The grand 3M PELTOR parade continues, this time with the WorkTunes Pro. This headset offers an uncanny blend of high-quality hearing protection and built-in AM/FM radio listening capability. If that sounds familiar to the PELTOR Alert from a few months ago, the difference is that this is a passive hearing device without level-dependent noise cancellation technology, and therefore much cheaper.
3M’s hook for this product is that listening to music or radio while you work can be a great motivator to get you “ ‘in the flow’ of your workday” (the bizarre quotation mark placement is theirs). And this is definitely an impressive device, with a 26 dB noise reduction rating and inner workings isolated in their own compartment to prevent sweat exposure (something I always assumed was true of these products and seems odd to emphasize here). But my initial concern with the Alert is that having one’s attentions divided between physically demanding work with dangerous equipment and auditory entertainment or news seems like a recipe for disaster, even with the level-dependent technology. So, for that article, I emphasized the Alert’s applicability to leisure or home activities that involve loud noise, such as sport shooting or mowing the lawn.
I was a bit confused, then, when I encountered promotional material for the WorkTunes Pro that emphasized its use in the workplace, when it doesn’t have the level-dependent technology that enabled communication with coworkers and awareness of the environment that the Alert does. Wouldn’t it be even more dangerous to use a passive hearing protection device in situations with that kind of noise level? I was assuming that such situations would also involve heavy equipment moving around, be it a forklift or a winch or a saw whatever other object in the space that the wearer should be aware of for their own safety. That’s not always necessarily true, though. There are definitely jobs in controlled, safe environments that have loud occupational noise in the vicinity (a generator, for example) and will still require hearing protection. In that context, it’s up to the manager to decide if personal listening devices will be allowed.
The WorkTunes Pro features a voice-guided menu system that eliminates the need for dials and buttons. Simply tell it what station you want, your preferred volume, etc. and it will do the adjusting for you. It also announces when it’s low on battery, and will turn off automatically after 4 hours of non-use to conserve the battery. This won’t affect the hearing protection, just the media player. It’s also available as a hard hat attachment that goes with any 3M hard hat, which would seem to hew closer to my concerns above. 3M’s website mentions manufacturing facilities and industrial sites as being good applications for this device; all I can say is check with your manager or, if you are the manager, give it a good amount of thought before you allow personal listening devices in your workplace. The luxury of listening to music or talk radio just isn’t worth an accident.