When it comes to choosing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for your employees, there are several types of hearing protection devices available. From disposable earplugs to custom earplugs to earmuffs, which is the right choice to ensure your workers are protected 100% of the time they are exposed to dangerous noise?
Before selecting and implementing a hearing protection solution in your organization, it is essential to:
- Determine the levels of noise at various workstations throughout your facility, plant or worksite
- Determine the needs of your employees on the job
- Ask your employees their preferences and involve them in the decision process
- Educate employees on the proper use of the equipment
- Communicate the importance of using hearing protectors and get employee buy-in
Communication in a noisy environment
To protect against Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (ONIHL), your employees must wear their hearing protectors at all times they are working in an environment with high noise levels. For this to be possible, the devices must fit perfectly, be comfortable and allow workers to hear each other without having to remove their earplugs. The more the protection is worn, the lower the risk of workers suffering hearing loss.
As an example, in the utilities industry, technicians should be able to exchange information on the job, even while there are high levels of background noise. To work together efficiently and stay safe, co-workers need to have clear communication at all times.
Protection from other workplace hazards
Protecting the hearing of your employees should not put them in a danger of being injured by other workplace risks. They must be able to hear what is happening in their surroundings at all times and be able to identify warning signs to avoid accidents or injuries.
This is the case in the warehouse of a manufacturing facility where workers must be able hear moving carts and passing forklifts to remain safe.
Meet the specific needs of the business sector
Different industries have specific requirements for hearing protection. In the case of the food industry, they require that earplugs be blue to be easily identifiable (there is no blue food!) and include an electro magnetic bead and cord that can be attached to the worker’s clothing to avoid loss. The bead is inserted so the machinery is able to detect the metal components and halt the line.
In any work environment there are numerous work stations and each presents its own unique safety challenges. On an auto assembly line, each job has a different level of noise, and the hearing conservation solution should offer the flexibility to protect against varying decibels when the employees are required to work at different stations.
Sometimes a job also has technological constraints. It is essential to take these into account when choosing the earplugs for your employees so they are able to wear them the entire time they are exposed to noise.
On construction sites or other environments where workers need to communicate via walkie-talkie or telephone, the hearing protectors need to be compatible with these devices.
When considering all these requirements, it is best to carry out an internal audit of your workplace and employee needs. You can begin by reading the blog “How Satisfied Are Your Employees with Their Hearing Protection”.
Be sure to download the hearing protection questionnaire and distribute it to your team. Their answers will help you determine the effectiveness of your current hearing protectors and identify options that may be more suitable for your workers.