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Hearing Protection Concepts for Colorado Construction Sites

Hearing Protection Concepts for Colorado Construction Sites

There are several forms of protection that may be required for anyone who will be present on a given industrial construction site, whether said individuals are actively working on the project or simply observing and passing through. One particular protection format that sometimes doesn't get enough attention in this world: Hearing protection.

At Redi, we're proud to offer the very best industrial construction support services you can find in Colorado or many nearby states, and one of our key programs is safety training. We offer a huge range of training services for major project areas, from First Aid to many OSHA requirements - and we're happy to assist with any kind of hearing protection that may be needed for any job. What are the OSHA's standards for when hearing protection is required on job sites, and what else should you be thinking about in this area for effective protection? Here's a rundown.

OSHA Standards for Noise Exposure on Construction Sites

For those looking into the legal requirements in this area, they are covered in OSHA standard 1910.95. In this document, it's stated that employers must provide noise protection for employees when sounds in a given area are above an average of 85 decibels (dB) per eight hours. There are also certain cases where protection will be required if levels are this high for less than eight hours - for instance, a sound level of 100 dB can only occur for two hours, and it would trigger a requirement for hearing protection.

Now, in many cases, hearing protection will speak to administrative and engineering controls being altered on the job site. For instance, for sounds over 100 dB, one of the key strategies is to reduce sound levels by reducing noise sources or using engineering controls like fences and barriers.

For those cases where it's hard to make these changes, however - for instance, when working with certain kinds of hazardous machinery that naturally produce high levels of noise - then personal protective equipment (PPE) is typically one of the next options. Our next few sections will dig into how to consider PPE within the realm of hearing protection on your job site.

Hearing Protection Types and Expected Noise Reduction Levels

There are a few different hearing protection devices out there, and each will come with varying levels of noise reduction. Typically, these levels are tracked using the metric noise reduction rating, or NRR, which are expressed in percentages. A percentage of "less 25%," for instance, signals that the protective device only allows in 25% of noise or less to the wearer.

  • Generally speaking, OSHA and NIOSH recommend noise reduction rates of at least 50% for any high-noise environments like those we went over above. Here are some of the options for hearing protection, plus the NRR ranges they typically come with:
  • Earmuffs: Earmuffs and dedicated noise-reducing headphones are some of the most robust options out there, and will often be rated at less 25% or even lower.
  • Earplugs: These are the most common kind of hearing protection and can come in either reusable or disposable varieties, with NRRs ranging from less 30% all the way up to around less 50%. Where earplugs fall here tends to depend on whether or not they're formable.
  • Other headphones: There are also some other headphone varieties out there, including the popular Hushband Headphone, which has an NRR of around less 75%. Generally speaking, this kind of device is not recommended for construction sites with potential noise levels over 85 dB.
  • Ear canal caps: Also called semi-inserts, these stay in place just over the ear through a headband, and are rated around less 50%.

Selecting the Right Hearing Protection

Here are some of the key factors that should be considered when choosing hearing protection for workers on any job site that contains high noise levels:

  • Noise levels: Firstly, consider the noise levels of the job site. Different hearing protection is needed for different NRRs, so it's important to evaluate this well beforehand. For example, a job site with an NRR of 85 dB should use earmuffs or formable earplugs.
  • Comfort: How comfortable is the hearing protection? Different kinds of hearing protection come with different levels of comfort and fit, so it's important to consider how well-liked a particular device may be among your workers.
  • Compatibility with other PPE: Workers will often be wearing many different kinds of PPE at any given time, so it's important to make sure the hearing protection you're selecting is compatible with other safety gear.
  • Durability: It goes without saying that any piece of PPE should be durable and well-constructed. Make sure to check out things like materials used, weatherproofing capabilities, and other relevant factors to ensure your workers are well protected both now and in the future.
  • Continued ability to hear important sounds: One factor that requires some nuance and planning on many job sites is a continued need for workers to be able to hear important sounds around them. For instance, workers may need to be able to clearly understand warning sirens or communication from other workers. When this is the case, it's important to make sure you're not selecting hearing protection that blocks out too much noise in order for safety protocols to remain in check.

With the right kind of hearing protection in place, you can protect the hearing of your workers and ensure their safety on any job site. Just make sure to take into account all of the factors mentioned above when selecting the right kind for your needs!

For more here, or to learn about any of our industrial construction services for Colorado and nearby clients, speak to our expert staff at Redi today.

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