Help your workers make the most of the hearing protection devices (HPDs) they wear by verifying that the noise reduction provided is adequate and that the HPDs are properly used, maintained and replaced.
Personal protective equipment should be selected and maintained in accordance Work Health and Safety Legislation in Australia, the Safe Work Australia Code Of Practice: Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing Loss at Work, and AS/NZS 1269.3 Occupational Noise Management - Hearing Protector Program, with attenuation values derived from attenuation measurements made in accordance with AS/NZS 1270 Acoustics – Hearing protectors.
When selecting HPDs, duty holders will need to consider area noise levels, worker noise exposures, communication needs, comfort, fit, hearing ability, personal preference, and interaction with other safety equipment. Suitability for the type of working environment and work task must also be considered.
Workers should be involved in the selection process, offered a reasonable choice of personal hearing protector types, and wear HPDs in accordance with information, training and instruction provided to them.
Noise levels under HPDs should be reduced to below 85 dB (A), and HPDs chosen should not overprotect workers as this may cause difficulties hearing verbal instructions and other sounds needed to work safely by cutting out too much sound. To avoid this, it is recommended that noise levels under HPDs be between 70 dB (A) to 80 dB (A).
In accordance with AS/NZS 1269.3 Occupational Noise Management - Hearing Protector Program, HPD assessment of ‘in-ear’ noise reduction levels for an 8-hour shift (i.e. LAeq,8h) less than 110 dB (A), should be conducted using the classification method. If the LAeq,8h is greater than 110 dB (A), and if noise exhibits complexities, than octave-band analysis should be applied. No standard HPD methods of assessment for impulse noise levels exceeding 140 dB (C) are currently available, but the following rules should be used for the selection of HPD in this circumstance: for impulse noise from impacts, small caliber weapons or tools, use Class 5 HPD; for impulse noise from large-caliber weapons and blasting, use well fitted earplugs of at least Class 3 in combination with Earmuffs of any Class.
Wearing earmuffs together with earplugs provides between 5-10 dB more noise reduction than either device worn by itself. Research quoted by Berger (1984) LINK concluded that the extra protection provided varies depending on the frequency of the sound.
3M strongly recommends fit testing of hearing protectors as the best method to validate that each worker is obtaining the proper level of protection from specific HPD. It also provides for effective one-on-on training with workers in correct fitting procedures and assists in identifying trends and problem areas to help drive improvement.
Always follow the User Instructions provided with the hearing protectors for fitting, cleaning & storage, and replacement of HPDs. In general, replace hearing protectors when they are damaged or no longer provide an effective noise-blocking seal.
Care: Headband and outside of cups are washable. Foam inserts inside cups are not. Replace bands when: damaged or they no longer provide enough tension to hold cups tightly over ears. Replace cushions and foam inserts: every six months or sooner if they are damaged or are no longer soft and pliable.
Care: Bands and reusable tips are washable. Foam tips are not. Replace bands when they are damaged or no longer provide enough tension to hold tips tightly in or on ears. Replace tips when they are damaged or are no longer soft and pliable.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This information is based on selected current national requirements. Other country or local requirements may be different. Always consult User Instructions and follow local laws and regulations. This website contains an overview of general information and should not be relied upon to make specific decisions. Reading this information does not certify proficiency in safety and health. Information is current as of the date of publication, and requirements can change in the future. This information should not be relied upon in isolation, as the content is often accompanied by additional and/or clarifying information. All applicable laws and regulations must be followed.