Reinforcing the Importance of Hearing Protection
Some workers will offer objections wearing hearing protection devices (HPDs). Handling their concerns appropriately can help you convince non-compliant staff members to observe your company’s OHS standards. Here are some of the most common objections to HPDs and suggestions on how to address them:
Objections to wearing hearing protection—and how to address them
“They’re uncomfortable...” Discomfort is one of the top reasons why workers remove their HPD or put them on loosely.
For safety managers, remember that different types and shapes of HPDs are available. If objections arise, work with staff members to provide an HPD option that is most comfortable for them. Helping workers to find the most comfortable earplug or earmuff should go along with warning against improper use (e.g. taking off HPDs or loosening their fit).
“Earplugs can cause an ear infection...” Earplugs do not directly cause ear infections. Overused and dirty earplugs can, however, introduce dirt and bacteria to the ear.
Users should discard foam earplugs daily and clean reusable earplugs every day. Remind workers about hygiene, and advise those who regularly get their hands dirty to insert earplugs carefully so as not to get debris in their ears—or to use earmuffs instead of earplugs. Likewise, if a user has an existing cut or abrasion in his/her ears, recommend that they wear earmuffs so as not to aggravate the cut. Advise workers not to pull out the plugs too fast, which can create harmful suction. Pull the earplug out slowly, twisting it slightly at the same time.
“The noise doesn’t bother me...” This statement is alarming. It may be a sign that the worker’s hearing is already impaired.
During training and in daily operations, reinforce to workers that growing accustomed to noise is not a sign of the ears ‘toughening up’ or a worker being able to tune out noise. It is likely an indicator that the worker needs audiometric testing.
Reinforce awareness with signs around the workplace that show acceptable hearing decibels and how long they are safe. More information is available on Esko’s website resource page at https://www.eskosafety.com/hearing-protection.php.
Worksafe NZ recommend this sign to advise workplace noise hazard areas. You can download a copy at http://www.worksafe.govt.nz/worksafe/information-guidance/pdf-documents-library/noise-sticker.pdf
With the right training and encouragement, safety managers can help workers protect their hearing.
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