Archive for August 30, 2017

Introduction to Hearing Protection

The landscape of the safety industry is complex, with an abundance of variations on a core group of products and concepts that can be paralyzingly overwhelming to even look at, let alone navigate. How is the average everyman supposed to know what he needs when the market is glutted with options that all seem the same? There are dozens if not hundreds of blogs out there to help guide the consumer towards the purchasing choice that’s best for them, and it’s anyone’s guess if reviving this blog will contribute meaningfully to that conversation. But here at Enviro we try to make it a point to reach out to the consumer base and help them determine what they need. We’ve organized our site to sort products into the most prominent categories that the industry recognizes, and we partner with the finest brands in the industry so that you get only the best. One of our most popular categories is hearing protection, which has been receiving a lot more attention lately.

Hearing protection has gone underrecognized and underregulated for decades, and labor environments have only been getting louder. Multiple generations of workers have suffered permanent damage to their hearing systems that could have been avoided if protection were emphasized in their workplace. OSHA’s estimate is that 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise annually, and that $242 million goes toward hearing disability comp. That’s money down the drain! Thankfully, interest in the hazards of occupational noise exposure is increasing, and we’re seeing more proactivity towards conserving the hearing of the working class.

So at what point is noise dangerous? The medium that carries sound from its source to your ear is air (that’s why you can’t hear anything in outer space), and the volume of sound is measured in decibels, the difference in air pressure that is created when a sound wave is present. Every hearing protection product has a noise reduction rating (NRR) that approximates how many decibels are subtracted from the sound entering the ear when the product is being used correctly.

There are many brands out there that offer hearing protection, but 3M is the one that we carry that has the largest presence on the site and draws the most enthusiastic response. 3M is one of the titans of the research/development world, and the innovations that come out of their labs are second to none. A few months ago their E-A-R EasyTouch earplugs hit the market, which feature a winning combination of comfortable thermoplastic resin coating and polypropylene stem that allows the worker to push it into the ear and find the perfect fit, without worrying about contamination. If you prefer the classic model, we also carry standard roll-down earplugs in a wide array of styles and functionalities.

Where our inventory really shines, in my opinion, is in earmuffs and headsets. This is where you can see some of that overwhelming variety I mentioned before. The most important distinction to know, however, is that between active and passive hearing protection. Earplugs and most earmuffs are passive: they block out all sounds, including those you might want to hear, such as conversation. Active hearing protection has a sophisticated, hypersensitive inner system that measures how loud sounds in the area are and selectively mutes those that are above a certain decibel threshold. I’ll get more into the exciting particulars of these products in future posts.

First Aid Basics

Some of those reading this have probably heard horror stories about injuries occurring on the job, and of another worker running to the first aid kit to find it missing antiseptic, or bandages, or something else basic and necessary. It happens, and a blunder like that can cost someone a limb or even their life. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a set of rules for what a first aid kit must contain, and since they updated those rules in 2015 there’s no time like the present to familiarize yourself with them.

 

To have a fully compliant first aid kit on site in accordance with the 2015 rules, you will need at least:

Class A: 16 adhesive bandages (1×3”), 1 adhesive tape (2.5 yd), 10 antibiotic treatment applications (1/57 oz), 10 antiseptic applications (1/57 oz), 1 breathing barrier, 1 gel-soaked burn dressing (4×4”), 10 burn treatments (1/32 oz), 1 cold pack, 2 eye coverings, 1 eyewash (1 fl.oz), 1 first aid guide, 6 hand sanitizers (0.9 g), 2 pairs of medical exam gloves, 1 roller bandage (2” x 4 yd), 1 scissors, 2 sterile pads (3×3”), 2 trauma pads (5×9”), and 1 triangular bandage (40x40x56”).

Class B: 50 adhesive bandages (1×3”), 2 adhesive tapes (2.5 yd), 25 antibiotic treatment applications (1/57 oz), 50 antiseptic applications (1/57 oz), 1 breathing barrier, 2 gel-soaked burn dressings (4×4”), 25 burn treatments (1/32 oz), 2 cold packs, 2 eye coverings, 1 eyewash (4 fl.oz), 1 first aid guide, 10 hand sanitizers (0.9 g), 4 pairs of exam gloves, 2 roller bandages (2” x 4 yd), 1 roller bandage (4” x 4 yd), 1 scissors, 1 splint (4×24” minimum), 4 sterile pads (3×3”), 1 tourniquet, 4 trauma pads (5×9”), and 2 triangular bandages (40x40x56”).

OSHA also recommends having an automated external defibrillator (AED), but it’s not mandatory.

 

Even considering that many of those products come in small containers that are easy to store, that’s a lot of stuff, and anything with an expiration date will eventually have to be replaced. OSHA has particular standards for logging operations, which obviously involve massive amounts of splintery wood and heavy equipment that can lead to grisly accidents. Gauze pads, tweezers, a blanket, resuscitation equipment, and detailed instructions for summoning emergency help are all needed for such situations. It’s up to the employer or manager to assess the dangers present in the workplace and keep the kit stocked with these minimum needs and whatever else they think necessary. There’s also a color-coding system recommended to make supplies identifiable at a glance. Antiseptics are marked blue, bandages are yellow, burn treatments are red, personal protective equipment (PPE) is orange, and other miscellaneous items are green. Knowing exactly what you’re grabbing will save precious seconds in an emergency.

 

As for kit containers, four main types are available for different situations.

Type 1: These containers are basically cabinets, and are supposed to be mounted indoors where there is minimal risk of it being damaged by equipment or handling, such as an office, manufacturing facility, or similar environment. This type is for spaces where, when injuries do happen, it’s easy to discern exactly what to retrieve from the kit and multiple trips are unnecessary.

Type 2: Portable Type 1s, for indoor environments with similarly low potential of damage. These containers typically feature carrying handles for convenience and efficiency. This type is recommended for situations where the results of accidents can be unpredictable; you don’t want to lose time running back and forth to a wall-mounted kit.

Type 3: A combination of the first two with some extra features, Type 3s can be removed from their mounting and taken to the accident site, and also feature water-resistant seals that make them perfect for sheltered outdoor use. Ideal for general outdoor labor environments as well as music festivals, amusement parks, and similar environments.

Type 4: Heavy-duty containers built to withstand rough environments from construction to combat, where significant risk of damage is present. This is a kit for the most rugged and brutal applications possible, and they have to meet resistance standards for corrosion, moisture, and impact resistance.

 

“Safety first” has been a mantra of modern society for many, many years. In the real world, however, it’s become fashionable to take reckless risks and go against received wisdom. The labor community must be above such childish habits, and building and maintaining a compliant first aid kit is a vital part of maintaining the balance.