How do I keep safe at work?

Last month we started discussing the importance of PPE, we talked about face coverings, gloves and head protection. In this months blog, we are continuing this discussion by covering ear and knee protection

Lets start with…

Ear Protection

Ear protection should be worn if noise or sound levels exceed 85 decibels. Ear/hearing protection is designed to reduce the level of sound that reaches the eardrum to reduce the risk of hearing loss.

When you are looking at ear protection, it helps to understand the ratings so you can select the appropriate piece of kit.

The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is a measurement that rates the effectiveness of the device to reduce the sound exposure. The higher the NNR number, the better the noise reduction potential.

The Single Number Ratings (SNR) is an international rating system for noise reduction. Tests are carried out in laboratories that are independent of the manufacturer. The results determine the rating given.

NRR and SNR ratings show the number of decibels the item will reduce the noise level by. These ratings are measured differently so you may find the values are different but the general rule is the same, the higher the rating the better the performance of the item.

Ear Defenders or Ear Muffs provide protection by covering the ear with a cup. The outer shell of the cups is usually a hard thermoplastic with an acoustic foam layer. This foam absorbs the sound waves which in turn reduces the magnitude of the waves before they enter the ear. If you find defenders that are rated EN 352-1, this means that have been tested and meet the European requirements for hearing and performance protection. They must be labelled with the standard number, manufacturer and model number for identification.

Silverline compact ear defenders conform to EN352 and have an SNR rating of 27db. Each cup has a soft foam-filled cushion designed to provide comfort over prolonged periods of time. They fold up for easy storage on a work bag or workshop.

If you have little ones that are eager to help or if you are taking them to an event where noise levels may be high like a fireworks event, Junior Ear Defenders are ideal with an NRR of 26db. They offer a low profile and foam cushioned headband and cups for comfort.

Ear Plugs are another form of ear protection. They are able to offer a higher level of protection as they are inserted into the ear canal. They are used when the highest level of protection is required and because they fit into the ear canal they can be used with other types of PPE. They are extremely lightweight, easy to carry and store. Ear Plugs should conform to the EN352-2 European standard, however, this marking may only appear on the packaging. EN352-2 means that the plugs meet the requirements for EN352-1 as well as additional requirements such as design and minimum attenuation (loss of sound waves strength).

When you are considering ear plugs, you need to consider the environment in which you are going to use them. Do you require Corded Ear Plugs? It is very hard to tell if someone is wearing plugs, as they insert into the ear canal can be difficult to see them. Having corded ear plugs allows other people such as colleagues to see this item of PPE is in use.

Should you be working with machinery or in construction, corded ear plugs may be a hazard. Ear plugs without cords are available, try to get ear plugs that are bright in colour so that others may be able to see that ear plugs are in use.

Knee Protection

Knee Pads help to reduce the impact on your knees and provide cushioning when kneeling, to help prevent injuries. They may also protect you from sharp objects such as tools and nails. There are four types of knee protection:

Type 1: Knee protection which is not part of a garment. These are usually fastened to the knee by using straps.

Type 2: These knee pads are placed in pockets or attached to trousers in the area of the knee.

Type 3: This is completely independent and not worn as part of clothing, such as a kneeling mat.

Type 4: The knee protection for this level is incorporated into the design of a stand-alone item, such as a kneeling stool.

Each type of protection is defined by different levels of the European Standard EN14404. This standard measures the size, force distribution, penetration resistance and user testing.

Level 0 – Knee pads at this level are designed for working environments where working on your knees is minimal. They provide comfort when working on flat surfaces. Hard Cap Knee Pads provide this level of protection with a foam inner for extra comfort.

Level 1 – These pads provide protection against items 1cm or smaller which are on a hard and flat surface. They are ideal for those who are working on their knees in regular intervals. Gel Layered Knee Pads provide this level of protection. The gel layer compresses less than foam and gives greater comfort for longer.

Level 2 – Knee protectors rated level 2 can be used on flat surfaces as well as uneven surfaces in tough conditions, such as a building site or quarry. They must provide protection against a penetration force of at least 250+10 N. To get this level of protection, Hard Cap Gel Knee Pads are what you need. The pre-shaped flexible plastic caps and gel layer gives protection without reducing mobility or comfort.

Come back and have a read of our November blog when we will be discussing more PPE categories and keeping you safe at work.