Pardon the pun but many of you will probably not have heard that this week, Monday 2nd May to Sunday 8th May 2011, is Deaf Awareness Week. The UK Council on deafness is coordinating with a raft of organizations concerned with the welfare of the deaf and hard of hearing with the main objective of improving understanding of the different types of deafness and the many different methods of communication with the “hearing impaired”. Personally I dislike this term intensely – it is up there with those other patronizing politically correct pseudonyms “physically impaired” and “vertically challenged”.
This gripe apart, I note that to support this Awareness Campaign local Fire and Rescue services across the country are holding special events to educate business managers, homeowners and care organizations on the fire safety options available for safeguarding the deaf.
It is estimated that approaching one million adults in the UK with hearing difficulties would be unable to hear a standard optical or ion smoke detector and alarm and the tendency for the deaf to remove hearing aids before they retire at night only exacerbates the problem.
A range of fire alarms designed specifically for the deaf are available including the innovative Deafgard that combines a vibration pad for use at night that goes under the pillow and a high intensity strobe light for daytime alerts. It is also completely portable and employs wireless technology.
The Deafgard complies with British Standard BS5446-3:2005 and amendments which specifies the requirements for smoke alarm kits for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Of course there are many situations when any of us could be effectively rendered deaf by accident or circumstance. On Building sites, engineering works, road works and industrial process plants the background noise of heavy equipment, vehicles and cutting tools can generate a background noise that may easily drown out an audible alarm. Indeed to comply with Health and Safety legislation many workers are obliged to wear ear protectors in such environments.
A solution here is the Howler range of site alarms. They are completely portable so can be moved from site to site and are capable of multi linking with other howler alarms to protect a whole site. The range includes the Howler HO1 with a high powered strobe light.
The serious point that employers should be aware of is that you have a mandatory responsibility to ensure provision is made in your fire safety plan for the protection of the deaf, blind and otherwise disabled employee or visitor. Disregard it at your peril.