Wearing ear defenders is not always popular with staff exposed to industrial noise. Pulsar offers genuine alternatives
Picture this: your Health and Safety staff completed their annual noise assessment and identified several workplace areas where any number of employees could be exposed to dangerous levels of noise enforceable under Control of Noise at Work Regulations. So, what now? You need to find ways to bring people that work in those areas under the limits. Easy right?
Arming your workforce with hearing protection seems like the simplest solution but according to the actual regulations, this should in fact be your last resort.
Noise-activated signage Vs standard warning signs
Wearing ear defenders constantly is not always popular with staff exposed to noise from manufacturing or on a production line as it can be socially isolating and affect mental health. In addition, it may not be practical for employees to always wear hearing protection, 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 them for compliance.
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 signs become active when the employer sets a trigger level of say 80 dB(A). Once noise reaches that level, the signage lights up its warning.
The signs effectively allow the area to be zoned 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. This means companies place less reliance on using PPE as a noise control measure, and more on the comfort and well-being of workers.
Such signs can also be used to mark out a factory into multiple zones and for PPE use only in those areas when lights are on – something that just isn’t possible with regular signs.
Linked ‘Remote signs’ can also be stationed outside of zones next to hearing protection dispensers so that anyone entering these areas is aware of high noise levels and can enter the zone already wearing hearing protection.
Do interactive signs work?
Yes. Just using hearing protection only for the noisiest activities is usually enough to bring exposure levels down to the required levels or less. Data loggers can be added so that employers can keep track of noise levels over time.
At a frozen food processing plant the workers undertake a variety of tasks each day. The daily exposure level of the workers carrying out these tasks was found to be above the Noise at Work Legislation’s Upper Action Value of 85dB(A). As work takes place in a large open-plan warehouse, other workers in the vicinity – as well as office staff and visitors – were potentially at risk. Pulsar used Noise-Activated Warning Signs to mark out hearing protection zones. For this company, it was possible to relocate some of the activities that resulted in high noise levels behind an acoustic curtain and zone this as a hearing protection zone when the signs were lit. We also proposed installing additional signs in other areas of the open-plan warehouse so that when activities inside the zone were high enough to impact others working nearby, the signs would trigger, so other employees and visitors would know to put on their protection. ‘Remote Units’ connected to a Master were also employed outside the warehouse, next to a hearing protection dispenser, so those entering would know when noise was an issue.