A form of personal protective equipment that workers in the construction industry need to be aware of are personal hearing protectors.
Our hearing is something that we often take for granted despite the fact that it has implications for almost every aspect of our lives including how we make a living.
The final control measure that can be implemented to control noise is hearing protection but never the less it is still a valuable method of protecting one’s hearing on site.
Experts suggest a combination of more than one control in coordination to achieve the best results. These hearing protectors should be final resort when the higher level control measures are not effective enough to reduce the noise exposure. They may also be used as an interim measure while engineering controls are being investigated. These hearing protectors should be stored in a clean and secure storage area. Hearing protection that can be implemented includes earmuffs, earplugs or ear canal caps.
On a construction site, hearing protection is an important issue because there are a variety of different hazards that pose a threat to worker’s hearing including work processes, machinery and equipment. There also a variety of different types of hearing protectors, coming in all shapes and styles, choosing the right ones for the situation is vital.
Hearing protection should be carefully selected with full regard to the work environment in which they are to be used, the requirements of the job. Our own personal preference is also a factor in choosing hearing protection as long as this does not interfere with protection needs.
Hearing protectors should be provided by the employer, free of charge. In addition to providing this hearing protection, the employer must also ensure workers are aware of how to correctly utilise, store, maintain all PPE by providing them with the necessary training.
The following are some of the options of hearing protection that construction workers have at their disposal, this list however is not exhaustive, merely a suggestion of some of the options,
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Earmuffs like the ones pictured above completely enclose the ear with a hollow cup which is internally insulated and fitted with sound absorbent foam.
In some noise environments with impulsive type noise, e.g. with the firing of nail guns, manufacture of pressure vessels or drop forging, it may be necessary to use both earplugs and earmuffs to achieve adequate protection against noise-induced hearing loss.
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Earplugs need to be kept clean and replaced regularly and as necessary. Individually-moulded plugs are more effective, more hygienic and more comfortable than foam plugs and they fit better than earmuffs with other safety gear (hard hats, goggles).
When earplugs are worn correctly, the wearer should not experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or hearing loss after noise exposure. If either of these symptoms are experienced, the fit or the amount of protection is inadequate and an appointment should be made with the audiologist.