first step!