The Australian manufacturing industry contributes around 100 billion AUD to its GDP annually, with over 900,000 employees working on the ground. With the advancement in safety and protocol propagated in the workplace, many factories might focus on the obvious, head-on safety hazards like uneven surfaces, dangerous falls and sharp machinery. But, workers in the manufacturing industry or those who work in a factory know the plangent sounds of alarms, sirens, tools and heavy machinery. They make blasting noises when they run, increasing the chances of getting the eardrums of workers affected. Hearing protection gear like earmuffs, earplugs are essential to protect the health and safety of workers from developing permanent damage and hearing loss.
When Do Factory Workers Require Hearing Protection
Most industrial noises are less than 95 dBA. Any workplace with a noise exceeding 85 decibels requires the employees to wear a hearing protector. By using ear protection devices, they would be reducing the risk of developing hearing loss over time. Most commonly available hearing protectors protect those levels. Any place with louder environments demands a higher level of noise reduction. Worksite characteristics are the next thing to consider. For example, do the employees have to wear a PPE or other accessories that interfere with the earmuff seal? Factories must consider those factors and buy earmuffs with low-profile headbands mounted onto a hardhat or a helmet to eliminate the problem.
Types of Hearing Protectors
An estimated 16% of employees in the automotive industry in Australia have claimed noise-induced hearing loss, according to Safe Work Australia. There are different types of hearing protectors available in the market which have their advantages for such workers.
They work by inserting directly into the ear canals of a person. Therefore, they not only help workers protect their ears against damaging noise levels, but they also help with stopping the wind, water and other intrusive foreign objects from getting inside their ears. They are often made of economical materials like foam and are usually disposable. Earplugs are affordable and protect places with loud noises. Different types of earplugs protect by blocking sounds of different intensities and frequencies.
These are also known as ear defenders, as they are designed to protect the ears in the form of headsets. They cover the ears with plastic-coated, sturdy cushions attached to a headband or sometimes to a hard helmet or a hat. This hearing protector is easier to wear and remove than earplugs. They also have thermal insulation features to protect the ears in cold environments.
But one must be aware of reducing too much sound. Just as too little can affect a person’s vision and, hence their work, too little sound due to overprotection can make them less aware of the surroundings.
Tips to Maintain Hearing Protection Devices
As earplugs and earmuffs are used every day by workers, they are prone to wear and tear. These are some tips they can use to maintain such devices to help them last longer.
- Check the protectors for wear and tear often and clean them regularly.
- Replace the cushions of the earmuffs or the plugs that are no longer flexible.
- Replace the headbands if they don’t keep the cushions in place, protecting the ear.
- Wash them with mild detergent and warm water, and rinse them with cool and clean water to remove dirt without affecting the sound attenuating material.
- Use a soft brush to remove the dirt, skin and oil that might harden the cushions.
- Air dry them after every use and wash.