Protecting voices at work

Most jobs require people to use their voice. Many jobs require extensive speech throughout the day every day. Typical occupations that are likely to put pressure on individuals and their voices include call centre employees, teachers, sales staff, receptionists, counsellors and entertainers. This is not an exhaustive list. Losing vocal strength is a common issue and can have a great impact on individuals and their employer.

Why is this important to your business?

Voice impairment can threaten employment as many jobs cannot be performed without adequate vocal capacity.

Voice abnormalities often result in either reduced work efficiency, poor staff morale and well-being or even absence. 

Occupational voice users are at increased risk of vocal damage.

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 dictates that employers do all that is reasonably practicable to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their staff.

Where employers have not put reasonable precautions in place and neglect can be established, then litigation is possible. Awareness of occupational voice loss and the number of cases progressing to litigation has increased in recent years. A noteworthy Employment Tribunal case in 2006 involved a teacher who claimed for disability discrimination and personal injury. Both cases were settled for £156,000. Management had previously dismissed her appeal stating that “Vocal cord nodules are an occupational hazard for all teachers.”

What is an occupational voice user?

Any person who relies on their voice to perform their job competently. This can include communicating with the public, delivering presentations or interacting with colleagues.

What puts them at increased risk? 

The vast majority of voice problems are caused by voice abuse and misuse. As such, many could be avoided with appropriate education and advice.

Risk increases with factors, such as:

  • Talking over background noise
  • Talking in stressful situations
  • Postural misalignment including poor seating
  • Inappropriate or ineffective breathing pattern
  • Can be caused by job design (long or poorly designed scripts)
  • Laryngeal irritants (either inhaled or dehydrants), such as caffeinated drinks/air conditioning
  • Psychological issues

Because the risk of voice damage is ‘Reasonably Foreseeable’ employers have a duty to take all appropriate steps to protect their employees’ voices.

People with persisting voice problems should be assessed by an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist to eliminate other causes which may require medical or surgical intervention.

What precautions can be taken?

We can help you manage voice problems in the workplace

Rose Therapy Centre therapists offer support to employers to protect the voices of their staff.

We understand the responsibilities of employers and we can help to avoid discomfort of individuals and litigation against your company.

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 dictates that employers are required to carry out risk assessments and hence must identify hazards that arise from work, assess risks and put in controls to ensure that ill health does not result from those work activities.

Legislation also requires that employees be provided with information, instruction and training on how to do their jobs safely.

Rose Therapy Centre Services

We can support the development of risk assessments for the prevention of occupational voice loss.

  • Analysis of work design
  • Analysis of workplace design

We work with employers to develop tailored voice awareness programmes to reduce the risk of occupational voice loss.

We develop prevention initiatives to keep staff healthy.

Education and information sessions for employees

For those employees who have a formal diagnosis of dysphonia (voice disorder), following an assessment from an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist, we can offer a course of voice therapy to help colleagues back to voice health and therefore back to work.

Credentials

Rose Therapy Centre therapists have extensive experience working within the NHS and privately. Our therapists assess and treat speech and language problems in adults to support their ability to communicate. They also support people with eating, drinking and swallowing problems (dysphagia). They work closely with patients, carers and other professionals, such as care home staff, to improve a patients’ ability to communicate and maximise their quality of life.

Our Therapists are registered with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) and the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

We are also members of The Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice (ASLTIP.)

Please contact us if you would like to know more about the services Rose Therapy Centre can offer you and your care home.