Canadian Occupational Safety

March/April 2020

Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) magazine is the premier workplace health and safety publication in Canada. We cover a wide range of topics ranging from office to heavy industry, and from general safety management to specific workplace hazards.

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Page 17 of 35

F E A T U R E 18 come through while protecting against other hazardous noise. "They're really popular among musicians. They want to hear their vocal tones, but they don't want the drums and guitar coming through as loud. That's the nub of it: Filter out hazardous noise, but allow pleasant noise like a human voice to come through," says Marc Kirsch, product marketing manager for the United States and Canada at Charlotte, N.C.-based Honeywell. Ear plugs reduce noise by various amounts, and it's important to select plugs with the attenuation amount that is appropriate for the workplace noise level. The attenuation amount should just reduce noise to a safe level, one below 85 decibels. Reject the urge to choose plugs that provide more protection than workers need. "People tend to think that more attenuation is better. But that, in fact, can lead to safety risks if you can't hear something. You have to bring it down to a safe level, but it doesn't have to be way beyond that," Van Maanen says. Ear plugs are classified to indicate the amount of attenuation they provide. In Canada, noise attenuation is indicated by three classes: Class A (greatest reduction), Class B and Class C. Ear plugs available in Canada may also carry the American classification called noise reduction rating (NRR). The higher the rating, the greater the protection provided. These rating numbers must be used with caution because they indicate the potential, not the actual, amount of attenuation of a given ear plug. The rating numbers tend to be artificially high; most users obtain less attenuation than the NRR label indicates. Training workers It is very important for ear plugs to be comfortable and fit into the ear properly, Behar says. Workers should be trained on how to insert them into the ear canal so they create a complete seal. An inadequate insertion can result in discomfort or inadequate attenuation. "If it's not properly inserted, the noise energy goes around the plug and gets to the inner ear anyway. What I recommend in any workplace is to have a training program where managers can convey, first, the dangers of noise and, then, how to properly insert the plugs," Behar says. Workers in environments that might not be traditionally associated with high risks of hearing loss — such as health care — or that don't typically have a strong safety culture — such as bars and restaurants — need specific training on the negative effects of noise exposure. They need to understand how excessive noise can not only impact their work but their overall quality of life as well. The reality is the risk of hearing loss at work is often overlooked, and it's a problem that is likely to become more urgent as today's young people start their careers, says Kirsch. "Young people always have something in their ear. And if they don't, they're in clubs or bars or at concerts where the noise is overly loud. This exposure will pose an additional hazard to those young adults as they get into the workforce," he says. "The workforce is changing. People are coming into the job with existing hearing loss. So, it's definitely something for us, as an overall hearing industry, to watch out for and plan for. It's something to think about." COMMON NOISE PRODUCERS AND DECIBEL LEVELS 150dB Rock concert 130 dB Jackhammer 100 dB Chain saw 90 dB Lawnmower 70dB Vacuum cleaner 40dB Quiet room 30dB Whisper "The workforce is changing. People are coming into the job with existing hearing loss. So, it's definitely something for us, as an overall hearing industry, to watch out for and plan for." Marc Kirsch, Honeywell Source: WorkSafeBC

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