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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 30 January 2006

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UP TO 2.3 million employees potentially affected by introduction of new legislation.  SMEs are being warned that under new Noise at Work Regulations the noise levels that employees can be exposed to will be reduced by almost half. This legislation is due to come into effect April 2006 with a 2 year transitional period for the music and entertainment industry until April 2008.

Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) litigation claims could potentially be on the increase due to the fact that NIHL is a recognisable industrial injury. These regulations could open up the music and leisure sector to the level of claims previously seen in heavy industry during the early 1980s.

The introduction of the Noise at Work Regulations in 1989 produced a plethora of claims from the mid to late 1980’s as most employers were not aware of the noise induced hearing loss risks and failed to take adequate precautions to protect their employees. All this strengthened the case for civil litigation claims as there were now clear statutory breaches of the 1989 Regulations which established negligence on the part of the employer.

Awards of damages for the impact of loss of hearing can vary between £4,000 and £18,000, and in some cases are far higher depending on the severity of the disability suffered and the age of the person affected. The legal costs associated with any claim for compensation would have to be paid in any successful noise induced hearing loss claim.

The new and reduced noise levels will mean that a much larger working population will fall within the scope of the regulations and that industries/activities previously not classed as ‘high risk’ noisy environments will now have to re-evaluate their position with respect to noise exposure to employees, for example:-

· Leisure industry (e.g. clubs, pubs, discos)
· Music stores
· Orchestral musicians, bands etc
· Garages

“Companies that are likely to exceed the new level should undertake comprehensive assessment of employees’ noise exposure. Even those organisations who have existing hearing conservation programmes in place will need to review the attenuation values currently provided by the existing hearing protection in use. This will ensure that the protection provided continues to meet the new reduced noise exposure levels.  With legislation due to come into effect in 3 months (April 2006), it is important for businesses to put procedures into place now to ensure they are in line when the legislation comes into effect.” advised Douglas Dale, Risk Control Manager-Liability, AXA.

Audiometric testing conducted over 2 year periods is a useful management tool for monitoring the effectiveness of hearing conservation policies. If the testing shows that there is deterioration in individual hearing ability, then the control measures are not adequate and must be improved.

AXA advises all business owners who are likely to be impacted by these regulations to take a number of steps in order to safeguard both themselves and their employees in the future.

Advice for businesses:-

1. Firstly, you must inform workers about the potential risks associated with NIHL and the precautions taken or being taken by the organisation to minimise the risk. Hearing protection must be provided to all employees who ask for them, and maintained in efficient working order.

2. The main principle of the regulations is to reduce and prevent noise exposure at source by introducing acoustic control measures; these can be quite simple and cost effective measures and should be carried out before considering the issue of hearing protection to employees.

3. It has been advised that a noise assessment be carried out using personal noise measuring equipment by an occupational hygienist or noise specialist. This needs to be done for all employees exposed to noise on a daily basis. Noise surveys need to be repeated when circumstances change or new equipment or processes are introduced. Audiometric screening of new starters is also recommended to establish their hearing level for future reference. This helps to prevent false indications of NIHL and spurious EIL Claims from being generated.

4. All exposed employees must be provided with hearing protection and need to be trained in the correct use and maintenance of this equipment their use must be monitored and enforced by the management. Any records relating to disciplinary action and enforcement by management must also be kept to offer credible defence.

5. Adequate signed records need to be kept clearly indicating the receipt of all information, instruction and training as well as the issue of personal hearing protection.

AXA has put together a guide on the new legislation, which includes details of what employers need to consider in advance of the revised regulations being introduced. The guide can be downloaded free from their website.


ON Thursday 16 March 2006 at the one and only Carling Academy 2 Liverpool at 7:00pm.

Former frontman of Strangelove. Patrick's an angelic singer with black boots and a noisy fringe. Jim Moray is just twenty-three but he's single-handedly turning the English folk music world on its head. He is a massive talent who has taken songs from English traditional music and re-worked them to create some of the most startlingly original, contemporary recordings to come out of the folk world since the 1970s.

Tickets for all shows are available online at or phone 0870 771 2000.

Learn to dive the BSAC way with OSAC


ALLIANCE & Leicester announces the findings of its latest study of people's attitudes towards overseas call centres. This shows that despite the trend towards off-shoring call centres, customers continue to want their banking and other financial services needs looked after by staff based in Britain.

The independent study of over 4,000 people reveals that 83% of customers in the North aren't happy about having their bank account or other financial products serviced by an overseas call centre. Only 6% say they are happy with the idea, and 11% have no preference. These broadly reflect those of a similar study conducted in 2004, but with some notable exceptions.

Concerns about communication, jobs and security.

The leading concern for those in the region, in this year's survey, (87%), was problems with communication. Last year the prime national concern, at 82%, was loss of British jobs, which has decreased to 71% in the North this year. Worries about the security of personal information is higher this year, with 67% concerned compared to 51% of Britons a year ago.

Customer frustrations with overseas call centres.

The new findings show that for those people whose banks have call centres overseas, 50% of those in the North believe that service has deteriorated since the call centre moved abroad. 35% are frustrated that their call is transferred to a lot of different people before their query is dealt with and 32% of those in the North believe the call takes much longer when the call centre is overseas.  Furthermore 69% banking customers in the North, whose calls are dealt with offshore find that there are problems with communication and 49% are worried about security.
Interestingly, because of their experiences 75% of those in the North would consider switching to a bank whose call centres are based in the UK.

Opinions differ regionally, across the ages and for men vs women.

Regionally, concerns are highest amongst those in the North (84%). However, even in London, where concerns are lowest, 73% of people are not happy to have their finances serviced by an overseas call centre.  Across Britain older people remain more concerned than younger people (86% of the over 50s and 81% of the over 30s), but even amongst the 18s to 29s, 73% are not happy at the thought of their bank account or other financial affairs being serviced from overseas.  Nationally, women are less happy about their financial affairs being dealt with oversees than men, with only 5% being happy about it, as opposed to 7% of men.

The research shows that people in the UK are not happy to have their bank account or other financial needs serviced from an overseas call centre and that public opinion remains against off-shoring.

Commenting on the findings, Alliance & Leicester Group Chief Executive Richard Pym said:- "Our customers tell us they are unhappy with having their calls answered in distant overseas call centres, and that is why Alliance & Leicester is committed to keeping our call centres in the British Isles."

What children really think

RESEARCH announced by the British Toy & Hobby Association (BTHA) reveals the thoughts of over 1000 primary school children on whether their parents are fun to spend time with and what tips they might give to make time spent together more fun.  85% of children thought their parents were fun to spend time with but they also provided frank, honest and, of course, funny tips to help parents maximise the fun potential in the time they spend with their children.

A list of the 'Top 10 Tips' - which come directly from the children questioned, will be released at Toy Fair, providing a fascinating insight into the thinking of children in the UK. This research gives us all a chance to find out what our children really want to do and how they want to spend their time.

Child psychologist and founder of  Dr. Pat Spungin has worked with the BTHA to produce 'Solutions Through Fun' - a booklet offering parents tips and hints on how to make best use of their time together, using fun and play in everyday family life. All of the tips and suggestions have come from children not adults. One child commented:- 'Just enjoy yourself and go bonkers!' and another said, "Be relaxed and chilled and have a good time because life is short."

Dr. Spungin commented:- 'Whether you have five minutes or a whole evening, your children will benefit by you just being there. What adults may find dull, children find fun - such as cooking, playing games and washing the car. Embrace their curiosity and excitement, even it means spending half an hour making imaginary cakes for the fairy at the bottom of the garden.'

The BTHA hopes that 'Solutions Through Fun' can be used as a tool to improve time spent with children without preaching to parents. After all, the research shows that a vast majority of children enjoy the time they have with their parents. Dr. Spungin added:- 'Many parents feel guilty about the lack of time they have to do activities with their offspring. They shouldn't. Most children - and the BTHA research highlights this - are happy having unstructured playtime with friends, siblings and parents. What may seem like a mundane job to a parent can provide fun, laughter and great play opportunities for children.'

Children's Top 10 Tips:-

Parents to spend 1 on 1 time together with children. Make time to play, spend more uninterrupted time together, give each child special time.

Go to the park and play sports together such as football, cricket, catch and go on bike rides together.

Play board games, cards or puzzles as a family.

Dad to not go on the computer as much and for mum to not do as much housework.

Play active games such as piggy in the middle, chase, hide & seek and skipping.

Days out together to the zoo, museum, theatre, cinema or bowling.

Bake & cook together

Make things and do arts & crafts such as painting, pottery, write stories or make facemasks.

Parents come home from work earlier Joint 10:-

- Be funny, playful and silly by telling jokes, be more impulsive, laugh more & jump in puddles.

- Watch TV/DVD together
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