If you've ever worked in the construction industry, then you know how important safety is. You of all people should be aware that these types of environments contain lots of heavy machinery, meaning that you should always be aware of your surroundings. But how much thought have you given to safety when it comes to your hearing? Do you wear ear protection? And if you do, does that hearing protection fit you properly?
Let's take a moment to discuss the reasons why you need industrial hearing protection; why it's important to wear ear protection that fits you properly; the different types of ear protection; how the fit differs from one person to the next and how to maintain your protection.
But first, let's discuss noise regulations, legislation and standards.
Noise Regulations, Legislation and Standards
In general, all employers are responsible for providing a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards, which could cause death or serious physical harm to employees. Noise is considered to be a common hazard. For this reason the OSHA (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration) specifically addresses noise and hearing conservation standards. There are certain procedures that a company is expected to follow on a daily basis when it concerns noise levels.
For instance, if the company's employees are consistently exposed to noise levels of 85 decibels or more during their shifts, the company is required to implement a hearing conservation program and provide protection at no cost to the worker. They must also offer hearing tests to measure for hearing declines, as well as file a report if the decline is over 10 decibels.
If the noise level in the workplace happens to exceed 90 decibels, then the OSHA implements even stricter regulations. The company must redesign the workplace, so as to minimize the noise as much as possible. If employers fail to abide by these standards and legislation, they could be penalized as much as $70,000, with $7,000 added for each day that the unsafe working conditions persists.
Reasons Why Ear Protection Is Needed In The Construction Industry
So why are these regulations so strict? Why does OSHA go to such lengths to ensure that employers maintain their noise and hearing standards? Well, it turns out that the ears are much more sensitive than most people assume. In fact, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, occupational noise-induced hearing loss is one of the top ten leading work-related risks and injuries.
You see, whenever there is prolonged exposure to hazardous sound levels spanning across the period of years, this can lead to permanent and irreversible damage. The time can even be shortened if the sound levels are high enough. The worker may never even notice the impairment until after the loss becomes substantial. Not only can this negatively influence the person's quality of life, but it can also lead to more accidents in the workplace.
The Importance Of Ear Protection That Fits
Poorly fitted earplugs are a huge cause of inadequate protection for workers. This is because wearing them poorly is the same as not wearing them at all.
For this reason it is extremely important that you not only wear your earplugs, but that you wear them correctly. Therefore, you need to be aware of the different types of ear protection that are available, as well as test them out to see what a good fit feels and sounds like.
Different Types Of Ear Protection
There are several different types of ear protection. Each has it's own distinct qualities, advantages and disadvantages. For example, foam earplug easily conform to the ear canal and are inexpensive. However, they can irritate the ear if they are not regularly changed out each day.
Wax balls are ear plugs that completely seal off your hearing, giving the wearer a sensation of being completely closed off from the environment. Though they can cost more than the foam, they are also disposable.
Earmuffs fit over the ears instead of inside. They can be clicked into place beneath helmets. Silicon plugs look similar to foam, but they do not cover the ear canal. Instead they cover your auditory canal, as would earmuffs. The best type depends on personal preference, and what's most comfortable for you.
How The Fit Differs From Person To Person
It's important to remember that one size does not fit all because everyone is different. The ear canal is what connects the inner ear to the outside world. These canals are lined with skin that possesses sweat glands, hair follicles and wax-producing glands. Many people can develop ear canal pain, or even itching due to inflammation. So some people may experience discomfort if they use ear protection that fits inside the ear. This is why it's imperative that you try different styles to see which is most comfortable.
No matter what style you choose, your employer is obligated to accommodate each individual with what they need as an individual.
How To Maintain Your Ear Protection
If you would like for your ear protection to last for a long time and remain sanitary, then there are a few housekeeping details that you must be aware of. First, you should regularly check your industrial hearing protection for wear and tear. If you notice that they are losing their cushion, are no longer pliable or the headband is beginning to stretch, then they need to be replaced.
You should also do your best to keep them as clean as possible. If you have muffs, then take them apart and gently wash them with mild liquid soap. And then rinse them in clean, warm water. Just make sure that the sound-attenuating material inside does not come into contain with the water. However, you can use a small, soft brush to remove any dirt or oil that could possibly harden the material. When finished, remove all moisture from your ear protection and reassemble them.
As you can see, having the proper hearing protection can make a huge difference in your life. And thanks to rules, regulations and legislation, employers are responsible for ensuring that you get the equipment that you need. The key is to make sure that you get the right fit and always wear them when you're on the construction site.