Listening to music at work can help motivate staff, lift their spirits and block out distractions, but it also has its risks – especially in construction-based roles. On site, engineers are free to wear personal headphones and at present there are no specific regulations which addresses the safety concerns surrounding their use.
Current safety concerns
Within construction and the lift industry it is not uncommon for engineers to wear hearing protection when noise exposure could pose a risk to their health. According to the HSE, hearing protection should only be used “where extra protection is needed above what has been achieved using noise control.”* The use of personal headphones or earbuds should not be used as an alternative.
Of course, the possibility of engineers becoming isolated from their working environment when wearing hearing protection does pose safety risks of its own, but the use of personal headphones has become more of a concern. Listening to music provides a distraction, making it a safety hazard in its own right. Not only can it distract engineers from what is happening around them, it can also mask environmental sounds that need to be heard. This is particularly important when working on a site where there is moving equipment and it could compromise any safety warning signals.
Unfortunately, there have been recent incidents in the industry where engineers and assistant engineers have had accidents or near misses when working in the lift shaft or motor room while wearing headphones.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
While it is at the discretion of the employer whether an engineer can wear personal headphones, it is advisable that this should be avoided to reduce accidents. And although there are not any legal obligations to stop headphones from being used, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires that staff should have good communication with their colleagues and to be aware of dangerous situations.
Not being aware of your surroundings could constitute a breach of this regulation and employers could therefore face the consequences. So, the best form of action is to say NO to the use of personal headphones at work to ensure engineers are alert at all times.