OHS Canada Magazine

Encourage Employees To Take Earplugs Home

January 30, 2009

Health & Safety

Smithfield, RI The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide hearing protection for workers exposed to hazardous noise. Best practice has shown that providing a good variety of hearing protectors improves compliance. But smart employers will also encourage employees to take hearing protectors home, says Howard Leight’s Theresa Y. Schulz, PhD.

“Noise hazards are not exclusive to the workplace,” said Dr. Schulz, Hearing Conservation Manager for Howard Leight, “but compensation claims for noise-induced hearing loss often are. Lawn mowers, chain saws, home workshop tools, even personal listening devices (e.g., mp3 players), and cranked up stereo systems can all add to hearing damage, but it’s usually the employer who ends up paying the price.”

Encouraging workers to wear hearing protection off the job as well as on makes sense for other reasons as well, says Schulz. “One of the most difficult tasks safety managers face with regard to Hearing Conservation is convincing employees of the risk. Talking about noise hazards present in everyday activities brings the Hearing Conservation message ‘home’ in a very meaningful way. It gets workers’ attention, helps make earplug use habitual, and more often than not, gets the neighbors attention as well.”

It is also important that the “take ’em home” message be overt and not just tacit, says Dr. Schulz. “Employees should not be made to feel that they are pilfering, or that management is simply looking the other way,” she said. Rather, the message should be loud and clear. She recommends posting signs by disposable earplug dispensers recommending employees ‘Pocket a Pair for Home,’ and making particular mention of the policy in training sessions and group meetings.

“Any excuse to talk about hearing conservation is one more opportunity to drive the safety message home,” she said. “And specifying which hearing protectors are freely available for home use can help control costs.”

What types of earplugs are best to offer? Schulz says that while single-use foam earplugs, such as Howard Leight’s popular Max or Laser Lite models cost less per pair, multiple-use earplugs like their AirSoft or Clarity brands, which can be washed and reused many times, can actually be more economical, especially in an off-the-job setting where use is less frequent. Multiple-use earplugs can also be easier to insert. “But everyone’s ears are different,” says Schulz. “An earplug which is comfortable and effective for one person may be uncomfortable and ineffective for another. Just as offering choice works best for workplace compliance, it is also best for home use.”

Since its beginnings as a one-man operation more than 30 years ago, Howard Leight has grown into one of the largest global manufacturers of hearing protectors in the industrial market and the recognized innovator in protection and people-oriented fit. Howard Leight offers the widest variety of hearing protection devices and technology, ranging from the highest attenuating Max single-use earplug, to SmartFit earplugs with Conforming Material Technologywhich delivers a more personalized fitto VeriPRO, the new industry-changing fit verification system for hearing protectors. Howard Leight earmuffs raise the bar on innovative design, performance and comfort, with features like padded wire headbands, high-visibility designs, unique sound management technologies and multi-level attenuation options. Visit Howard Leight online at http://www.howardleight.com

With nearly 6000 employees worldwide, Sperian Protection is resolutely geared towards international markets. The world leader in personal protective equipment (hearing, eye, respiratory and fall protection, gloves, clothing and footwear), the Group offers innovative products adapted to high-risk environments so that all workers in the manufacturing and services industries can work with confidence. Sperian Protection is listed on Euronext’s Eurolist and on the SBF120.


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