Headphones at Work

Updated: Dec 20, 2021


Headphones at work
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Use of headphones are becoming more popular within the workplace. Working from home have given people flexibility of setting their own work environments and now that we are back in the office many are wanting to incorporate their new work environment settings. So how are headphones a health and safety topic?


People enjoy listening to music and podcasts with many individuals believing that

it helps them relax, stay focused, and avoid interruptions. This month there have

even been reports regarding a NZ Council Zoom meeting being used by workers

to make it look like they are in a meeting to stop being interrupted by others.


So how are headphones a health and safety topic? They sound like they could

benefit the workplace?


Correct, they can benefit workers, however they can also create a hazard in

particular workplaces.



Health and Safety


In workplaces such as offices, especially if an open-plan environment, the

benefits of wearing headphones could possibly outweigh the negatives.

However for many workplaces headphones could possibly be a health and

safety hazard.

It would be recommended that a risk assessment is completed to analyze

potential risks. Some items to consider are:


Headphones can make you unaware of your surroundings -

  • Are there other hazards that you should be focusing on, such as traffic movements in the area?

  • If you are working alone can you hear people entering the premises / does it create a security risk?

  • Listening to music could potentially result in you not hearing important safety alarms such as fire alarms, machine sirens, horns or instructions from others.

  • Headphones could also mean you do not hear your co-worker shouting for help after they have had an accident, delaying crucial emergency assistance.

  • Can you hear the machine / vehicle you are operating? It is important to hear these to ensure they are working correctly, nothing has gotten caught and causing issues?

  • They could become slip/trip/ projectile hazard if they fall out (earbuds)

  • They wires could get caught, cut through, entangled or become a choke risk

  • They could effect the proper fit of PPE, such as hazard hats /hearing protection Should not be used instead of Hearing Protection Equipment

  • Loud noise for extended periods of time can cause hearing loss (Check dB Levels)



Benefits

Those who like wearing headphones whilst working could be positively benefiting from

them. Benefits include:

  • Music helps de-stress

  • Helps them stay focused

  • Drives productivity

  • Helps to motivate them

  • Makes strenuous tasks more bearable

  • Signaling to colleagues that they are busy and do not want to be disturbed

  • Prevents interruptions


Research has shown that music and podcasts are an effective method for relaxation

and stress management. Upbeat music can make you feel more optimistic and positive

towards what you are doing, slower music can relax your mind and feel less stressed.

If you are a individual who does not wear earphones at work, you may believe that

music or podcasts can be a distraction or even anti-social / rude.


Possible Controls


If you enjoy or benefit from wearing headphones in the workplace then some

consideration could be taken to keep using them in the workplace if your employer

agrees to it.


Some considerations could include:

  • Headphones are not worn during specific tasks to ensure the risks are controlled

  • Volume controls - you must be able to hear someone talking to you.

  • Only one earbud in at a time

  • Wireless headphones only

  • No noise cancelling headphones

  • A radio is provided instead of using headphones

  • If working alone do not use headphones if security could be a risk

  • Supply Bluetooth / radio earmuffs (this could be by arrangement where company pays $x and worker pays $x amount)


There are no specific Health and Safety regulations that ban headphone use at work,

in certain workplaces where there are risks, there is a concern that employees are

distracted by their headphone, or if they are causing a distraction to others it would be

reasonable to put a ban in place, especially if controls and communication have been

proven ineffective.


Need Assistance?

Our team are available if you require assistance with Risk Assessments.

Please contact us if you require any advice or check out our website:

https://www.ohsconsultants.nz