Hearing protection is something not to be taken lightly as it is a Category 3 standard of protection because damage to your hearing is irreversible, so it is essential that the correct protection is used and in the correct way. If done incorrectly, it can not only cause harm to employees but also damage a business’ reputation.
How is noise measured in the workplace?
Because noise levels vary across the workplace and throughout the day, the employee’s noise exposure is calculated for an 8-hour working day. Most production areas will have a maximum noise level of about 90dB.
When is hearing protection needed?
When the noise exposure reaches 85dB, over 8 hours, this is the 2nd Action Value when hearing needs to be worn, provided it has not been possible to reduce it by other means. However, if the noise level is at 80dB then it is at a warning level. This means that you must assess the risk to workers’ health and provide them with information and training.
How to choose the correct hearing protection?
All hearing protectors have an SNR (Single Number Rating) which is calculated from its test results. The SNR is an indication of the potential protection a product will provide when fitted and worn correctly.
The ideal is to reduce the noise ‘into the ear’ to around 70dB, for example, for a workplace with noise levels at 90dB, you would need a hearing protector with an SNR of around 20dB.
The importance of fitting hearing protection correctly
Even if you are providing the correct level of hearing protection, if it is not fitted correctly it won’t give even 5dB of protection, so it is imperative that everyone is fully trained in fitting their hearing protection. Hearing protection needs to be worn at all times when exposed to the noise levels.
For help with fitting earplugs correctly, check out our blog post.
What to do for people with hearing aids
If you have someone who wears a hearing aid, they must continue to wear their hearing aid with the hearing protection. The best way of doing this is providing earmuffs (they can be electronic or passive) and ensuring that both the ear and the aid is inside.
Overall, hearing is a matter that must be taken extremely seriously as there is no reversing the damage once it is done. If you have any further questions or would like a site visit to understand your hearing protection requirements, please contact [email protected].