Sound Advice

For Discussion? Should Workers Be Allowed to Wear Earbuds?

January 14, 2020

The evolution of Wireless Bluetooth earphones, aka Earbuds

Wireless Bluetooth earphones, also known as Earbuds,  have become very popular in recent years. In fact, a recent consumer survey indicates more than half of Americans purchase some type of Bluetooth device every year. The best wireless headphones offer convenience and features that are geared towards meeting users’ changing expectations. It’s easy to understand the appeal of Bluetooth headphones for computer use and more. No longer having to untangle wires every time you want to use them is convenient for obvious reasons.Earbuds - airpods

However, there are other benefits you may not have considered. For example, there are now smartphone apps which, when used in conjunction with Bluetooth earphones, can essentially replace a hearing aid.

Or, if you own a business, your employees may use voice chat apps to conference with clients and coworkers. With the right Bluetooth earphones or the best wireless headset, they can easily do so even if they are on-the-go.

That said, there are also plenty of consumer apps that incorporate sound effects, music, and other audio. The best Bluetooth headphones provide you with a convenient way to use them without disturbing others in shared spaces.

Earbuds and Employer concerns

The use of earbuds and similar devices to listen to music, books and podcasts, and conduct phone conversations has grown rapidly in recent years – particularly among millennials and post-millennials. For example, wireless AirPods now seem to be everywhere.

The concern for employers with these devices, particularly in safety-sensitive industries like manufacturing, is how occupational safety is impacted by their use—and could the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) even regard their use in a manufacturing environment to be illegal?

OSHA has issued no rules specifically regulating the use of earbuds or similar devices in the workplace.

However, the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2011 rule making, explicitly recognized that “workers of all ages [working with dangerous equipment] are at risk when … using earphones or ear buds to listen to electronic devices.” Additionally, in that rule making, the DOL expressed concerns that these devices make it “very hard” to hear emergency alerts and difficult for workers to remain “aware of their surroundings” and “maintain an appropriate level of safety consciousness.” 

While not adopting binding regulations for earbud use in the workplace, OSHA has issued guidance that should give any responsible employer pause when considering permitting their use in a manufacturing facility or other safety-sensitive environment.

 

OSHA history 

OSHA’s consideration of hazards associated with these types of devices began in the 1980s with the burgeoning popularity of the Sony Walkman. In a 1987 letter, OSHA directed that the use of earphones constituted a violation of OSHA hearing protection standards when:

1. Noise is at levels requiring hearing protection – 85 decibels or more for an eight-hour day

2. Earphones are worn over hearing protection devices.

Very significantly, OSHA also instructed that allowing the use of such devices when hearing protection is not otherwise required is up to management’s discretion, unless its use causes a serious safety hazard, under the general duty clause of the  OSHA Act. That clause requires an employer to act reasonably to maintain a safe work environment for its employees, even when OSHA has not promulgated a specific safety standard regarding the hazard at issue. 

Setting Ground Rules around Earbud use 

There is no doubt that OSHA recognizes that in some work environments, the wearing of audio devices potentially could place the employee in serious danger.

For instance, in considering vehicle and other equipment backup risks, OSHA has directed in its guidance that workers should “[n]ever wear earbuds or headphones” when working near vehicles or equipment. 

Of course, in the manufacturing setting, even with employees who are not directly operating heavy equipment, there is almost always energized equipment located somewhere nearby, such as conveyors and forklifts. 

Further, in manufacturing settings, there are commonly dangerous energy-related hazards such as electrical, heat, chemical, or fire hazards where audible warnings may be of critical importance such as in the case of malfunctioning equipment or an evacuation. 

Given these risks and the federal government’s guidance, a manufacturing employer would be well advised to adopt the following measures. (That said, keep in mind that in a unionized environment, employers may be required to negotiate with the union on earbud use.)

MEASURES AROUND EARBUD USE: 

1. All employees in any operational area of a manufacturing facility, including even employees who work in warehousing or supply areas, should be prohibited from using earbuds or similar items.

2. Those individuals who work strictly in an office setting, well away from any operational sectors of the facility may use earbuds—but even in that setting, they should be prohibited from using the devices while walking or otherwise leaving their desk.

3. Employees must be prohibited from using these devices in place of required hearing protection.

4. Employees must be prohibited from wearing these devices under, or over, hearing protection.

5.   Further, even without earbuds, workers must not be on their smartphones while performing work or near any operating equipment. When using phones, they must be well clear of any transit paths for vehicles, forklifts, bicycles or even walkways for pedestrians in the plant.

One more piece of advice: Never permit earbud or cellphone use on a trial basis. Experience teaches us that once employees in a particular setting are allowed to use these devices, taking away that privilege creates very difficult employee relations challenges.


https://www.ehstoday.com/safety/article/21119524/should-workers-be-allowed-to-wear-earbuds
Bob Nichols is a partner in Bracewell LLP’s Houston office. Bob has over 29 years of experience in employment law, having represented employers in litigation, administrative investigations, and other actions related to employment including the defense of claims of alleged discrimination, retaliation, harassment, wrongful discharge, and occupational safety and health violations. Caroline Melo is an associate at Bracewell, providing advice and counsel to employers regarding a variety of workplace matters.
https://thisisglance.com/the-rise-in-popularity-of-bluetooth-earphones/

EHS Today – Health and Safety, Sustainability and Corporate Excellence Webinar!

January 6, 2020

EHS

Corporate Success: Connecting Health & Safety, Sustainability and Operational Excellence

FREE WEBINAR

Tuesday, January 21st

Occupational safety and health (OHS) professionals working in organizations are integral to sustainability and operational excellence. In the past, corporate sustainability efforts focused on environmental issues, such as resource usage and emissions reductions.

Attention has turned to other aspects of sustainability, including occupational safety, health and wellness.

Investors break down sustainability into environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, with an expectation companies will report on the measurement and resulting outcome of managing these issues. The safety and health of workers – the human capital – is part of the social dimension of sustainability.

 

REGISTER NOW! 

Watch those ears!

Watch those ears at yesterdays game

You won’t believe how loud it gets in the Dome!

The Super Dome is always loud and proud.  But can all that cheering and screaming be hazardous to your hearing?

“Last year for Rams game we were at 128 decibels!” Says Jamie Pierre with Ochsner.  She tells WWL-TV that’s like standing under a fighter plane taking off from an aircraft carrier.

Can being exposed to all that cheering in the Dome really have an impact?

“Your risk to experiencing hearing loss as a spectator is expected to be little less than someone working an eight hour shift at a noisy factory,” Pierre says. So yes, the Dome’s roaring crowds can have effects on your hearing:

“If you do have a hearing loss, then what will is the good hearing that you might have left, or even any hearing you may have, you’re at risk for making that hearing loss worse.”

Pierre cautions fans to take care against damaging their hearing.  She says wear ear plugs:

“They’re very small, they’re discreet and they’re very good for you.”

Pierre also emphasizes protecting children’s hearing by covering their ears with earmuffs.

It was 2013 when the decibel level at the Dome came just short of the loudest crowd roar on record.

So you heard it hear folks! Protect those ears.. 


Source

https://wwl.radio.com/articles/watch-those-ears-at-todays-game

OSHA FACT SHEET

December 30, 2019

Laboratory Safety Noise

Millions of workers are exposed to dangerous levels of noise in their workplaces. Over the past 20 years, government agencies have consistently identified noise induced hearing loss as one of the top concerns of workers. Noise in laboratories is a growing concern.

Because of concern about noise in clinical laboratories, accrediting agencies are implementing special emphasis programs on noise reduction in these workplaces. As a result of this concern, the College of American Pathologists added laboratory noise evaluation to their General Checklist for Accreditation.

DOWNLOAD OSHA FACT SHEET


SOURCE

www.osha.govOSHA

Seasons Greetings!

December 23, 2019

 From all of us at Custom Protect Ear…

We want at to wish you a Happy Holidays and prosperous New Year.

Thank you for making this year so great. May you and your family have a very merry holiday season and happy New Year.


PLEASE NOTE:
The Custom Protect Ear Office and Lab will be closed
December 23, 2019 and reopen (regular hours) Thursday January 2, 2020.

Is Technology Use Is Damaging our Children’s Hearing?

December 19, 2019

U.S. Parents Worry Popular Technology Use Is Damaging Their Children’s Hearing But Still Plan to Purchase Tech Gifts This Holiday Season

ASHA Shares “Safe Listening” Advice This Cyber Week

ROCKVILLE, Md. (December 3, 2019) A new national poll of more than 1,100 parents of children under age 18 finds that seven in 10 parents are concerned about their child developing hearing damage from listening to popular technology devices such as music players, tablets, and smartphones—and 86% think their children listen to their devices at volumes that are too loud.

Commissioned by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and conducted by YouGov November 1–5, 2019, the polling also shows that despite concerns, over half of parents plan to purchase a tech-related gift for their child this holiday season.

“With the holiday shopping season in full swing, many parents are purchasing personal technology devices as well as related accessories such as earbuds or headphones for their kids,” said Shari Robertson, PhD, CCC-SLP, ASHA 2019 President. “For us, this is the ideal time to encourage smart shopping habits for parents as well as offer safe listening advice they can impart to kids as they give them these gifts.”


Source

https://www.multivu.com/players/English/8460154-asha-safe-listening-tips-holiday-poll/

Holiday Safe Listening: Noisy Technology, Toys and Places

December 17, 2019

Holiday Safe Listening: Noisy Technology, Toys and Places

Between new technology gifts (used with earbuds or headphones), noisy toys, and loud holiday parties and concerts, the holiday season brings welcome revelry but also a lot of noise.

Read on for more information—and download and share these resources with your family, friends, and clients/patients to help encourage the public to protect their hearing.


Safe Listening Tips: Holiday Gifts and Hearing Protection

Buying a tech gift for your child this holiday season? More than 1 billion young people worldwide are at risk of developing hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices from noisy technology and leisure settings. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association offers three easy tips to teach safe listening and help kids protect their hearing.

Business in the Gig Economy

December 13, 2019

The gig economy is coming, and the manufacturing sector needs to prepare.

The gig economy is coming, and the manufacturing sector needs to prepare.

In this type of system, independent workers are paid by the gig, typically a specific project, and when that project is complete, the worker moves on. It’s a setup that is particularly appealing to millennials and is widespread in the IT and entertainment industries.

It is expected that within the next two years millennials will become the largest portion of the workforce demographic, and many of these workers will be employed as independent contractors. This is a dramatic change from the status quo, and it requires companies to form a strategy on managing what could be a constantly changing workforce.

Gig workers have a clear understanding of the work-life balance that they want, and they put as much emphasis on the life side of the equation as they do on the work side.

But jobs in the manufacturing sector are rooted in the long-standing tradition of advancing along an established career path. While the apprentice/journeyperson/master model has been replaced by the worker/team leader/manager model in many shops, the progression still takes time and commitment from both the employee and the employer.

Gig workers simply parachute into a company for a set amount of time and then leave once the task is done.

It’s a foreign concept for many manufacturers.

In his paper “Independent Workers: What Role for Public Policy?” American economist Alan Krueger wrote that currently the number of gig economy workers in the manufacturing sector is low. However, the longer the skilled-trades gap remains an issue for manufacturers, the more desperate they will get to find any type of worker to fill open jobs.

Because the manufacturing sector is having such trouble finding workers to fill full-time jobs, the gig economy could be a way to solve this problem, at least on a project-by-project basis.

Hearing protection

To survive in the gig economy, manufacturers must blaze their own trail and not try to copy other sectors.

No matter what type of worker is employed, a focus on productivity and quality still must be maintained.

In the gig economy, manufacturers should focus on a worker’s skill set and ability to mesh with a team, rather than the amount of time they will stay with the company.

JOE THOMPSON, EDITOR

jthompson@canadianmetalworking.com


SOURCE

https://www.canadianmetalworking-digital.com/canadianmetalworking/december_2019/MobilePagedArticle.action?articleId=1544279&app=false#articleId1544279

Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention Resources – please share!

December 9, 2019

Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention

Loud noise can damage hearing or cause permanent hearing loss. Dangerous noise levels can be found in workplaces such as industrial, commercial and retail and  recreational settings like restaurants, stadiums, and clubs; in the classroom; or even on our own personal audio devices.

hear in nose

What is a safe noise level?

We record noise levels in decibels, or dBA. The higher the noise level, the louder the noise.

You can listen to sounds at 70 dBA or lower for as long as you want. Sounds at 85 dBA can lead to hearing loss if you listen to them for more than 8 hours at a time. For personal listening devices, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a volume of no more than 80 dBA for adults and 75 dBA for children.

WHO Standard for Safe Listening

Hearing

ASHA Resources for Hearing Loss Prevention

How ASHA Promotes Hearing Health

Besides the resources above, ASHA is very active in promoting hearing health and raising the profile of hearing issues on many domestic and international fronts.

Domestically:

  • From the first days of digital media, ASHA has been a national leader raising concerns about the potential impact of unhealthy personal audio device use. For a decade, ASHA’s Listen to Your Buds campaign put on “safe listening concerts” in schools nationwide to educate children about hearing health.
  • ASHA’s Healthy Communication & Popular Technology Initiative focuses on raising public awareness about the importance of healthy usage of personal audio devices.
  • Launched in 2013, ASHA’s Identify the Signs campaign is dedicated to educating the public about the warning signs of communication disorders and the importance of acting quickly at the first sign of trouble.
  • In 2011, ASHA partnered with AARP in assessing the hearing health of its members; polling indicated a significant degree of untreated hearing loss and led to ASHA’s Speak Up for Hearing Loss national campaign that encouraged people to seek professional guidance and help with hearing care.

Internationally:

  • At WHO’s request, ASHA serves as an ongoing advisor on the Make Listening Safe campaign, a WHO initiative that produced the first global standard for safe listening on personal devices.
  • ASHA is a member of the World Hearing Forum, a WHO-established global network of stakeholders dedicated to promoting ear and hearing care worldwide.
  • Through a digital campaign, ASHA participates annually in World Hearing Day (March 3), raising awareness and educating the public about hearing-related issues.
  • ASHA is a founder of the International Communication Project, which is dedicated to raising the profile of communication disorders with global policymakers.

To learn more about hearing protection and hearing conservation check out our resources:

Custom Protect Ear Hearing Resources

Hearing Protection 

Hearing Conservation 

NOISE-RELATED HEARING LOSS VIDEO (See below)


SOURCE

https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Noise-and-Hearing-Loss-Prevention/

Critical ways to protect your ears

December 7, 2019

Once your hearing is damaged, it’s gone for good. That’s why we raise awareness about the prevalence of hearing loss, the importance of early diagnosis, and the options for taking action to find the best hearing solution for your needs. We are seeing an influx of wearers requesting using custom hearing protection over disposable – Click here to learn more. 

Don’t wait until it’s too late to start taking care of your ears! Here are nine easy ways to protect your ears and your hearing health.

 

1. Use hearing protection around loud, intense noises

Earplugs

Approximately 15% of Americans have noise-induced hearing loss because of loud work or leisure environments.

Clubs, concerts, lawnmowers, chainsaws, and any other noises that force you to shout so the person next to you can hear your voice all create dangerous levels of sound. Earplugs are convenient and easy to obtain. You can even have a pair custom fitted for your ears by your local hearing healthcare provider.

Musicians’ earplugs are custom earplugs with filters that allow a person to hear conversations and music but still reduce harmful sound levels while maintaining the quality of the original sound as closely as possible.

2. Turn the volume down

Headphones

According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults worldwide are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss from unsafe use of audio devices.

If you like to enjoy music through headphones or earbuds, you can protect your ears by following the 60/60 rule. The suggestion is to listen with headphones at no more than 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes a day.

Earbuds are especially dangerous, as they fit directly next to the eardrum. If possible, opt for over-the-ear headphones.

Don’t forget that any loud music, not just music played through headphones, presents a risk for noise-induced hearing loss. If you’re hosting a social event, keep the music at a volume which won’t force people to shout in order to hold a conversation

3. Give your ears time to recover

Relaxing

If you are exposed to loud noises for a prolonged period of time, like at a concert or a bar, your ears need time to recover. If you can, step outside for five minutes every so often in order to let them rest.

What’s more, researchers have found that your ears need an average of 16 hours of quiet to recover from one loud night out.

4. Stop using cotton swabs in your ears

Q-tips

It’s common for people to use cotton swabs to clean wax out of their ear canal, but this is definitely not advisable. A little bit of wax in your ears is not only normal, but it’s also important. The ears are self-cleaning organs, and wax stops dust and other harmful particles from entering the canal. Plus, inserting anything inside your ear canals risks damaging sensitive organs like your ear drum.

If you have excess wax, you can clean around the canal with a damp towel—gently. You could also use ear wax removal solution over the course of a few nights. This softens the wax so that it will eventually flow out on its own. The best solution is always to seek a professional opinion and care when possible.

5. Take medications only as directed

Doctor

Certain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, can sometimes contribute to hearing loss. Discuss medications with your doctor if you’re concerned that they’ll impact your hearing ability and take them only as directed.

6. Keep your ears dry

Drying Off

Excess moisture can allow bacteria to enter and attack the ear canal. This can cause swimmer’s ear or other types of ear infections, which can be dangerous for your hearing ability. Be sure you gently towel-dry your ears after bathing or swimming. If you can feel water in the ear, tilt your head to the side and tug lightly on the ear lobe to coax the water out.

You can also ensure that your ears stay dry and healthy by using custom-fit swimmers’ earplugs, which block water from entering the ear canal. They’re great for adults and kids alike, and they work wonders in preventing swimmer’s ear. Make an appointment with your local hearing health professional to get fitted.

 

7. Get up and move

Fitness

Did you know that exercise is good for your ears? It’s true. Cardio exercises like walking, running, or cycling gets the blood pumping to all parts of your body, including the ears. This helps the ears’ internal parts stay healthy and working to their maximum potential.

Make sure to stay safe! When cycling, always wear a helmet. If you fall and hit your head, a concussion can harm your hearing.

8. Manage stress levels

Hammock

Stress and anxiety have been linked to both temporary and permanent tinnitus (a phantom ringing in the ears). High levels of stress cause your body to go into fight or flight mode, which is an instinctual reaction that fills your body with adrenaline to help you either fight or flee from danger. This process puts a lot of pressure on your nerves, blood flow, body heat, and more. It’s commonly thought that this pressure and stress can travel up into your inner ear and contribute to tinnitus symptoms.

9. Get regular checkups

Otoscope

Ask your primary care physician to incorporate hearing screenings into your regular checkups. Because hearing loss develops gradually, it’s also recommended that you have annual hearing consultations with a hearing healthcare professional. That way, you’ll be more likely to recognize signs of hearing loss and take action as soon as you do.

Taking action is important because untreated hearing loss, besides detracting from quality of life and the strength of relationships, has been linked to other health concerns like depression, dementia, and heart disease.

Do your ears a favor get customized or personal hearing protection. Learn more .