OHS Canada Magazine

What To Expect From EPA Updated Hearing Protector Regulations

February 20, 2007

Health & Safety

— Proposed regulations to include new test methods and labeling requirements according to web post by Bacou-Dalloz Hearing Safety Group

— To download HI-RES 300 dpi JPG or MS Word file, go to:

Smithfield, RI — In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Air and Radiation met with industry leaders to announce it has received funding and approval in 2007 to update hearing protector testing and labeling regulations which have been pending since 2003. Brad Witt, Audiology and Regulatory Affairs Manager for the Bacou-Dalloz Hearing Safety Group, attended the meeting and has posted an analysis of what the new regulations might mean for industry on the company’s website at www.hearingportal.com. The complete document, entitled, “What You Need to Hear,” is available as a free PDF download.

Says Witt: For nearly thirty years, the EPA has used the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) as its yardstick to measure hearing protector effectiveness in reducing noise levels. This current EPA regulation uses idealized laboratory testing to generate the NRR. The proposals under consideration test the hearing protectors under conditions that are less-than-ideal, but more reflective of real-world usage.

As outlined in “What You Need to Hear,” the EPA is considering test methods and rating systems with the following features:

New testing standards to replace the experimenter-fit method of the previous ANSI standard.
New ratings that should not require de-rating for field use, but will possibly include a two-number range that expresses the attenuation expected from proficient users as well as inexperienced users.
The “NRR” acronym should remain, but will possibly be revised to mean “Noise Reduction Range.”
This new rating should be subtracted from A-weighted noise levels, not C-weighted as the current NRR requires.

The “What You Need to Hear” PDF can be downloaded from:

Witt says that the EPA has expressed interest in adopting a rating system that can accommodate non-standard hearing protectors, such as active noise reduction or level-dependent protectors. Under the current labeling requirements, these specialized protectors are assigned a low NRR simply because they are not tested in the higher noise ranges where their noise reduction mechanism is activated. EPA would like the new NRR label to accurately include these level-dependent protectors so that purchasers can make informed choices.

As a result of the meeting, a timetable has been established to finalize the new regulations, with a proposed rule published in the Federal Register by mid-year 2007, followed by a public comment period, hearings and internal review. According to the timetable, EPA expects to have a final noise reduction regulation in place by the end of 2007, with an effective date perhaps a few years following to allow manufacturers to retest their products and print new packaging.

“What You Need to Hear” also includes a pro and con comparison of attenuation test protocols, including the current Experimenter Fit Method defined by ANSI S3.19-1974 and the two proposed methods: Method A, Supervised Subject Fit, and Method B, Nave Subject Fit. In addition, an analysis of how the proposed two-number NRR range would be calculated is presented, along with advice on how to prepare noise-exposed workers for the anticipated changes.

Since its beginnings as a one-man operation more than 30 years ago, Howard Leight Industries has grown into one of the largest manufacturers of in-ear hearing protection in the industrial market and is widely recognized as an innovator in protection and fit. Since 2001 Howard Leight has been a part of the Bacou-Dalloz Hearing Safety Group.

Bilsom was founded in Sweden in 1968 and leads the industry in developing innovative sound management technologies that are used in some of the most challenging environments in the world.

Combining the innovation and expertise of Howard Leight Earplugs and Bilsom Earmuffs, the Bacou-Dalloz Hearing Safety Group is a world leader in hearing safety.

Bacou-Dalloz is the world leader in the design, manufacture and sale of personal protective equipment, offering a comprehensive range of safety products designed to protect people from hazards in the workplace. The Group specializes in head protection equipment (eye and face, respiratory and hearing protection), body protection equipment (clothing, gloves and footwear) and fall protection equipment. With a worldwide presence and over 6,000 people, Bacou-Dalloz endeavors to contribute to ongoing improvements in workplace health and safety by providing innovative, comfort-engineered products that workers want to wear. The Group’s products are sold through a worldwide network of distributor partners for use in all sectors of activity (construction, manufacturing, telecommunications, homeland security, petrochemicals, medical, public services, etc.). Bacou-Dalloz is listed on the Premier March of the Euronext stock exchange in Paris, and is part of the SBF 120 index.

For additional product information, contact:
Bacou-Dalloz Hearing Safety Group
7828 Waterville Road
San Diego, CA 92154
Tel: 800/430-5490
Fax: 401/232-3110
email: rbessette@bacou-dalloz.com


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