Head, Face, and Hearing Protection
The head, face, and ears are continually exposed to potential dangers
when working around machinery in an industrial setting. Personal safety
equipment is the last line of defense against the hazards that exist in an
Many manufacturing processes are very noisy and can result in permanent
deafness if suitable precautions are not taken. For example, hand grinders
and punch presses produce very high noise levels. Also, people using a
pneumatic chisel or power saw are likely to be exposed to noise levels
that can seriously damage their hearing.
REMEMBER: The danger is
irreversible - a hearing aid will not replace lost hearing.
Types of Hearing Protection
There are several types of ear protectors:
1. EAR PLUGS: These fit inside the ear canal and can be
reusable or disposable according to the manufacturer's instructions. They
may sometimes be attached to a cord to prevent being lost. Ear plugs may
not be suitable for people with a history of ear problems (Figure 1).
Figure 1 Disposable ear plugs
are made of soft, noise-absorbing foam.
|2. Canal Caps: These have soft rubber caps attached
to a headband that presses them into the openings of the ear canals
Figure 2 Canal Caps are an
acceptable alternative to ear plugs.
|3. Earmuffs: These are normally hard plastic cups, with
sound absorbent filling, that fit over the ears and are sealed to the
head by cushion seals (Figure 3). They need to be pressed to the head
either by a headband or by special fittings attached to a safety
helmet. To avoid any interference with other forms of PPE, it is
important to note that most headbands can be worn over the head or the
chin or around the back of the neck according to the manufacturer's
Figure 3 Earmuffs provide
the greatest degree of ear protection.
Selecting Hearing Protection
There are three main things to consider when selecting hearing
- Will they give sufficient protection? The frequency, content, and
volume of the noise must be considered. For construction plant noise,
data should be obtained from the manufacturer or supplier. The data,
plus any site measurement data obtained by employers, should be used
along with performance data supplied by manufacturers. The information
should be used to ensure that the equipment is suitable.
- Are they right for the working conditions? If processes are dusty or
dirty, soft plugs, which need to be molded by hand, could lead to ear
infections unless good personal hygiene is observed.
- Are they right for the wearer? Long hair, thick spectacle frames may
prevent the muffs from forming a close seal to the head or
reducing the muffs' effectiveness.
Using Hearing Protection
Hearing protectors will only give proper protection if they fit, are
worn properly, and are used whenever the wearer is exposed to high noise
levels. The more comfortable they are, the more likely it is that workers
will use them properly. Taking them off even for a short time when noise
levels are high can quickly allow hearing damage to occur. REMEMBER:
Hearing protectors that don't fit, don't protect!
Many machining processes present a risk of injury to the eyes and face.
For example, protection will be needed against flying chips or particles
when using a disc cutter or cartridge - operated tools against arc eye and
molten metal splash when using welding equipment or hot cutting metal, and
against corrosive or irritant chemical splashes when working with epoxy
resins and concrete.
REMEMBER: Personal protective equipment (PPE) is always the last
line of defense; wherever possible use face shields and machine guards.
Types of Equipment
There are many types of eye and face protectors available, for example,
spectacles, face shields, and goggles. (Figure 4).
The table lists eye and face protection devices and gives examples
of their use.
|| TYPICAL PROTECTION
|Simple hand tool operations using
hammers, punches, and chisels
| Safety spectacles with toughened lenses and side screens
(available with prescription lenses for those who wear glasses)
|Using power tools for hand grinding, disc cutting etc.
||Safety goggles, face shields, or visors
Hot work- for example, welding, angle grinding
| Fixed eye shields