Updated: Dec 20, 2021
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
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
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)
Those who like wearing headphones whilst working could be positively benefiting from
them. Benefits include:
Music helps de-stress
Helps them stay focused
Helps to motivate them
Makes strenuous tasks more bearable
Signaling to colleagues that they are busy and do not want to be disturbed
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.
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
Our team are available if you require assistance with Risk Assessments.
Please contact us if you require any advice or check out our website: