The top 3 concerns employers have when considering workers with hearing loss are: communication, safety, and the cost of accommodations that facilitate communication and keep workers safe. Today we are going to talk about safety considerations.
First of all, safety considerations don’t necessarily cost an arm and a leg. Many of them, such as developing a plan to keep ALL workers safe in the event of an emergency, really don’t cost anything. The Office of Disability Employment (ODEP) and OSHA provide guidance on emergency preparedness for persons with disabilities, including hearing loss. The ODEP suggests 3 essential phases to emergency and safety planning:
- Plan Development
- Plan Implementation
- Plan Maintenance
Plan development involves identifying the potential hazards a worker with hearing loss faces. Workers with hearing loss should be involved every step of the way and after-hours situations should be considered along with situations that might occur during normal business hours. Consult with local fire, police, and emergency departments, as well as local deaf and hard-of-hearing groups to get an accurate picture of safety considerations. Alerting and emergency notification are key issues for persons with hearing loss. The good news is the market place offers a plethora of signaling and alerting devices at all price points.
Plan implementation involves distributing the plan to all employees and integrating the plan into standard operating procedure. Do not forget to provide communication access (Captions, sign language interpreters, or assistive listening systems) to employees with hearing loss taking the training. Drills, both scheduled and unscheduled, should be a prime reinforcement to any learning that takes place during the implementation process. Some alerting device options include
- Warning signs that flash when an audible emergency alarm sounds
- Strategically places strobe lights or vibrating alerting devices places near workers with hearing loss
- Vibrating pagers, watches, or other type of alarm worn by workers
- Text messaging devices
- Service animals trained to alert to obstacles, alarms, and other environmental hazards
- Instant Messaging IM or email popups
- Amplified telephone ring signaler with flashing lights
Plan maintenance involves reviewing and modifying plans after safety drills, orienting new personnel, identifying new safety concerns and addressing them, ensuring equipment is in good repair and operational at all time.
For more information about customizing worksite emergency preparedness for workers who have hearing loss, please consult OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin 07-22-2005 Innovative workplace Safety Accommodations for Hearing-Impaired Workers.
For more information about customized training tools and accommodations that will make sure the material is understood by persons with hearing loss, please reach out to Valerie Stafford-Mallis at Alternative Communication Services (ACS) LLC: Valerie@acscaptions.com