Safety and Use of Personal Headsets in the Workplace

Don't compromise safety for privacy; wear personal headsets responsibly.
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Whether it’s to drown out your chatty cube mate or to get your groove on to increase work productivity, wearing personal headsets in the office can seem like a harmless way to block out distractions, but they can also be a safety concern. Being conscious of possible hazards while you’re plugged in can help you maximize your workplace privacy while you minimize your risks.

Know Office Policy

First things first, does your office even allow employees to wear personal headset devices in the workplace? While you may feel it’s necessary to concentrate on the task at hand, your boss may see it as a distraction and a disinterest in being part of a team. So before you pop on the personal headgear, review your company’s policy.

Fire, Fire, Fire!

While your latest music discovery surges through your earbuds, a three-alarm fire is happening in the office building next door, and you have no idea there is a mandatory evacuation because…you can’t hear the alarm! Keep yourself safe by leaving one earbud out. A mono listening experience beats getting left behind in a towering inferno any day.

Don't Jam and Walk at the Same Time

You wouldn't wear a headset while driving would you (some of you, don’t answer that)? When you walk down the hall with your music device and earbuds securely locked in place, it interferes with your ability to hear office carts, overhead pages or oncoming coworkers approaching. "The tempo can interfere with the rate at which your brain perceives images that are passing by you, which could trip you up," says Diana Deutsch, a Ph.D. psychologist from the University of California at San Diego. So make it a habit; as soon as you get up from your desk, press pause.

Hear, Hear

Decibels, decibels, decibels. Pay attention to them. Listening to loud music through earbuds on a personal listening device could cause long-term hearing loss. In a recent Time magazine article, Brian Fligor, the director of diagnostic audiology at Children's Hospital Boston, recommends people invest in better earphones that block background noise. "You are more likely to listen at a lower volume with earbuds other than stock," Fligor says. Another thought: if your cube mate can sing along with the tune you’re groovin’ too, maybe you should turn it down a bit. Beyoncé would be bummed if you lost your hearing because of her music.

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