- In emergency situations, people who are deaf or have a hearing loss may not respond to an auditory signal such as an alarm bell, and it’s easy for other employees to forget that not everybody hears.
- Consider modifying your company emergency action plan to recognize the needs of deaf and hard of hearing people in emergency situations.
- It’s important to know how to communicate in situations of medical emergencies, those involving police or fire departments, or when immediate access to a deaf or hard of hearing person is required.
- Make all parties aware of the individual’s communication needs.
- Contact interpreter services. CHS Interpreting Services puts a priority on calls for interpreters for emergency situations, and makes every effort to provide assistance as soon as possible.
- Use assistive listening devices when appropriate.
- Communicate in a well-lit area and do not restrict the person’s hands, which are needed for signing, writing or gesturing.
With the implementation of a few simple precautions, Deaf and hard of hearing employees are at no greater risk for job safety than other workers are. In fact, studies have shown that they have substantially better safety records with the implementation of key safety techniques, combined with strict company safety policies ("Keep Deaf Workers Safe", Menchel & Ritter, National Technical Institute of the Deaf, Rochester, New York – 1984).
Employers will usually not find it necessary to buy ‘special’ equipment, but instead use ordinary safety devices in particular ways. An example is the use of flashing lights, which can either be incorporated into an existing system or stand-alone. In noisy work environments, employees of all hearing abilities have responded better to flashing warnings rather than audio alarms, (a good example of universal design).
The following safety suggestions will increase the security of all employees:
- Incorporate fire and personal safety needs of Deaf and hard of hearing employees into your emergency procedures and plan.
- Flashing lights can be hardwired to the existing audio fire.
- A paging system such as a multiple paging system can be programmed to signal an emergency.
- A buddy system can be set up to alert the Deaf or hard of hearing employee of an emergency.
- Safety procedures, including exits, extinguishers and hazards should be reviewed with the employee and, if necessary, with an interpreter present.
- Alerting devices should be placed in all areas an employee who is Deaf or has a hearing loss may be such as the main work area, washrooms, lunchrooms, warehouse, lobbies, etc.
- Security should be notified when a Deaf employee is working alone in a specific work area.
- To request emergency interpreter services contact CHS Interpreting Services
- Strobe lights flash at high intensity levels, useful in heavy manufacturing areas, office space or large open areas. Strobes can be linked to smoke alarms.
- A revolving light is bright red and can be ceiling mounted, usually in large areas such as factories, or on any equipment that poses a possible danger, such as forklifts, trucks, etc.
- Pagers: Vibrating pagers are widely available in several formats, including a wristwatch. Short messages can also be sent using email technology.
- Personal alerting systems for an employee’s workstation are available in a variety of formats, including flashing lamps.
- Computers can be used to send emergency messages via company email systems.
- Safety Apparel: Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing employees working in high-risk areas, such as on construction zones where safety vests and helmet are worn, could wear a symbol on their vests or helmets identifying themselves as deaf or hard of hearing.
Operation of Motor Vehicles
- Driving is a visual skill. Deaf and hard of hearing people tend to be more visually vigilant than people with no hearing loss and have above average motor safety records. Enhanced visual aids such as extra side or full-view mirror could be added to motor vehicles.