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Earplugs and Other Similar Equipment

Viimati uuendatud: 25.11.2016


Earplugs and Other Similar Equipment

Traditionally, there are five different senses: seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting. All are inseparable parts of a good life. People must take care to protect and preserve them all.

Decrease or loss of hearing can happen unexpectedly and fast. For example, being near the runway used by a reactive plane; or, on the contrary, slowly and sneakingly. For example, when working for years in a factory or some other noisy place without using any protective equipment. Even a petrol engine lawnmower is noisy enough to cause hearing damage when personal protective equipment is not used for an extended period of time.

Determining the need for hearing protection begins from the company’s risk assessment during which, the workplace noise level is measured and adequate protective devices determined. Two aspects must be kept in mind about the noise hazard mapping:

  • noise level, and
  • time spent in it.

Example: 15 minutes among 100 dB(A) noise has exactly the same dose as working 8 hours in 85 dB(A) noise.

The employer is obliged to mark the sources of noise and hazard areas with corresponding warning signs where the noise level is 80 dB(A) or more. Starting from 85dB, the mandatory sign “Wear Hearing Protection Equipment” must be positioned in a visible place.

Hearing protective equipment must be provided to the employees if:

  1. the employee wants or demands it,
  2. the noise level is 85 dB or above.

In the first case, the employee can use the protective equipment as they please; in the second case, using the protection is mandatory.

The use of hearing protection equipment is mandatory in the following cases: working with a metal press, pneumatic drill or hammer; ramming construction poles, explosive works, timber and textile works, using a bolt or nail hammer, and all other works where the noise level exceeds 85 dB(A).

When choosing the hearing protection equipment, it is necessary to consider also the other extreme. If noises are suppressed too much, the employee is “cut off” from the collective and working environment, and even the important sound signals can’t reach them. A sensible suppression of the noise level could be up to 70 dB.

Choice

The choice of hearing protection equipment begins with answering the following questions:

  • what is the noise level on the workplace, i.e. the noise intensity      (dB) and noise frequency (Hz);
  • what is the required damping power to decrease the noise to the      allowed level (desirably below 80 dB, but not below 70 dB) – different      earplugs have a different damping power;
  • what is the working environment like (cold, hot, damp, work with      chemicals, work with food products, soiling, whether employees must be      able to communicate with one another or hear special sound signals);
  • how long is the wear/use time (there is a huge difference whether      hearing protection must be used a few times a day for several dozens of      minutes, or during the entire working day; it is important to know whether      the noise is temporary or persistent; whether the noise is stable,      changing, abrupt, in impulses);
  • what are the user’s preferences (there are users whose’ external      auditory canal is more sensitive to pressure and they regard pre-shaped      earplugs as more comfortable).

All hearing protective equipment, both headphones and earplugs, must correspond to the standard EN 352.

Use

The ear and shape of the auditory canal is different and unique for all people. Identical working environment noise could influence the hearing of one person more, than that of another one. Hearing protection can be fitted and used differently, which gives a different result.

Ear-internal protection (places in the external auditory canal) is called earplugs, but regardless of the joint denominator, the earplugs are divided into four different categories:

  • disposable earplugs,
  • special-shaped or pre-shaped earplugs for manifold use,
  • identifiable earplugs,
  • earplugs with a headband or handle.

The cheapest solution are disposable earplugs – mostly meant for one time use, rolled together, manufactured from polymer, foam rubber or some other foam-like material. When placed into the ear canal, they slowly extend and close the canal. They are good to use for an extended period of time – even for the entire workday. Certain models can also be used for several times.

Earplugs soiled after a longer use can be cleaned from dirt and substances irritating the ear canal by washing them with a mild detergent in warm water, squeeze excess water out, and then dry. If the elasticity of the plugs has changed or they do not restore their initial shape, the earplugs should be replaced.

For use, earplugs are squeezed and rolled between fingers into thin cylinders and placed firmly into the ear canal, pushing the ear slightly up and outwards to widen the auditory canal.

Durable, washable, recyclable so-called pre-shaped earplugs are made from silicone and have a little longer “tail” for a comfortable application. They are also equipped with a joining cord, enabling to remove them during noise breaks and let them hang freely on the neck. Such earplugs usually come with a container for storing the protective equipment; it is convenient to slip it into a pocket and carry it around.

The use is like in the case of disposable earplugs – with the difference that these do not need rolling together.

The so-called identifiable earplugs are worth mentioning separately. For example, these are used in the food industry or any other field and circumstances where the contamination hazard must be taken into account and no foreign bodies may incur in the produce. Such earplugs can be found using the metal detector.

In circumstances where the noise is temporary and/or protective device user cannot or will not install earplugs deep into the ear canal for some reason, the most comfortable solution is the protection equipment of soft foamed rubber, washable or quickly exchangeable protection ends, connected with a headband. They are comfortable to use and protect just like the already described earplugs. The headband can be used in three ways: over the head like headphones; behind the neck or under the chin. When using, it is important to remember that the foam plastic protection end must be pushed tightly into the ear canal.

Regardless of which earplugs have been chosen, they are of use only then, when used purposefully.

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