Workplace Solutions Hearing protection Noise Personal protective equipment Workplace exposures

Hearing protection compliance

How can equipment selection encourage hearing protection compliance?

Photo: isoTunes

Responding is Pete Murphy, president, Haven Technologies Inc. – maker of ISOtunes-branded products, Carmel, IN.

When it comes to workplace safety, there are many factors to consider to ensure employees are meeting and complying with industry standards and regulations. Although trade professionals are trained on specific safety and health guidelines that align with their respective professions, the majority have adopted the same standards of safety equipment: safety goggles, steel-toe shoes, gloves, etc.

These are all important measures. However, one of the most crucial pieces of safety equipment workers should wear daily is hearing protection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance, hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition among adults, with about 12% of the working population experiencing hearing difficulties. Of these individuals, nearly one-fourth suffer from hearing difficulty caused by workplace exposures. CDC considers noise hazardous when it reaches 85 decibels or higher. So, roughly 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise each year.

Fortunately, hearing protection has come a long way in recent years, with new technology and customizable options on the market. Managers can now select gear to best suit their employees’ environments and further compliance in the workplace.

When it comes to selecting hearing protection, products must have the correct noise reduction rating – a unit of measurement that determines the effectiveness of hearing protection devices to decrease sound exposure within a working environment. Hearing protectors are classified by their potential to reduce noise in decibels and must be tested by the American National Standards Institute standard to be OSHA compliant.

Functionality is key for encouraging employee compliance. A variety of products on the market use different technologies to protect users’ hearing. Some feature noise-isolation technology that functions best when workers are in consistently loud environments. There also is situational-awareness technology that uses precise impulse filtration to block only harmful levels of noise while allowing workers to still hear the environment around them. This type of hearing protection functions best in environments where workers need hearing protection but also need to be able to hear warning signals or other team members. Workers wear earplugs or earmuffs for the majority of the workday, or for extended periods of time, so it’s imperative to choose a device that aligns with the environment and doesn’t cause interruptions to the workflow.

Additionally, employers can further workplace compliance by considering the multifunctionality of safety headphones that allow for everyday use. Customizable features include comfort and fit; style options (earmuffs, earplug or semi-aural/banded); Bluetooth technology (for music and phone calls); background noise-isolating microphone; and water-, sweat- and dust-resistant ratings.

By selecting innovative hearing protection that is best suited to your employees’ specific work environments, you’ll not only move one step closer to full compliance, but also reduce workers’ chances of permanent hearing loss.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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