9 months ago

Insulate Magazine Issue 14 - January 2018

Featuring exclusive articles, standing out from the crowd, NIA conference review, keeping everything moving and Review, Reflect and Reset the new year edition of insulation provides a kick start to 2018...

Being unable to

Being unable to communicate effectively on a building site because you are protecting yourself from detrimental noise hazards is not just a problem for workers, it also costs businesses significant amounts of money through inefficiency. Individually, small issues such as mishearing an instruction might seem like a petty annoyance, but collectively these minor errors can waste countless hours, sending productivity plummeting. The importance of Hearing Protection Equipment (HPE) While working in a noisy environment - such as in the midst of a busy construction project or on a workshop floor - workers may have to wear ear protection at all times. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005) require employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work[i]. Such protection can however limit communication which can often lead to another major problem – reduced Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) compliance. For example, using a walkie-talkie while wearing standard ear defenders is impossible, so workers are often forced to remove them. In environments where workers are in close proximity, they may be tempted to remove their ear protection if it prevents them from communicating with one another. This can expose them to dangerously loud noises, which can cause complications such as tinnitus or Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). NIHL is one of the most common health problems in loud working environments because the damage from this sort of exposure is usually gradual; a worker might not notice it, or might ignore the signs of irreversible hearing loss until they become more pronounced. 22

The only independent insulation industry trade magazine Insulate Columnist Hearing Protection and the Need for Communication Insulate Magazine columnist George Elliott, a technical specialist at science-based technology company 3M, explains the importance of choosing equipment that allows effective communication, while protecting hearing - and your bottom line Prolonged or repeated exposure to noise that is constant, but still above safe levels, can seriously impact workers’ hearing safety. Research shows that the level of effective protection offered by hearing conservation equipment is exponentially – as opposed to linearly - proportional to the total time for which the equipment is worn (see graph), highlighting the crucial importance of 100% compliance. A study by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), considering the effectiveness of hearing protectors in an everyday work situation, found that reduced audibility was a common reason given by users for not wearing hearing protection[ii]. Being unable to hear instruction and communicate properly presents other dangers too. Consider a worker whose equipment blocks out the sound of a forklift truck approaching from behind, or that of colleagues shouting at him or her to get out of the way of danger, particularly when working at height on an insulation project, for example. How to maximise efficiency while protecting your workers’ hearing The solution to maximising productivity, maintaining excellent situational awareness for the user and an increased level of compliance lies in choosing the right equipment for your workplace. The first step is to select the correct level of protection – a product that protects the wearer from workplace noise but does not leave them isolated or exposed to unnecessary and avoidable hazards. Employers can also consider investing in hearing protection that allows for easy and safe communication, using built-in electronic systems. To be of any significant use, hearing protection needs to be suitable to wear at all times whilst exposed to unsafe levels of noise. For example, ear defenders with a level-dependent function can allow the wearer to hear ambient sounds, such as conversations and warning signals, without compromising protection. Noise-cancelling microphones attached to a headset can reduce disturbance when speaking in noisy environments. Some tasks require the use of flags and hand signals, which have limitations, while products with radio connectivity also enable workers to communicate over long distances. Other options to consider include ear defenders that incorporate Bluetooth technology, linking the headset to the user’s mobile phone or communication radio. Many variations exist. The key is to pick what is right for the situation at hand. A Swedish study, by Lund University, highlighted the benefits of using such solutions. Researchers monitored two teams as they went about their daily duties, including earth excavation, laying pipes and tube-welding. One team used normal work practices and equipment, while the other wore PELTOR Brand WS LiteCom Headsets from 3M, incorporating some of the features discussed. The team using the 3M solution reduced their critical downtime by half, saving them 17 minutes in an eighthour day[iii]. By improving employee communication and collaboration, you can have a direct effect on productivity, which will help to improve your bottom line. It is also important to consider the secondary benefits; motivating staff and reducing feelings of isolation. Motivated and connected workers are happy workers - and happy workers are generally more productive and compliant. For more information about 3M and available HPE, please visit 23