The agency announced the development of hearing protection devices Well Fit as a "huge advancement in efforts to save workers' hearing."
The idea of fit testing for HPDs is not new. However, those commercially available to date have been expensive and generally impractical to use on the job. Some, for example, take 30 minutes to complete a test while others can only test certain HPDs.
The Well Fit system uses technology "that is built into just about every computer sold today, requires only 4 to 7 minutes to measure HPD performance, and can be used with any earplug," according to NIOSH.
The system incorporates PC-based video training created by NIOSH researchers. It "makes it possible to quantify an individual's noise exposure and ensure that it is safe, rather than relying on best guesses based on noise measurements and a general estimate of earplug attenuation."
The system works by using the computer's mouse as the input device and a high definition audio output board while Well Fit generates the sounds required to fit test a worker's hearing protector with the addition of sound-isolating headphones, NIOSH explained. The speed of the test "makes it feasible to retrain and retest the worker until mastery in fitting the protector has been achieved."
NIOSH researchers conducted several field tests of the Well Fit system. Last year, they tested inspectors and engineers responsible for off-shore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico who were exposed to noise levels of 110 decibels on a regular basis as they flew to various platforms in helicopters. In a separate study, workers that perform sandblasting operations for up to two hours were fit tested.
The system has been licensed to Michael and Associates, which is marketing it as FitCheck Solo. NIOSH is also working with HPD manufacturers, universities, professional associations, and testing laboratories to continue developing and standardizing the technology.
"In the coming year, we expect to complete an American National Standard for qualifying the performance of fit-test systems," NIOSH said. "This standard will ensure that all systems meet minimum standards for measuring hearing protector attenuation and calculate a personal attenuation rating in a uniform way. Rather than relying on the noise reduction rating posted on hearing protector packaging, workers and consumers can now measure the fit of their personal protectors. The future for hearing protection is fit-testing."
By Nancy Grover
Read more at the WorkersComp
July 22, 2013
Copyright 2013© LRP Publications