Noise is one of the most common occupational hazards in many workplaces. This is especially true in industrial settings, where there is often constant background noise that increases the danger of permanent hearing loss for workers. Most people think that you can permanently damage your hearing only when exposed to an extremely high level of noise, such as an explosion. Hearing damage can also occur gradually, at much lower levels of noise if you are continuously exposed to it.
The factors that contribute to hearing damage include the noise level intensity (measured in decibel units), the duration of exposure to the noise, and the type of noise: stable, fluctuating, intermittent, or impulsive. According to audiologists, the irreversible damage to hearing occurs when noise levels are higher than 85 dB. Symptoms of hearing loss include ringing in the ears, difficulty following regular conversations, or when noises seem to be muffled. Even a slight loss of hearing can prevent you from working to your full potential.
The table below shows you when it is necessary to put your hearing protection on, not just at work, but also in your personal life while performing common activities, like mowing your lawn, for example.
The acoustic perception of the reality plays a much more important role in our orientation in the environment than many people realize. Our eyes are only able to observe the area in front of us, but our ears recognize sounds coming from all directions and can alert us of the dangers. This is why hearing protection is important to keep us safe.
Measuring sound levels with a sound meter and wearing hearing protection devices are essential for your health. If a sound meter detects a noise level higher than 85 dB, the proper ear protection equipment (ear muffs, ear plugs) is required to prevent the hearing loss.
Poor fitting hearing protectors, like ear muffs, will prevent you from obtaining perfect protection for your ears. The hearing protection devices manufacturers came up with a multitude of solutions for every possible situation in a workplace. Ear-muffs can now be equipped with a headband, a behind-the-head or under-the-chin band, and a neckband, and some ear-muffs can be mounted onto hard hats and welding helmets.
Here is a great example of excellent ear muffs for the workplaces that have electrical hazards: the Thunder T3 from Bilsom ear muff is fully dielectric, i.e. made of plastic, with no metal presence. Its inner ventilated headband provides extra comfort and minimizes the pressure on the head which allows you to comfortably wear them for a longer period of time.
With an NRR 27 rating, the Peltor H7A ear muffs will protect your hearing against up to 101 decibels of external noise. Its inner fluid-filled cushion is covered with foam encased in high-quality vinyl, making these earmuffs comfortable for wearing in any environment.
The Sync Ear Muffs has industrial strength hearing protection and can be easily used with any portable music player. The experts at Howard Leight have engineered this safety set up to give you both protection and quality sound engineering. The Sync headband is an ideal solution for anyone who needs to wear hearing protection for extended periods of time, at work or at home.
Watch this video to see how these ear muffs work.
When ear muffs are worn in a hot environment, users might want to temporarily remove the ear muffs to wipe the sweat from their ears which leaves the ears unprotected. In this case, the risk of deterioration of hearing could be increased by up to nine times. In such warm environment, the solution is to use both ear plugs and ear muffs simultaneously. There are several types of ear plugs that you can choose for your application: pre-molded, custom-molded, corded, disposable or reusable.
Pre-molded ear plugs with several soft layers are designed to fit all ear canal sizes and are typically reusable. Our best sellers – Moldex BattlePlugs Dual Mode Impulse Ear Plugs – are ideal for hunters, soldiers, or workers subjected to occasional loud sounds, and provide two levels of hearing protection depending on how they are worn: with or without inner plug. The inner plug can be removed for easier communication when needed.
Polymeric foam custom-molded ear plugs are able to expand inside the ear canal to provide an excellent acoustic seal. Ear-plugs made of polymeric foam can be disposable or reusable. Moldex Pura Fit Foam Ear Plugs offer superior comfort for users: their longer length makes them easy to insert and remove, and their extra smooth surface means no complaints of skin irritation. These air plugs are disposable, so sanitation and maintenance are not necessary. You will discard them after each use. Construction workers, drillers, sewer workers, and workers who frequently use chainsaws or jackhammers prefer Pura Fit earplugs because they are comfortable for all types of hot, damp, and humid work environments.
Corded ear plugs, like the SmartFit earplug by Howard Leight, feature a detachable cord system. The poly cords provide extra safety and convenience. You can remove the cord by pulling it out of the plug and replace it back into the plug at any time.
Hopefully, this article will help you select the right solution to ensure your safety in noisy environments. For more information, call our experts today at 800-829-9580, or visit us online in order to find the best hearing protection for your application.
Every year millions of people in the US are exposed to hazardous occupational noise. The law requires employers provide their employees with a safe workplace. When the workers’ noise exposure exceeds an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels on the A scale (dBA), the employer must develop and implement a hearing conservation program, which includes noise level monitoring, annual hearing tests, and hearing protection (29 CFR 1910.95(c)). Where noise is a potential hazard, wearing earmuffs is an effective solution for minimizing exposures and reducing risk of hearing loss.
Wearing properly-fitted hearing protection is the best method of preventing occupational hearing loss. Loud noise has also been shown to reduce productivity and create psychological and physical stress. For optimal protection, use hearing protectors correctly and consistently. Make sure that your ears are well-covered by adjusting earmuff straps or headbands to fit your individual size. In choosing the right earmuffs, you should consider the work environment, the type of equipment handled, other types of PPE that you will be wearing, and the duration of use.
There are different styles of earmuffs designed for various types of work:
Headband style earmuffs are the sturdiest and best choice for frequent wear.
Leightning L1 Headband Earmuff 1010922 (NRR 25) features steel wire construction for extra durability of daily use in agriculture and farming, landscaping, sporting, steel, wood products, metal fabrication, transportation, forestry, general contracting, military and law enforcement, petrochemical and equipment manufacturing. The padded foam headband and the ear cushions provide extra comfort with minimal pressure. The patented air flow control increases protection levels without increasing the size or weight of the earmuff.
Neckband style is a behind-the-head design to be worn with other PPE, such as face shields, helmets, visors, and respirators. Here are a few examples of the best neckband earmuffs.
Howard Leight Leightning Ultraslim Neckband Earmuffs 1013460 (NRR 22) are perfect for low level noise reduction especially in the construction industry.
For compatibility with other PPE, try the high-quality Howard Leight Leightning L1H Helmet Earmuffs 1011991 (NRR 23) or Howard Leight Leightning L3H Helmet Earmuffs 1011993 (NRR 27). Both models are specifically designed to be seamlessly integrated with a wide range of hard hats and include adapters to attach the earmuffs to a hard hat.
Taking proper care of your earmuffs is important. Wipe earmuff cushions and headband with a clean cloth, and ensure that sound-attenuating material inside the ear cushions does not get wet. Also, for better care, it makes sense to check the manufacturer’s instruction manual.
If you need expert advice about the best hearing protection devices (HPDs), please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 800-829-9580, or visit us online at www.pksafety.com, and follow @PKSafetydotcom.
Landscaping is a job that many DIYers who love to work outdoors take upon themselves. There are obvious dangers to this kind of work when operating heavy automatic machinery (rototillers, mowers, weed wackers, Bobcats, tractors, trenchers, and blowers) that we will cover below. Many creative home improvement enthusiasts and even some professional contractors are unaware of the potential hazards of landscaping.
“An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure.” (Benjamin Franklin)
Be aware of hidden dangers in your work environment at all times, and be safe by following Landscaping and Horticultural Safety Guidelines and best practices provided by OSHA.
If you have questions or need help finding the right landscaping safety equipment, please feel free to call us at 800-829-9580, or visit us online at www.pksafety.com.
Measuring noise levels and employees’ noise exposure is an important part of a workplace noise control and hearing conservation program. A wide range of professional instruments can be used to measure noise levels. We carry a complete line of sound measuring devices: noise indicators, sound examiners, sound level meters, outdoor measuring systems. A noise indicator shows if the noise level is above the non-harmful 85 dB and if it is necessary to start using hearing protection such as ear plugs or ear muffs. A sound meter is a more robust device, which consists of a microphone, electronic circuits, and a display. It measures, records and processes data. To avoid noise reading alterations in windy areas, a windscreen is used to cover the microphone.
3M™ NI-100 is a durable noise-indicating device that alerts users when noise levels exceed 85dB. It is one of the most affordable noise detection options available for monitoring noise levels. Red flashing LED light indicates noise levels that are above 85 dB, green flashing LED shows noise levels below 85 dB. NI-100 is easy-to–use: clips to a shirt or a jacket, and turns on with a simple press-and-hold of a button. The unit will auto-power off after 10 hours.
3M™ Noise Indicator NI-100 is the ideal tool for Health & Safety Managers working in varied noise environments: it helps training workers within a Hearing Conservation Program to spot hazardous noise levels, to ensure that they know when to put on the hearing protection, or as a mapping tool to determine where noise studies are necessary.
According to the international ANSI and IEC standards, the type/class of a sound level meter is defined by its accuracy: type 1 is more accurate than type 2.
Differences Between Models:
1. Type of Microphone
2. Intrinsic Safety(IS)
Intrinsic safety is covered under OSHA Regulations (Standards – 29 CFR), Hazardous (classified) locations 1910.307 and 1926.407.
3M™ Sound Examiner™ SE-401-IS
3M Sound Examiner SE-401-IS is a high-quality user-friendly instrument engineered to be used in potentially hazardous work environments: pharmaceutical, automotive, transportation, metal production, military maintenance, repair and operation, manufacturing, mining, oil and gas industries.
The benefit of 3M Sound Examiner SE-401-IS is that it offers intuitive interface which does not require training and is certified intrinsically safe. The averaging functionality allows for easy measurement in various environments. Other important advantages of using this meter include a large backlit display and remote printing capabilities.
3M™ Sound Examiner™ SE-402-IS
The 3M Sound Examiner Sound Level Meter SE-402-IS is an intrinsically safe meter engineered to accurately measure noise levels in highly variable environments. This easy-to-use instrument calculates the average sound pressure level (LEQ/LAVG) over the run time; data log the maximum, minimum and peak values, and enables data to be downloaded for further analysis.
Manual: 3M SE-402-IS User Manual
3M™ Sound Examiner™ SE-402-R
The 3M Sound Examiner SE-402-R is a versatile compact meter with accurate sound measurement and intuitive analysis capabilities. The tool computes the average sound pressure level (LEQ/LAVG) over the run time, helping to assess occupational and environmental noise levels. The aerodynamic shape, removable preamp, onboard data logging, and SoundPatrol portable digital printing functionalities ensure the improvement in operating efficiency and reporting in acoustics, heat stress, and environment monitoring.
Brochure: The 3M SoundPro System
The 3M™ SoundPro™ DL Series Sound Level Meter SP-DL-1-1/3
The 3M SoundPro DL Series Sound Level Meter SP-DL-1-1/3 provides Class 1 sound level monitoring and comprehensive data analysis. With real-time frequency analysis displayed on its large screen display and data storing capabilities, it’s easy to use to post-process and evaluate workplace noise levels. Applications include occupational noise evaluations, environmental noise assessments, noise ordinance enforcement and legal metrology, general sound and frequency analysis, vehicle noise evaluations.
Manual: SoundPro User Manual
The 3M™ SoundPro™ DL Series Sound Level Meter SP-DL-2-1/3
The 3M SoundPro DL Series Sound Level Meter SP-DL-2-1/3 provides Class 2 sound level monitoring and comprehensive data analysis. With real-time frequency analysis displayed on its large screen display and data storing capabilities, it’s easy to use to post-process and evaluate workplace noise levels.
The 3M™ SoundPro™ Outdoor Measuring System (OMS)
The SoundPro Outdoor Measuring System (OMS) helps protect the instrument from exposure to wind, rain, snow, chemicals, particulates, animals, vandalism and theft. It is also used for extended battery life with up to one week of continuous monitoring. Outdoor measuring system (OMS) allows for unattended sound level meter monitoring. Design allows for the case to be padlocked. It does not include the SoundPro series meter. The outdoor measurement system should be stored in a cool dry location with the lid closed whenever possible. The OMS is only for the Sound Pro type 1 or type 2, due to how it plugs in. It won’t work on the SE-402 or SE-401 but might work on the SE-402-R.
Outdoor System Includes:
Average adults spend over 10.3 years (90,000 hours) at work in their lifetime. People’s ears have different levels of sensitivity to loud sounds, especially at certain frequencies. Noise is one of the most common occupational hazards in workplaces: it causes hearing loss, creates stress, and contributes to work-related accidents. In industrial settings, where there is a constant background noise in addition to impulse noise, the danger of losing hearing increases. Most experts believe that damage to hearing occurs when noise levels are higher than 85 dB. That is why measuring sound levels at a workplace is essential!
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides annual statistics for occupational injuries. Three private sector industries had more than 100,000 days-away-from-work incidents in 2014: health care, manufacturing, and retail. What occupations are in the list of the most dangerous professions? Police, patrol and correctional officers, firefighters, nursing assistants, construction workers, and tractor/trailer/truck drivers. They lead in the number of work-related injuries: the incidence rate per 10,000 full-time workers in 2014 was more than 300, and the number of cases with days-away-from-work was more than 10,000. The hearing loss represented 12% of all cases submitted in 2012 through the survey of occupational injuries and illnesses.
Some sound measurement apps for smartphones (for example, SPLnFFT, Noise Hunter, NoiSee) claim to revolutionize the noise level data collection and empowering people to make educated decisions about the safety of their environments. However, although they can be used to make a quick spot measurement when a sound meter is not available, they do not meet the criteria for accuracy, necessary for the occupational noise assessments.
Noise control requires knowledge of the relationships between the sound field, the sound pressure, and the sound power. In professional environments, sound level measurements are performed using type 1 or type 2 meters. The 29 CFR 1910.95 OSHA noise standards consider type 2 instruments to have an accuracy of ±2 dBA. To be compliant with the US occupational and environmental noise requirements, meters used to measure sound level at a workplace must meet ANSI type 2 specifications. The difference between the two meters lies in the microphone precision level. Type 1 can be safely used for outdoor noise monitoring due to the sensitivity of the microphone capsule, for example, in legal metronomy, when data is collected as evidence. Type 2 microphone works best for monitoring noise exposures for occupational hearing conservation programs and for basic acoustic measurements.
Several types of instruments are available to measure noise levels at a workplace:
Sound level meters are capable of measuring the following:
For most work environments, an integrating sound level meter that measures sound energy over a period of time is essential. If your workplace has harmful noise levels, plan ahead and wear hearing protection. PK Safety recommends wearing ear plugs and ear muffs as a preventive measure against hearing damage at work.
Every year, approximately 30 million people in the United States are occupationally exposed to hazardous levels of noise according to OSHA. Since 2004, the Bureau of Labour Statistics has reported nearly 125,000 workers have suffered significant, permanent hearing loss. Surgery and hearing aids can only help with hearing loss, not correct it.
OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 90 dBA for all workers for an 8 hour day. For each additional 5 dBA, the exposure time is cut in half. NIOSH identified construction, healthcare, and mining, as industries where employees are routinely at risk for noise exposure. Signs that your work environment may be too noisy include:
Avoid permanent hearing loss by protecting yourself on the job or in hazardous environments.
Which hearing protector is right for me?
The choice of hearing protectors is a personal one. When choosing, it’s advisable to consider: level of noise, comfort, and fit for the environment. Manufacturers often provide a noise reduction rating (NRR) or the ability of a hearing protector to reduce noise. NIOSH recommends using fit data based on ANSI S12.6-1997 to determine the level of noise protection provided by a hearing protector. In lieu of fit data, NRRs can be adjusted (derated) to determine the noise reduction provided. For ear muffs subtract 25% from NRR, for formable earplugs subtract 50% from NRR, and for other earplugs subtract 70% from NRR.
When the noise exposure level in dBC is known, the effective A-weighted noise level (ENL) is: ENL [dB(A)] = Workplace noise level in dBC – derated NRR. When the noise exposure level in dB(A ) is known, the effective A-weighted noise level is: ENL = Workplace noise level in dB(A) – (derated NRR -7).
Common Types of Hearing Protection
Ear plugs: When inserted, they block the ear canal. Small, comfortable and convenient. They can require time to insert and remove and hygiene must be considered if being reused. Ear plugs come in a range from basic to premium. One of our customers raves about the Moldex BattlePlugs Shooting Ear Plugs saying “I’m a Roller Derby referee and I am constantly blasting a fox 40 whistle as well as other refs. Those whistles hit 115-125 decibels which can damage an unprotected eardrum. Used these at the last game and not a single problem.”
Ear muffs: A headband with two cushions that fit over the ear, reducing noise. Ideal for intermittent noise as little effort is required to take on and off. They reduce noise less than ear plugs. They can be worn with minor ear infections. Ear muffs are less portable and can be inconvenient with glasses or in confined spaces. A PK Safety company favorite are the Howard Leight Sync Stereo Earmuffs because they double as headphones in addition to providing hearing protection.
Hearing bands: A band consisting of two ear plugs held over the ends of the ear canal. The band may help the plugs stay in their intended place longer. Hearing bands are susceptible to breaking if sat on or placed underneath other objects. One hearing band to consider is the Howard Leight QB1HYG Hearing Band Ear Plugs. The sporty design ensures they wrap around your ears and stay in place while working. Hearing bands such as these are also nice because the ear plugs are replaceable while the band is reusable.
Be aware that removing ear plugs temporarily in a high noise environment reduces the maximum hearing protection provided. When you’re all finished, clean your hearing protector based on manufacturer instructions in order to keep it hygienic and ready to use next time. The effects of hearing loss can be profound, as hearing loss can interfere with your ability to enjoy socializing with friends, playing with your children or grandchildren, or participating in other social activities you enjoy, and can lead to psychological and social isolation. We at PK Safety hope you will consider hearing protection the next time your workers or you are exposed to occupational noise.
The Moldex Battleplugs are a new type of reusable earplug. These patented, baffled hearing protection devices have two modes which provide completely different noise reduction ratings. A small hinge on the outside part of the earplug allows a cap to be either open or closed depending on the expected noise level.
If the caps are closed, the Battleplugs have a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 24. In the open position, they have an NRR of 9. When the caps are open, the wearer is still protected against loud blasts, but they are better able to hear commands or noises from the surrounding area. Blast protection data shows that in the open position, the louder the blast, the more noise reduction.
When there is going to be continuous and steady noise or sustained firing, the closed position provides maximum protection. Opening and closing the cap may take you a couple of tries to get down, but the learning curve is definitely short. Within an hour of wearing them, I was easily switching between positions without jarring the plugs loose from their snug spot in my ears.
The shape of these earplugs and their soft flexible construction make them comfortable for long-term wear. While they aren’t as lightweight as the standard, and very popular, Moldex Pura-Fit 6800 Foam Earplugs they still fit well and can be left in and forgotten about for a long time without developing sensitivity.
The Battleplugs are also washable and reusable. Wash with soap and water and dry thoroughly. When cleaning it’s a good idea to check for tears or damage. A damaged plug may not provide the protection you think you are getting, and you may put your hearing at risk.
These convertible plugs come with a cord to attach and keep track of the earplugs while keeping them handy as well as a small clam shell case for storage when they are not in use.