Wearing ear defenders is not always popular with staff exposed to industrial noise. So does interactive noise warning technology offer alternatives?
Picture this, you’ve just completed your noise assessment, and you found several areas of your workplace where any number of your employees are likely to be exposed to levels of noise at or above the Upper Action Value (UAV) of 85dB(A). What now? You need to find ways to bring people that work in those areas under the action values and will look at the options. Easy right?
Whilst arming your workforce with hearing protection seems the simplest way to do this according to the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 this should be the last resort. The Regulations state that if, after having explored and carried out all the technical and organisational ways to reduce noise in the workplace, you identify that employees will still be exposed to noise levels at or above the Lower Action Value (LAV) of 80 dB(A), then and only then will you need to provide them with access to hearing protection (or issue it directly to those employees still at or above the UAV).
Noise-activated signage vs standard hearing protection signs
Wearing ear defenders is not always popular with staff exposed to industrial noise, and it may not be practical for employees to wear hearing protection constantly, especially where the noise levels are intermittent or vary significantly over the day.
Putting up a standard printed “Hearing Protection Must Be Worn” sign means that employees have to follow it continuously in these zones and someone has to monitor the people to make sure they comply with the instruction.
Noise-activated warning signs provide an alternative temporary warning linked to the actual level of noise itself and can, therefore, help to manage the wearing of PPE. The way such signs work is that the Employer sets a trigger level of say 80 dB(A), once noise reaches that level the sign will light up its warning. Such signs therefore effectively allow the marking of an area as “Hearing Protection Mandatory Only When Lit”.
These interactive noise warning signs offer the advantage then, that hearing protection need only be worn when necessary. Using hearing protection only when levels require means companies placing less reliance on using PPE as a noise control measure, more comfort for workers and less work-place isolation.
Such signs can also be used to mark out a factory into multiple zones and use PPE only in those areas when lights are on – something that just isn’t possible with regular signs. They can serve as an important safety function in work environments that rely on processes that involve or produce exceptionally loud sounds; other workers i.e. from the office or visitors who walk through workshops and factories can immediately tell at a glance if the environment is noisy and put their PPE on.
If it is essential for anyone entering these areas to be prepared and already wearing hearing protection often a secondary connecting ‘Remote Unit’ can be connected to a ‘Master unit’ and positioned outside of the zone next to an entrance or door for example. This will ensure that anyone entering the room will be aware of the high noise levels and the need to wear appropriate hearing protection.
Do interactive signs work?
Yes. Just using hearing protection for the noisiest activities is usually enough to bring your LEP,d down to the required levels i.e. 80dB(A) or less.
In addition, some signs can also be used to log and store noise levels and therefore give an indication of noise levels over time. Enabling the Employer to keep track of problem areas and investigate issues to prevent high levels of noise exposure in workers.
This should all lead to a better understanding of noise issues affecting workers and also a reduction in the use of hearing PPE and reliance on it as a catch-all solution.
Find out more and download our guide to using them https://get.pulsarinstruments.com/warning-signs/
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