Encouraging Workers to Wear Hearing Protection

Encouraging Workers to Wear Hearing Protection

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The best hearing protector device (HPD) in the world does no good if it is not worn. Yet the most common problem for safety professionals in administering Hearing Conservation Programs is exactly that: getting workers to wear their HPDs.
 
Here are some thoughts to improve your compliance rates.
 
Help Them Care
 
Most workers do not understand the early warning signs of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) nor its long-term implications. They even think they're "used to the noise" when they are actually losing their hearing. An education/training program is a good start, but making the information close and personal can dramatically improve impact.
  • Show employees copies of their annual audiograms and explain the results
  • Post noise levels throughout the plant and on individual pieces of equipment
  • Use audio "Demos" to illustrate future risk of NIHL
  • Use older employees to sound the “voice of experience”
  • Praise workers for good compliance
  • Encourage employees to take HPDs for use at home
  • Understand Worker Needs
 
A recent NIOSH study revealed the biggest reason workers failed to wear HPDs was that they interfered with their job. Workers need to communicate, need to hear warning and other signals, and overprotection can be a significant risk. Workers also complain that HPDs interfere with other protective equipment, like hard hats, face shields and respirators, or that HPDs are just plain uncomfortable. Offer alternatives:
  • Ear plugs with different attenuation ratings (NRRs) for different noise levels
  • Ear plugs made of special heat-sensitive material which conforms to the shape of the wearer's ear canal
  • Ear muffs and ear plugs that maximize communication through uniform attenuation, which allows wearers to hear sounds more naturally while still providing protection
  • Electronic ear muffs that enhance communication by amplifying ambient sounds (including speech and warning signals) to a safe level, while protecting against louder, more damaging noise
 
Get Workers Involved
 
Many successful Hearing Conservation Programs actively involve noise-exposed workers in the HPD selection process.
 
Select a group to try samples of a variety of hearing protectors being considered for purchase
Feedback provides valuable employee buy-in, and product insight that cannot be gleaned from viewing product specifications alone
 
Set a Good Example
 

Few things can undermine stated policy quicker than management ignoring it. The opposite is also true: managers seen consistently using their HPDs sends a very positive message. Employees will notice and compliance will improve as a result. 

Blog Author:  Brad Witt  
Blog Catagories:  Motivation  Hearing Conservation Program  

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