The impact in the workplace of hearing protector standards development

Invited paper

Emma Shanks

Health and Safety Laboratory

Wednesday 3 june, 2015, 10:20 - 10:40

0.4 Brussels (189)

Hearing protectors can be an important part of a noise control programme. But they will only be a successful part of a noise control programme if they are selected, used and maintained in an appropriate manner. Anecdotal and experiential evidence suggests the myth ‘the hearing protector with the biggest number will do the best job’ still pervades. The reality of this mind set can be a fatality in the workplace. In 2004, European guidance document EN 458 was issued to help European member states select, use and maintain their hearing protectors. In the interceding decade the choice of hearing protectors available on the European market has exploded. This can present a challenge to those responsible for hearing protection selection. The CEN Technical Committee Working Group with responsibility for EN 458 (TC 159/WG 5) has completely revised the document to help those with selection responsibility maximise their potential to select what they actually need. Simultaneously, the CEN Technical Committee Working Group with responsibility for the EN 352 hearing protector product safety standards (TC 159/WG 6) has been trying to reduce the minimum attenuation requirements placed on manufacturers of hearing protection. The current product safety standards do not allow for low attenuation hearing protectors, a product type demanded more and more by users. This paper will discuss the changes to both the EN 458 and EN 352 standard series, highlighting how these changes are likely to affect hearing protector choices in the workplace. It will also highlight the continuing need for education in hearing conservation, what happens when hearing protection selection goes wrong, and why one size doesn’t fit all.

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