When working in the food and beverage industry, the safety of your workers, of your industrial environment and of your products is of the utmost importance. Even the smallest error or malfunction can impact workers’ safety and public health, can cost time and money, and it will affect your business’ reputation.
A first step in reducing these risks is correctly identifying the problem. For some PPE categories, the risks are pretty apparent, like hand protection for use while cutting or eye protection while cleaning equipment. Ensuring your workers wear their PPE correctly can go a long way in making sure you reduce as many risks as possible.
Let’s consider hearing protection in the food & beverage industry. Hearing loss is not always immediate, is typically progressive, and can often be painless. The risks of not implementing a Hearing Loss Program or not having a well-thought hearing protection ecosystem can lead to serious consequences like deafness, tinnitus, fatigue and loss of concentration (leading to accidents which means down time) and even depression. Loud noises are everywhere and can be either consistent or impact noises. These noises can come from grinders to conveyor belts to packing and so on. Personnel, as well as visitors, should be required to wear hearing protection in processing plants, as machineries and installations are very loud. This can mean carrying a mix of hearing protection that covers everyone in your facility from maintenance and line workers all the way to managers and visitors.
Many food & beverage manufacturing facilities also include a metal detection system to ensure product quality. Choosing a type of hearing protection that is appropriate for the task your worker is performing means you don’t have to worry about PPE getting lost in your product. And selecting hearing protection based on fit, duration of use, and comfort can help with your workers’ willingness to wear their PPE even during long and strenuous workdays.
The ideal mix of hearing protection for the food and beverage industry should be chosen based on several criteria:
– Comfort & fit – the more comfortable, the more the worker will be willing to wear it
– Appropriate for all-day wear – workers don’t waste time and risk contamination hazards swapping their earplugs mid-shift
– Adequate for the task at hand – selecting an over-protecting product means your workers can’t hear what’s going on around them and might miss alarms and other important information for their safety and job, while selecting an under-protecting product could expose your workers to auditory risks
– Appropriate for every worker – materials made for comfort and adjustability work well for a variety of workers
– Metal detection – the hearing protection has to be easily detectable if it happens to fall in the product
– Price to value ratio – the hearing protection must perform well so that your employees and visitors can focus on their tasks
This can mean carrying a mix of hearing protection that covers everyone in your facility from maintenance and line workers all the way to managers and visitors.
DETECTABLE EARPLUGS are to be used in applications where their quick detection is paramount.
Single-use earplugs such as Laser Trak® offer high visual and metal detectability, but don’t sacrifice fit, comfort, or price – they are comfortable and easy to handle.
If longer term wear is your goal, reusables are available in a metal detectable version, detectable by x-ray or electromagnetically, so they work well in process industries such as food and beverage.
Smart Fit – a re-usable detectable earplug
SINGLE-USE EARPLUGS are exactly what their name says: used in situations where hygiene requirements present a problem for reuse. These earplugs are also the most common, so you can choose confidently based on the level of comfort, noise-blocking performance, and firmness. Corded tends to be used much more frequently than uncorded so that it is easy to visually identify if it were to fall into your product.
The single-use earplug Laser Lite® delivers high-visibility and its formable foam expands to fit most wearers.
EAR DEFENDERS are used when you need a one-size-fits-all solution and are easy to put on and take off. Select passive ear defenders providing superior hearing protection in a lightweight and comfortable design. If they have a wide cup opening and are highly adjustable, they can fit a wide range of head sizes. Comfort is important so that the ear defenders are easy to wear all day long.
If you are using helmet-mounted ear defenders, then by using an ear defender-helmet combination which has been EN 352-3 certified, you can help ensure you will really have the attenuation you expect to have.
COMMUNICATION will also be key in some situations.
In this case ear defenders that protect users from hazardous noise while keeping them connected to what matters is an option. Making phone calls is no longer a hassle, but a simple procedure. Users can listen to their mobile devices through Bluetooth™ and get high passive noise protection. By selecting a product with Hear-Through technology, the important sounds of the workplace – like alarms, warning signals, and co-worker’s voices – are possible to hear at safe levels.
PPE COMPATIBILITY can be an issue.
New technologies in hearing protection simplify the combination of hearing protection with safety helmets. Joint certification of the hearing protection with the helmet is not necessary and there is little to no interference with other PPE such as goggles, visors, disposable masks, etc.
The risks are so diverse that a single type of hearing protective device won’t be applicable to all situations. You need to select the correct mix of products for your workers, specifically chosen for their particular needs and tasks in the food and beverage industry.