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      Health and safety guidance for employers

      Health and safety requirements for people with hearing loss are essentially the same as for hearing people. But they may need additional support, such as a vibrating fire-alarm pager.

      What are your ‘Health and safety’ responsibilities?

      The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 doesn't include any disability-specific requirement for employers. But, under equality law, you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments so an employee with hearing loss isn’t put at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ compared with everyone else .

      Advice for employers

      There are a number of things you may want to consider when planning support for your employees with hearing loss. These include:

      1. Equipment

      We recommend you check that staff with hearing aids can hear the fire alarm anywhere their job may require them to go.

      This should be done with and without their hearing aids, because batteries can run out, plus staff may switch off their hearing aids in noisy environments.

      If they can't hear the fire alarm, then consider the following alternatives:

      Visual fire alarms

      Make sure all private and quiet areas, such as toilets and prayer rooms, have flashing alarms to alert people.

      Work with your employees to identify the best place for them to sit so that they can see the alarm’s strobe. The alarm could be positioned next to their desk, slightly above it or in their general eye-line.

      You'll also need to install visual alarms in meeting rooms, canteens and kitchens.

      Pagers

      Talk to employees to find out whether pagers may be more suitable for their needs.

      Fire marshals

      Fire marshals should be made aware of employees who have hearing loss. We recommend that they complete deaf awareness training, to ensure they’re able to communicate effectively in an emergency.

      Accessible health and safety training

      Any staff training must be accessible to people with hearing loss. This could include providing communication support, such as British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, lipspeakers, or speech-to-text reporters. If you are using videos, make sure they have subtitles.

      2. Policies

      Review your policies to make sure that they include the needs of staff members with hearing loss.

      Policies should be in plain English, which will be helpful to employees with hearing loss and those whose first language isn’t English.

      You may also want to make some or all policies available in BSL.

      Emergency Evacuation Plan

      It's vital that your emergency evacuation plan is accessible at all times, as a deaf member of staff who uses BSL may want to read it when an interpreter isn’t available.

      We also recommend that you include a visual plan.

      Travel

      In organisations where travelling outside of regular daily commuting is part of an employee’s role, you could include a travel policy.

      The policy should encourage people with hearing loss to plan their journey in advance, and leave plenty of time for unexpected delays.

      Lone-working policy

      Your lone-working policy should ensure that any person with hearing loss can easily make contact with appropriate colleagues, for example by textphone or SMS.

      Where a person with hearing loss regularly works alone in an office, you should consider providing a flashing doorbell or vibrating pager to alert the person if someone wants to enter the office.

      Reporting absence

      It's standard practice for an employee to report to their line manager if they’re unwell and unable to come into work.

      Your policy should make it clear that texting or emailing is acceptable so that people with hearing loss can easily inform their manager when they can't come into work.

      3. Lifts

      Thought is rarely given to how a person with hearing loss can communicate in the event of a lift breaking down.

      Typically, the only way for a trapped person to communicate is by the intercom. Consider installing alternative methods, such as SMS or a wall-mounted textphone. If this isn't possible, display instructions so the trapped person knows what to do and how long they may be waiting.

      You should then amend your procedures to make sure that you respond to all alarm calls, by all methods and regardless of whether communication has been made.

      Further information

      To find out more about employing people with hearing loss see: