Who doesn’t know a man or woman who has become deaf because he or she has not protected his or her hearing at work? Yes, they say, there is not a lot of noise in their workplaces. In fact, they have become deaf over the years.
The role of hearing protection is indeed to reduce the perceived noise level in the ear either to protect against the risks of deafness or to improve comfort (sleep, concentration). But there are also other goals that are often forgotten. Hearing protection can also aim to prevent water from entering the ear canal. You may also want to rebalance the pressure between the middle ear and the outside during air travel. As you can see, there are many situations in life or work that can affect everyone’s hearing ability.
It is rare that we use the term “hearing protection.” The terms “plugs” and “muff” are also terms used in our legislation in Quebec.
All pieces of personal protective equipment are designed to be used to cope with specific conditions and combinations of exposures. They must therefore never be adapted, transformed or modified to be used for purposes other than those for which they were intended.
The (R.S.S.T.) Regulations refer to mandatory corrective measures that must be followed by the employer and indeed all workers. Indeed, in section 136, it states the following:
136. Corrective measures and personal protective equipment: The employer must comply with the standards set out in sections 131 to 135 by implementing the measures set out below in the following order:
(1) reduce noise at the source;
(2) isolating any work station exposed to such noise;
(3) soundproofing the work premises.
Where it proves impossible, in applying the measures provided for in the first paragraph, to comply with the standards provided for in sections 131 to 135 or until the transformations required by that paragraph are carried out, the employer must make hearing protectors available to the workers or must limit the time of exposure of the workers in conjunction with an audiometric program.
The measures provided for in the first paragraph must be implemented even if the employer does not thereby succeed in complying with the standards provided for in sections 131 to 135.
137. Hearing protectors: Any hearing protector provided to a worker in accordance with the second paragraph of section 136 must attenuate noise so that the worker is no longer exposed to noise that exceeds the standards set out in sections 131 to 135.
Such hearing protectors must comply with the Hearing Protection Standard, CSA Z94.2-1974.
They must also be disinfected before being used by another worker, except in an emergency.
138. Signage: Where a worker is exposed to noise that exceeds the standards set out in sections 131 to 135, a sign indicating that hearing protection must be worn shall be posted near the workstation or in the room where the worker is located. If the sign contains characters, the characters must be at least 30 mm high.
The legislator, through this regulation, wishes to reduce all risks of damage to the hearing of all persons in the presence of noise exceeding the standards. There are many advantages to such a regulation:
Here are some of the advantages mentioned by companies:
1. Ensures the preservation of hearing faculties and reduces the number of workers suffering from occupational deafness as well as the degree of severity of hearing loss;
2. Reduces the risk of accidents as alarms, horns, equipment breakdowns and conversations are easier to perceive and distinguish;
3. Provides a less aggressive and less stressful sound environment that contributes to improved employee motivation and performance as well as overall business performance;
4. Contributes, thanks to preventive maintenance, to the improvement of machine efficiency and therefore of the quality of finished products, while saving energy, raw materials and money;
5. Reduces the cost of expenses incurred to preserve hearing (purchase of hearing protectors, costs of audiometric examinations, etc.);
6. Contributes to the enhancement of the company’s image;
7. Decreases the number of claims for occupational deafness and the amounts awarded for this purpose;
8. Reduces the cost of expertise resulting from the contestation of claim files;
9. Finally, contributes to maintaining the quality of life of the personnel and to reducing the operating costs of the business. Deafness must be prevented because it cannot be cured.
When hearing protectors are required, then a hearing conservation program must be implemented. A hearing conservation program includes noise assessment, selection of hearing protectors, employee education and training, audiometric testing, maintenance, inspection, record keeping and program evaluation.
TYPES OF HEARING PROTECTION
The muffs also call shells
They are made up of two shells that completely cover the ear, linked together by an adjustable central metal or plastic arch that passes over the top of the head to provide support. Both shells contain foam or liquid and are covered with a soft plastic cover for the part in contact with the ear and a rigid plastic shell for the outer part.
Some systems with shells are mounted directly on safety helmets. They are reusable, but it is advisable to change the ear cushions on the ear cups every six months 15 to maintain a good seal.
They can be inserted into the ear canal which can be disposable or reusable, standard or custom-made.
To be shaped by the user, made of compressible materials (foam, pvc…), it will have to be shaped before being introduced into the ear canal. After insertion, it expands to close the canal tightly. It is, as a general rule, single-use and its insertion must be done with clean hands.
Pre-Formed Standard Plug
Available in two or three sizes to better adapt to the morphology of the ear canals, it is made of silicone, rubber… It can be inserted into the ear canal without prior shaping. It is reusable and therefore should be cleaned regularly.
Standard Plug With Hoop
The special feature of this type of shaping or preforming is that it connects the two plugs by means of a plastic hoop to be placed under the chin or behind the head; the purpose of this hoop is to press the plugs into the ear. Its use is generally reserved for intermittent and short-term use.
Custom-made ear plugs.
Made from an ear impression of the future user’s ear, it is made of silicone (soft) or acrylate resin (hard). The majority of these protectors are equipped with passive acoustic filters that offer a level of attenuation adapted to the user and his sound exposure. The specificity of “custom-made” means a greater investment, but also optimal comfort19. It is reusable and will therefore have to be cleaned regularly.
The operating principle of this equipment is to block the sound before it enters the ear canal. Some protections provide additional functionality: in noise processing, they are, as a rule, equipped with electronics and defined as “active.”
To be effective, an occupational safety and health programme must seek the joint participation of members of management as well as individuals representing workers. They must provide their workers with a range of protective equipment. But again, these instruments will only be effective if they are used consistently and appropriately. Where hearing protectors are required, then a hearing conservation program must be implemented. A hearing conservation program includes noise assessment, selection of a hearing protector, employee education and training, audiometric testing, maintenance, inspection, record keeping and program evaluation.
Finally, it is important to remember that the type of work performed involves multiple risks that must be addressed. The “it’s only happening to others” principle is our worst enemy and it is unfortunate to note that it particularly affects young people. We therefore appeal to more experienced employees not to hesitate to correct those whose work practices are unsafe. In doing so, they demonstrate team spirit and solidarity.
What do I need to know about choosing hearing protectors?
Hearing protectors should:
– Be appropriate for the task; for more information, refer to CSA standard Z94.2-14 “Hearing Protectors: Performance, selection, maintenance and use” or contact the organization responsible for occupational health and safety in Quebec.
– Be compatible with other required personal protective equipment or communication devices.
– Be comfortable enough for workers to accept to wear them for the duration of noise exposure.
– Be adapted to the temperature and humidity level in the workplace.
– Be able to adequately meet communication and audibility needs (e.g., the ability to hear alarms or warning beeps).
Hearing protection must be worn when the noise or noise level in the workplace exceeds 85 decibels or DBA. Hearing protectors reduce noise exposure levels as well as the danger of hearing impairment. The effectiveness of hearing protection is greatly reduced if hearing protectors are not properly fitted, if they are worn only periodically, or even if they are removed for even a short period of time. To maintain its effectiveness, the hearing protection should not be modified. Headsets or earphones for radio or music are not substitutes for ear protection and should not be worn when ear protection is required to protect the user from exposure to noise.
It is important to consider the human aspects of hearing protectors, as they will only be effective if worn. Some workers may not tolerate certain types of hearing protectors. Every person is different, and the anatomy of the ear and external ear canal varies considerably from person to person.
The employer would do well to offer a choice between different types of hearing protectors, while taking safety and health considerations into account. Some types of hearing protectors should not be used if sound levels are too high or if they are not hygienically adequate. For example, when people in a factory re-use earplug all day long and insert them with dirty hands, they may introduce dirt or bacteria into the ears that can cause infections.
When it comes to hearing protectors, personal preferences are paramount. If workers don’t like the type of hearing protection offered (e.g., if they are uncomfortable, don’t fit well or are inconvenient), they won’t wear them.
SECTION XV, RSST
Operation and development: Every establishment whose operation is likely to result in the emission of noise at the level of the workers’ audible zone must be operated in accordance with the requirements of section 136 so that the noise measured at any workstation does not exceed the standards prescribed in sections 131 to 135 for any period indicated therein.
|Noise level Time (in DBA, DBA of exposure*)||Corrected or DBA allowed [h/day]. equivalents)|
Make sure you respect the regulations in effect outside Quebec. In Quebec, it is possible to work at a level of 90 decibels for 8 continuous hours.
How should you maintain your hearing protection equipment?
– Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
– Regularly examine the protectors for signs of wear and tear.
– Replace pads or plugs that have lost their flexibility.
– Replace the headband when it is so tight that the pads no longer adhere to the head.
– Remove the headband for cleaning.
– Wash the headband in lukewarm water with a mild liquid detergent, then rinse with lukewarm water. Be careful not to get the sound attenuating material inside the ear cushions wet.
– Using a soft brush removes oil and dirt from the skin, which can harden the pads.
– Wring out the ear plugs or ear cushions and allow them to air dry on a clean surface (check the manufacturer’s recommendations first to see if the ear plugs are washable).
Hearing protectors must be worn AT ALL TIMES to be fully effective1.
Reference Canadian centre for occupational health and safety
You can find everything you need regarding hearing protection by consulting the Sylprotec website. Sylprotec is now a company specializing in occupational health and safety. Located in the Greater Montreal area, Sylprotec provides solutions that include product distribution, fire protection services, consulting services for fall protection, emergency lighting, respiratory protection and even asbestos and mold decontamination.
Sylprotec offers a wide range of hearing protection products suitable for all needs and all ages: children or adults.
– Earplugs E-A-R by 3M
(OA1103, OA101 and OA111)
– Howard Leight noise-cancelling earplugs
(OA1105 and OA1105C)
– Noise suppression plug with detectable metal for power supply
– 3M hearing protection earmuffs
– Peltor Junior Noise Cancelling Shell for Children
– Noise-cancelling shell compatible with safety helmets
– Noise-cancelling headset for Peltor hunter
– Peltor Tactical Noise-Cancelling Headphones
– Replacement cushion for 3M earmuffs.
(OPHY7 and OPHY10)
– Sound Level Meters (R8050 and R8080).
To find out more about hearing protection equipment (earmuffs or earplugs) suitable for your needs for use in the workplace or for recreational activities, consult our subcategories and do not hesitate to contact our customer service department.
Sylvain Patrice f.p.t.
By the same author: