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Can you hear me now? Hearing protection expert encourages companies to use best practices when planning hearing protection programs.


While the language of OSHA's Occupational Noise Standard (CFR 29 1910.95) may appear convoluted, its dictates are rather straightforward, according to Renee Bessette, a certified occupational hearing conservationist and marketing manager, Sperian Hearing Protection LLC. "Implementing an OSHA-approved Hearing Conservation Program is not as daunting as it seems," says Bessette. "There are a number of best practices that safety program managers can employ that not only help ensure compliance with regulations, but also promote positive employee attitudes towards hearing safety."


"The first of these is to know what you're dealing with," says Bessette. "While area and personal sound level monitoring is required by OSHA, it's also important to document changing conditions and to notify employees whenever new equipment, processes or other changes affect noise hazards." Bessette recommends posting noise maps in readily accessible areas to let workers know where hearing protection devices (HPDs) are required. Bessette also suggests tracking occupational noise exposure histories in employee personnel records to help audiologists interpret employee audiograms.

In selecting hearing protectors, OSHA mandates that a "variety of suitable hearing protectors" be pro vided. Quite often a safety manager will interpret this to mean offering one earplug, in corded and un-corded styles. However, Bessette suggests offering a wider variety. "Everyone's ears are different," she says, "and one earplug or earmuff style may not be comfortable for the entire workforce. There is a wide range of HPDs available, designed for specific applications and/or worker preference, ranging from high-visibility, ultraslim and cap-mounted earmuffs to earplugs that adapt to the unique contours of each ear canal and banded earplugs that can be quickly inserted during intermittent noise. Employers should offer workers several different styles, including single- and multiple-use earplugs, as well as earmuffs. Bessette adds, "Safety managers should always include a group of workers from different areas of their facility in the selection process to improve worker acceptance and compliance."



Workers must also be trained in identifying hazardous noise; methods to prevent noise exposure; and proper HPD use, as protection can be dangerously reduced with improper insertion. "Praise workers who always wear their HPDs," says Bessette, "and encourage workers to take extra earplugs home. Many workers use power tools, attend loud rock concerts or sporting events, or participate in shooting sports--all opportunities for exposure to hazardous noise levels. Prevention is the key, on the job and off."

But the best practice, Bessette concluded, is to make hearing conservation a team effort. "Assemble a cross-departmental team for your Hearing Conservation Program to enhance support, provide input, and help implementation in a variety of areas," she says. In addition to Safety Management, include a committee of workers in the HC program, and additional staff from Human Resources, Purchasing, Engineering, and of course, the company audiologist to make sure all aspects of the program are in place. "And get buy-in from senior management," she says. "Top down compliance has a positive influence on the overall program," says Bessette. "It sends a clear signal to the entire company that management cares about everyone's hearing safety."

From its start as a one-man operation more than 30 years ago, Howard Leight by Sperian has grown into one of the largest global manufacturers of hearing protectors in the industrial market. Howard Leight offers a wide variety of earplugs and bands, ranging from the highest attenuating Max single-use earplug, to SmartFit's Conforming Material Technology--which delivers a more personalized fit--to our convenient Leight Source dispensers.

With nearly 6,000 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.

This article was submitted on behalf of Sperian Hearing Protection LLC, Smithfield, R.I.
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Title Annotation:SAFETY UPDATE
Publication:Construction & Demolition Recycling
Date:Nov 1, 2007
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