Archive for November 28, 2017

Spotlight on the Optime 105

Today we’re going to take a look at a hearing protection classic from 3M: the PELTOR Optime 105 earmuffs. These bad boys are time-tested and field-proven, rising in the ranks to become one of 3M’s (and ours) most popular baseline hearing protection products. They’re a great addition to any protection collection, whether you’re an employer looking out for your workers or a layperson looking for cheap and effective noise reduction without all the extra features of the more advanced products. Be it ever so humble, however, the Optime 105 is one of the most powerful protectors on the market.

 

As we’ve said before, harm done to the ears by excessive noise levels is irreversible, and often worsens so gradually that you don’t even notice until it’s too late. 3M’s leading position in the protection industry has been earned as they have consistently pushed the boundaries of innovation in noise reduction, doing their part to curtail the rampant hearing loss in the labor industry. The Optime 105 represents a cornerstone of that achievement.

 

The 105’s signature design element is its “double-shell” earcups, featuring two nested cups on each side fused together with an inner layer of foam. This doubling serves to minimize resonance on the inside, providing optimal protection in extremely high-noise situations. This serves to completely muffle dangerous high frequencies while allowing you to still hear speech. Lab tests have given the Optime a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 30 decibels, which is slightly higher than they’re expected to perform in the field but is still the highest possible NRR. You’re highly unlikely to find protection this comprehensive for a competitively low price.

 

Also notable is their ergonomic qualities. The padded headband may not look like anything special, but it’s made of durable stainless steel that will resist warping and is designed to distribute weight across the surface area, which translates to a low-pressure fit on the skull allowing for hours of comfortable use. The sealing rings, likewise, are filled with foam cushioning that conforms to the unique shape of your head, creating a perfect seal with low contact against the skin.

 

The number 105 refers to 3M’s guideline noise level, in decibels, that the Optime works best in. 105 decibels is somewhere between a motorcycle engine and a jackhammer, neither of which are pleasant sounds for the average listener and which will damage the ears after prolonged exposure. If the Optime is worn correctly and cared for to keep it in good condition, it will work perfectly in that ballpark of the noise level spectrum. The sophisticated muffling design I’ve described will still perform at higher levels, however, so don’t be discouraged if it technically falls below the noise level in your workplace.

 

In a formalized working environment, these earmuffs should be used as part of a comprehensive hearing protection program in cooperation with OSHA. This will involve regular assessments of the noise level in the workplace and audiometric tests for the products themselves to ensure they are operating at full capacity. Life can be loud, and 3M is committed to raising awareness and quality of life for workers worldwide with products like the Optime 105.

Detective Sonics

Damage to the ears from hazardous noise levels is gradual and subtle, and cannot be reversed. It is absolutely necessary, as an employer, for you to protect the hearing of your workforce with an exhaustive auditory protection program in cooperation with OSHA. Today we’re continuing our 3M PELTOR series with a look at the Sound Detector SD-200, which can be used to measure noise levels in a space to determine if hearing protection is required to work there. The SD-200 instantly provides this vital data at the touch of a button and with intuitive user-friendly interface. When sound levels surpass one of three user-set thresholds, indicators on the unit will flash from green to yellow to red, reflecting the rising auditory danger.

 

Another key feature for accurately assessing noise safety in your workplace is measurement integration. Most areas don’t have a single, unwavering noise level over the course of a day. Machines start and stop, go into periods of high and low activity, and so on. The consequences of equipping workers with protection that neglects those higher noise levels is obvious. You also don’t want to give your employees more protection than they need. With this reality in mind, the SD-200 automatically calculates the average sound pressure level (SPL) over the course of a testing session, allowing you to visualize the “shape” of the soundscape you’re dealing with. There’s a “play/stop” button that initiates the run-time sequencing, and different mode screens you can scroll through will tell you the SPL average, maximum, minimum, alert trigger, and calibrated figures. Noting these will give you a better idea of workplace risk, and OSHA likes to see precise data.

 

Going deeper, we have something called “frequency weighting.” The SD-200 has filter settings that approximate human hearing at different SPLs. A typical reading will be weighted towards “A” frequency. This causes the meter to mimic typical human response to noise at lower levels, excluding frequencies at the extreme ends of what we can hear. “C” frequency weighting, on the other hand, represents how the ear responds to extremely high noise levels. You probably won’t need a reading at that level though; unless extraordinary conditions are present, you should be find measuring the sound with A frequency weighting, slow time response, and an exchange rate of 3 decibels, which are factory default settings for each unit.

 

As far as care and maintenance goes, this is by no means an indestructible device. As the manual says, “this product is not intrinsically safe” in explosive or flammable environments. The lithium polymer battery can cause serious personal injury if it explodes, so make sure you’re using it in a stable environment and don’t try to open up the unit to get at the battery. The unit should never be submerged in liquid (it’s wise to keep it away from condensation as well, which can affect accuracy) or stored in temperatures above 70°C (158°F). The battery plugs into any USB port, but should be charged within a window of 0-40°C (32-104°F), well within the temperature range of an average room. It’s also worth using it as often as possible, as the battery has a limited shelf life whether or not it actually gets used.

 

All in all, the SD-200 is an impressive piece of technology that can take hearing protection beyond guesswork, allowing for a level of precision that ensures the best auditory health for your workers.

I Dream of Hygiene

Yesterday I discussed 3M’s PELTOR Hearing Defender headset, which is ideal for rough and rugged jobs. It’s important to remember though: as impressively durable as these products are, they house extremely expensive and sophisticated technology. You don’t have to worry about dirt getting into the housing itself, but this is still a product worth taking care of in the long term. That’s why 3M provides hygiene kits and accessories to keep the equipment looking nice and lasting long.

 

For the microphone, it’s a good idea to have a windsock. As the term implies, it slips onto the head of the mic like your favorite socks, protecting it from airborne debris and cutting down on interference from the wind itself, just like a boom mic on a movie set. It will fit the microphones found on a wide variety (if not all) of 3M’s PELTOR products. Interestingly, it’s actually our single highest-selling PELTOR product.

 

Hygiene is important. We think we’re much cleaner than we are in America, and neglect areas of self-care that we should emphasize. This also extends to our property. We care more about how things look than how clean or safe they actually are, often not bothering to clean something until filth is visible. We’re a mess! In the case of PELTOR headsets, these hygiene kits come with replacement foam pads that maintain the attenuation levels of the headset itself. If you don’t keep up with replacing them (3M advises once or twice a year depending on usage) you won’t be getting the full value of the product. What a waste that would be, both of a great product and your money. These kits also provide easy replacement parts in the event of damage (note the two reviewers on our site who had the misfortune of their headsets being found by eager puppies).

 

The hygiene kits also include padding for the outer rim of the ear cup, the part of the headset that physically rests on the skin. You’ll probably be sweating to some extent out in the field so it’s a good idea to replace all the padding every six months in the interest of sanitation, especially if the headset is going to be shared between multiple users. You can wipe down the parts of the ear cup that actually rest on your head, but there will come a point where they’re simply too gross to continue using. Single-use hygiene pads are available in 100-pair boxes. They look kind of like band-aids that adhere to the padding and provide a clean surface that can be thrown away when the user finishes their work. They work fine and could bring the replacement rate for the main pads down to once a year, but not enough to eliminate the need for hygiene kits.

 

It’s not just a good idea to take care of your PELTOR products if you remember to, it’s actively protecting your investment and maximizing the value. We stand by the integrity of 3M and its products here at Enviro, and we want to make sure you have the best customer experience possible.

First Line of Defense

Enviro Safety Products has a long and prolific partnership with the research-and-development giant 3M, who have been providing us with their latest surprising innovations in protection and productivity for nearly 20 years now. This blog is going to start shifting away from situational and categorical topics (we’ll probably run a few of those pieces every so often) towards spotlighting specific 3M products. Today we’re going to look at the PELTOR ComTac III Hearing Defender. 3M’s PELTOR line of hearing protection sets an industry-wide standard for quality and convenience using sophisticated level-dependent functionality that keeps your ears protected while letting you hear what you want to hear.

 

The Hearing Defender’s name has a martial ring to it, which is fitting since this product and others like it have become standard issue in tactial settings for the military, law enforcement, and other public protectors. It’s an active hearing protection device with a microphone and inner programming that analyzes sounds and determines if it should muffle them for the wearer based on their volume, all within a fraction of a second. It’s called environmental listening, level-dependent functionality, or ‘talk-thru” (because it allows you to talk to people without removing or lifting the headset). Often with talk-thru systems you’ll get what’s called a clipping effect, in which the first few syllables or words of a sentence may be lost as the software kicks in, which can lead to garbled and misunderstood commands. The Defender’s refined reaction time eliminates that issue almost completely.

 

The headset is compatible with external communications systems (two-way radio, intercom, etc), which work completely distinct from the talk-thru function and, therefore, won’t be affected by electric failure or low battery. Such an event is highly unlikely given the battery’s superlative 500-hour life, but it’s always nice to have a failsafe. The headset has been rigorously tested in accordance with standards set by the Department of Defense, is designed with standard tactical helmets in mind, and can even function after being submerged in water.

 

The noise-cancelling microphone inside the ear cup can be moved to either side to accomodate left or right-handed shooters, or whatever other need the user may have depending on the situation. The ear cups themselves (which are actually providing the physical protection and would simply become passive in the event of outage or failure) come with a noise reduction rating of 20 decibels, which makes a huge difference in dangerously loud environments.

 

While you could say the military and law enforcement are the target audience for the Hearing Defender, it’s not just for those kinds of applications. Its spartan design and elegant functionality will resonate with certain kinds of personalities that don’t need (or want) the extra complications of a built-in radio or whatever else. Yet its field-tested ruggedness seems ill-suited for the factory floor. It ought to be outside in its element, and will probably appeal to folks working in construction, lumber, shipping yards, oil rigs, and the like. It’s not just for work, either. The level-dependant protection is ideal for sport hunters who need to hear the subtle noises of the forest without compromising their safety when it’s time to pull the trigger.

 

All in all, the Hearing Defender embodies the formula for excellence that 3M has honed over the decades. Its combination of sophisticated tech and down-to-earth function make it a simple choice for anyone working in environments with high noise levels.

Great Scott!, Pt. 2

As we announced on Tuesday, 3M is integrating Scott Safety into their impressive arsenal of safety equipment. Today I’m going to explore their line of gas and flame detection products. Before we go exploring it’s worth asking what exactly these products do. How does one “detect” gas or flame, and what does it matter? What’s the difference between these products and the thermal imagers we saw before? Thermal imaging is for when the fire is already in progress. These products are designed to head dangerous situations off at the pass and prevent fires from breaking out in the first place. Let’s start with gas detection.

 

Different gas detectors have different capabilities, intended for various environments and situations. For example, there’s the Protege Multi-Gas Monitor. It looks like a Tamagotchi from the 90’s, but this is a sophisticated piece of tech that can save lives. With the bush of a button it can analyze the atmosphere in a space to determine if hazardous gases and fumes are present. It can also analyze oxygen and carbon monoxide levels to determine the breathability of the air. OSHA uses devices like this to determine if respiratory protection is required (by law) in a given work area. These devices have to be unbelievably precise, and the craftsmen at Scott hold their products to that high standard. It can be hooked up to a computer and calibrated to your specifications. The single-gas version of the Protege comes with thirteen different “chemical sensors” that plug into the device one at a time to detect a particular gas. It’s slightly lower tech with fewer bells and whistles, but the same great performance.

 

Flame detection is a bit more arcane. Flame detection systems are similar to a smoke or heat detector in someone’s home, but far more advanced. The Flame Vision FV282f+, for example, uses triple infrared (IR3) sensing to verify and reverify the presence of a fire within seconds of it starting, minimizing false alarms. It’s ideal for areas with flammable chemicals that can ignite suddenly and burn rapidly, a process which usually creates massive amounts of dark smoke in a very short time. It comes with a CCTV camera built in that can send a live feed of the room to a security monitor, providing a visual of the situation (at least until the entire room is black with smoke). There’s also the FV-40, which has seven different models: IR1, IR3, multi IR, UV, UV/IR2.5, UV/IR4.5, and ultra-fast UV/IR. Which model you choose depends on many factors, such as the dimensions of a room, the potential fire hazards present, budget, etc. Standard UV, for example, can detect organic and inorganic flames (depending on the flammable material) but trades a slightly higher false alarm rate than the UV/IR models in favor of higher reaction speed.

 

This is just a taste of Scott Safety’s top-tier gas and flame detection products, which provide specific services that I haven’t known 3M to provide (though the conglomerate is vast, so they could very well have products like this already). The Scott brand is strong enough that a merger with 3M is a no-brainer, and the partnership will surely be a fruitful one, for them and us!

Great Scott!

If you’ve spent enough time browsing our site or reading this blog, you know that one of the cornerstones of business here at Enviro is our partnership with 3M. This link has existed since the earliest days of the company in the late 90’s, and has been extremely fruitful and valuable over the years. Exciting developments are taking place in the 3M camp, the latest of which is their acquisition of Scott Safety, announced back in March and finalized in early October. By folding Scott into their conglomerate, 3M creates new opportunities for the company and a new source of inventory for us.

 

Founded Earl M. Scott in New York, 1932, Scott Safety specializes in protective equipment for high-risk environments and tasks. They’re internationally known for their high-quality self-contained breathing apparati (SCBA) and technology that allows the user to calculate temperature in a space (thermal imaging) and detect the presence of fumes or fire. Let’s look at some representative products.

 

The X380N thermal imager is par of Scott’s X-Series of advanced imaging equipment. This remarkable device reads a fire scene and provides vital field data to the firefighters so they can operate tactically and efficiently. The description provided by Scott points out two features that seem especially important: hot and cold spot trackers. The hot spot tracker, obviously, locates which sector of the area is hottest, what the text calls “the true seat of the fire.” The cold spot tracker, on the other hand, locates “thread or valve gas leaks” and can also be used to monitor chemical temperature in hazmat situations. All of this data is presented in high resolution and full color in the most brutal environments, upwards of 2000°F.

 

Scott has a robust selection of respiratory protection products, but they’re primarily associated with SCBA technology, and rightfully so because this is where they really outshine the competition. Their latest unveiled product is the Air-Pak X3 Pro, designed with the long-term health of the firefighting community in mind as concerns mount about carcinogenic exposure in the field. The innovative shoulder harness makes donning and removing simple and comfortable, and the entire apparatus can be worn comfortably for hours. The X3 Pro also supports wireless connection between devices to allow for instant communication. If you’ve ever heard the noise a fire can generate in full blaze, you know how valuable these features would be out there.


Finally we have gas and fire detection. I think I’m going to do a post devoted just to this section, because the styles and functions of these products are diverse and I’d like to take a day to research what exactly they do so I can better explain what Scott is bringing to the table in this department. Stay tuned for that piece later this week.

 

3M’s announcement of the merger on their website is headed by the phrase “As One,” later elaborated upon: “As one, we’ll help you achieve your goals.” 3M, as always, is committed to bringing the latest in innovation and performance to the working public. We’re very excited to start bringing Scott Safety to our customer base, and hope you are too.

‘Tis the Season, Pt. 2

November is here, and we are fast approaching the long, hard winter. Here at Enviro, we go out of our way to provide top-quality safety for all kinds of situations. Last time we discussed some of our winter product selection. We’ll wrap up that presentation here with the categories of insulated clothes, winter footwear, and flame-resistant jackets. These categories may seem a bit barebones at the moment, and we may build them out further as the season progresses, so stay tuned.

 

“Insulated clothes” may sound a bit redundant. Weren’t the gloves and jackets we talked about earlier insulated? They were and are, but the products in this category take insulation to the next level. Of particular note are the full-face hoods by Occunomix. They call them Hot Rod Liners, and they ue a sophisticated combination of intuitive design and quality materials to keep your head warm in frigid conditions. An elastic strip in the forehead area sits tight against the skin, preventing cold air from getting in. There are different variations on the product for different situations, including an extra long neckpiece, removable mouthpiece, and a double layer of DuPont “sherpa” lining. There’s also beanies and face masks in their Thinsulate and Noggin Topper lines. This section also includes high-quality jackets, vests, and parkas from PolarWear.

 

Next we have the Terra-Lite and Wolf Pac insulated boots from OnGuard. The Terra-Lites are heavy-duty footwear products engineered for use in the most extreme cold. They repel water, their metal parts resist corrosion, and the three-play Thermashield fleece lining maximizes warmth and comfort. Their Wolf Pac boots are even more intense, boasting a 100% waterproof PVC exterior with wool felt lining, reinforced heel, and a large toe vault that promotes circulation in the feet. It also features a steel-toed version.

 

Finally we have our flame-resistant jackets. It’s worth noting here that there are flame-resistant items elsewhere in the winter gear section, in the other clothing categories. They can be found by looking at the feature descriptions on each item, and the flame-resistant ones tend to advertise that trait strongly. There are also related products in the sidebar for every item on the site, so make sure to look at those. Here we have four products from Stanco and Chicago Protective Apparel. There are specific flame-resistant fabrics and materials that are standard in the industry, with arcane names like Indura, Proban, and Nomex. They’re all designed to protect you in the event of an arc flash, or an accident that causes electricity to leave its intended path and arc through the air, either to the nearest conductor (which could be you) or the ground. Indura fabric features flame retardant chemicals “impregnated in the core of the cotton fiber” (not a phrase you encounter everyday), which protects the wearer and buys time to escape.

 

Winter is a time of contradictions, of ecstatic joy juxtaposed against bitter misery, of boundless life alongside frostbitten death. Winter products like ours can help you ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive aspects of winter, and keep the negative outside where it belongs.