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Should Employees Be Allowed to Wear Earbuds?

These days, it seems earbuds are the rule rather than the exception when it comes to listening to music, podcasts, audio books, and speaking on the phone. Currently, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) does not have guidelines on earbud use in the workplace. However, OSHA has issued recommendations regarding earbud use while on the job. Of course, wearing earbuds in some work environments poses more of a threat than in others.

Earbud Dangers

The dangers of wearing earbuds while on the job are similar to non-employment use of these devices. People wearing earbuds simply cannot hear emergency signals, but it goes beyond that. Overall, earbuds may pose a safety hazard because the employee is less cognizant of their surroundings and is not paying attention to their safety.

No Earbuds Allowed

OSHA urges employers to forbid the use of earbuds when workers are operating any sort of heavy equipment. Anyone working on a manufacturing or construction site where heavy equipment is used should not have earbuds, headphones, or similar devices on their heads. For example, even if the forklift operator is not wearing earbuds, a fellow employee in the vicinity using these devices could end up getting hit if they cannot hear the machine. Along with earbuds, the same warnings hold true for smartphones.

Other Earbud Risks

In most manufacturing industries, various energy-related hazards exist. These may include chemical, electrical, or fire hazards. Failure to hear a warning device due to earbud use not only puts that employee at risk but may also affect evacuations or the realization that equipment is not functioning properly. For maximum safety, no employee in a manufacturing setting should wear earbuds, even if they are not in an area of heavy equipment use. That includes those working in warehouses. Earbuds are never a substitute for any type of hearing protection on the job.

Other Employment Settings

In some employment settings, deciding whether to permit employees to wear earbuds should remain at the employer’s discretion. Office workers sitting at their desks all day might wear earbuds, but only when they are at their desk. When walking around the office, remove the earbuds. Some workers may argue that earbuds block out office noise and help them work with fewer distractions. Other workers may hear their fellow employees’ music and become distracted from their work. Earbuds may prove fine for someone working in an isolated setting, but in a busy office, not so much.

No Trials

Employers should never allow earbuds on a temporary or trial basis to see how their use affects job performance. Once that door is opened, it is difficult to close. If the trial does not work out, employees often become upset and employer/employee relations are affected.

Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Help Those Injured at Work

If you or someone you know suffered an injury while on the job, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. For a free consultation to determine your eligibility and benefits, contact the Wilmington Workers’ Compensation lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC today. Contact us online or call us at 302-888-1221. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the state, including Dover, Newark, and Middletown.