Diversified technology company 3M is promoting a new system which for the first time provides a completely objective test of the ‘at-ear’ protection being offered by hearing protection equipment (HPE).
Compatible with a variety of 3M HPE products, the 3M EARfit Validation System generates, in eight seconds, a personal attenuation rating (PAR) which indicates a worker’s noise reduction level for that given HPE item. Not only does this verify that the required legal level of protection is being offered – providing peace of mind for employers and employees alike – but it also gives an indication of whether products are being correctly fitted so further training can be provided if necessary.
The 3M EARfit Validation System has been extensively field tested prior to launch. Among the companies to have trialled it is Cornwall-based ship repair contractor A&P Falmouth Ltd, part of the A&P Group, which undertakes a variety of fabrication and refurbishment work to both commercial and military vessels.
The company employs around 500 people performing a vast array of engineering and fabrication work, much of which involves welding and the use of noisy hand tools. However, potentially the most problematic area in terms of noise generation is the process of ultra high pressure water jetting to remove paints and coatings, which can generate sound levels of up to 120dB.
Keen to maintain and increase awareness of the potential dangers of excessive exposure to noise among its employees, the company asked 3M to undertake a noise check which involved the measurement of noise levels at different locations within the facility. This helped to identify the types of products appropriate for each employee to ensure at-ear noise thresholds are not exceeded.
The next stage has involved 3M in training a small team from A&P in using the 3M EARfit Validation System, with all employees at Falmouth now being tested to ensure products are being correctly fitted and used. The system will also be used for all new employees and contractors who start work on site.
Gregg Renfree, Health, Safety & Quality Manager at A&P Falmouth, commented: “Using the 3M EARfit Validation System has been invaluable for us in ensuring our employees and contractors are properly protected. The readings actually showed that in some cases the HPE products we were using were over-specified – allowing us to switch to alternative products delivering appropriate attenuation levels.
“With a team fully trained in using the System, we are able to rapidly verify the levels of protection being offered to our employees working on even the noisiest tasks.”
The system’s unique dual-element microphone measures across seven frequencies (125Hz – 8KHz), providing a completely objective reading, meaning there is no longer any need to rely on subjective test responses from individual workers. The test results are documented for each test subject for future reference.
The 3M EARfit Validation System is ideal for organisations seeking to implement a hearing conservation programme, with the flexibility to establish baseline values for new workers; identify workers who may be receiving inadequate protection; and validate protection levels received by workers in high noise areas.
It also helps motivate employees by educating them about the control they have over protecting their hearing and how to fit products correctly.
For more information on the 3M EARfit Validation System, and how it can make a difference to your company, visit www.3M.eu/EARfit_validation.
For further details on the range of personal protective equipment and other support available from 3M, visit www.3M.co.uk/ohes or call 0870 60 800 60 in the UK or 1 800 320 500 (Ireland).
3M and EARfit are trademarks of 3M Company.