MOD wastes money on useless ear plugs

A recent survey of government departments has revealed the avoidable spending for the last year. This is made up of expenditures incurred by the government which were found to be wasteful or not needed.

Avoidable losses included £49million spent by the Department of Health to exchange out of date Tamiflu vaccines bought in case of an avian flu outbreak. A further £1.2million was lost by the Department of Education after a school sent payment to the wrong bank account.

The government’s wasted spending for the last year totals over £5billion and the greatest offender was found to be the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

The MOD wrote off £3.1billion in avoidable, wasted expenses. Amongst this was a £4million loss when Sea King helicopters were withdrawn early and £7.2million that was spent on a mobile mine detection system that didn’t actually work. Perhaps the most worrying waste reported by the Ministry of Defence is the £6million spent on ear plugs which could not be used.

10,000 pairs of high tech earplugs were purchased by the department and these were individually moulded to fit soldiers’ ears at a cost of £500 per pair. The design was supposed to allow soldiers to communicate on the battlefield, whilst protecting them from the noise of explosions and gunfire.

It is extremely important that anyone working in a loud environment, where you have to raise your voice or shout to be heard, wears suitable hearing protection. Exposure to loud noise can permanently damage hearing and can cause tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing noise which can be constant or intermittent and can be very difficult to live with.

Hearing protection should be provided to workers when the noise levels are such that employees have to raise their voice or shout to be heard when communicating with colleagues working just a couple of feet away.

Whilst the earplugs purchased by the MOD had been tested in theatre prior to widespread use, the department has confirmed that “during the constant rhythm of operations it became clear they required modification.”

In addition to the unsuitability of earplugs for active operations, some soldiers have reported that due to the cost of the hearing protection they were advised to leave them in camp in case they were lost.

On top of the £6million spent out on unsuitable hearing protection, the MOD reportedly paid out £374,000 in compensation for noise induced hearing loss. Had they provided sufficient hearing protection in the first place, this could have been avoided.

Noise induced hearing loss is the only avoidable form of deafness. It is solely caused by exposure to noise, be it one very loud event such as an explosion or, prolonged exposure to loud noise such as working in a noisy factory.

Since 1963 employers should been aware of the dangers of being exposed to loud noise and the irreversible damage it can cause to hearing and should have provided suitable hearing protection and enforced its use. Even today, many workers are not properly trained on the potential damage noise can cause to their hearing and it is often not until later in life, when age related hearing loss begins, that the effects of previous noise damage are felt.

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