5 Ways to Support Deaf Employees in Construction

Victoria Williams

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1 in 12 people in the workforce are either deaf or have a hearing loss.

In this article we will explore 5 ways to support deaf employees in the Construction industry.

We will start by helping you to identify colleagues who are deaf or have a hearing loss, and then guide you through the measures you can put in place to create a safe and inclusive working environment.

Deafness is a hidden disability, so unless someone is wearing a hearing aid or using sign language, it is very difficult to spot.

2 million people in the UK wear hearing aids, and 6.7 million could benefit from wearing them.

In addition to the fact that deafness is a hidden disability, 54% of employees with a hearing loss are reluctant to tell their employer.

Within the construction industry, risk has to be managed and mitigated and if you don’t know that you have a deaf colleague, this creates potential risk.

We will now share five ways you can support deaf employees in your business.

 

1. Disclosing Deafness

As you have just discovered, over half of those with a hearing loss do not disclose this to their employer.

Many deaf people feel that if they disclose a hearing loss, this will affect their job. 

And of course, in this industry, some people will be affected by work related hearing loss.

So, for you to put measures in place, you first need to know who your deaf employees are.

This will require you understanding who in your current workforce is deaf or has a hearing loss and building in disclosure opportunities to your recruitment process and employee experience.

The best way to find this out initially is through employee surveys or having a general conversation with employees on sites to find out how they are getting on in the working environment and if any changes need to be made. 

 

Here are some example questions you could ask your teams:

How can we make your working life at YOUR COMPANY NAME the best it can be?

Is there anything we can do/put in place to help you at work?

You will see in these questions, that we are not asking directly if someone has a disability, instead we are asking about their experience in the workplace.

The next step will be for you to identify the different touchpoints in the employee journey/s and incorporate similar questions, as well as looking at how you can include these in your recruitment process.

This is offering your teams multiple opportunities to start a conversation with you.

 

2. Work related hearing loss

There is a high risk of noise induced hearing loss in your industry, so it is vital that hearing protection is readily available within all work areas.

Health and Safety is the responsibility of all, so building knowledge in teams about these risks in channels such as “toolbox talks” will help empower individuals.

For deaf employees, you will need to make sure any guidance is accessible.
More guidance provided in point 4.

 

3. Mitigating the risks

Once you have identified those in your business who are deaf or have a hearing loss, it is time to assess their working environment to identify any risks that need mitigating.

A good start would be to do a site walkthrough with the employee, asking questions about how they experience the different aspects of the role.

This will give relevant insights into what they perceive to be the areas of focus.

Bring this together with internal risk assessment processes, and you will be creating a much safer working environment for your teams. 

4. Reasonable adjustments

For a deaf employee, a reasonable adjustment could be providing a Communication Professional to enable access. 

Click here to take a look at another one of our articles that shares the different types of Communication Professionals.

A reasonable adjustment could be ensuring you provide a BSL Interpreter, or an Electronic Notetaker to produce live captions in a remote team meeting so that the content of the meeting can be followed.

It may also be making a change to a particular activity so that your colleague can undertake this.

It is the duty of the employer to make a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010.

5. An Inclusive Team

To create an effective and cohesive team, it really helps if colleagues understand each other’s needs.

This is where Deaf Awareness Training comes in.

The biggest barrier that deaf people face is access to communication.

Imagine turning up to the office, and a group of your colleagues are talking across their desk and smiling and laughing.  It would be very isolating if you had no idea what they are talking about.

This is the experience that deaf people face every day.

Deaf Awareness Training is the perfect solution to give your teams confidence in communicating with deaf colleagues and deaf customers.

 

Where we have seen this work

The team at Clancy needed our support with a team member with hearing loss.  They were looking for support with purchasing specialised hearing aids and enabling him to carry out his role successfully.

WHY:

Support to enable employees with hearing loss to find a suitable role within the business. 

WHAT:

Review of their existing deaf customer and employee experience and identification of key areas of improvement along with detailed instructions on how to make these improvements.

OUTCOME:

Employee is now within a suitable role and feels well supported by the business.  Internal awareness and advocacy of the needs of employees who are deaf or have a hearing loss.

The benefit to us as a company is that we can continue to keep this valued member of our team in his role. He has been with us a long time and as a family firm, we value long service. It’s key to us that each individual team member understands how valued they are.
After almost a year of support from terptree, I have nothing but glowing praise for them. It is not just the employees who have benefited – I have too and I feel Clancy is always treated like a valued customer.

Michael Ford, Regional People Advisor, Clancy
Victoria Williams

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