Custom fitted hearing protection makes inroads
Vale Inco started using the db Blocker in its matte processing plant in 2005. Now, they’re widely used throughout the company’s Sudbury and Thompson, Manitoba operations. Xstrata Copper in Timmins, Mining Technologies International, Atlas Copco and bucket manufacturer Carriere Industrial Supply have also adopted the db Blocker as standard personal protection equipment.
In addition to protecting their workers’ hearing and ensuring they are available for a full shift, the db Blocker assists in reducing Workplace Safety Insurance Board claims for hearing loss.
“Hearing loss doesn’t happen overnight,” said Romanyszyn. “It’s gradual over time and it’s permanent.”
Specially trained Soucie Salo technicians make a mold using a medical-grade silicon solution that is inserted into the ear and left to harden for a few minutes. The molds are shipped to Custom Protect Ear in British Columbia and the finished product is returned within 30 days.
There is an initial upfront cost, but the db Blocker is less expensive than the foam plugs when the costs of the two options are calculated over the course of a year, claims Heaphy.
“Typically, disposables will cost the company $164 per year per employee – that’s three sets of foam plugs per day at 10 to 20 cents each. The outlay for a pair of db Blockers is anywhere from $120 to $140, and that’s the only expense for five years, so there’s a big saving to the company.”
The db Blocker comes in several different models. There’s a solid variety that blocks noise across the frequency spectrum and another designed to block all of the lower and higher frequencies, but not the frequencies associated with normal conversation. This allows miners and other workers to communicate with each other without removing their hearing protection.
There are also models designed for integration with cell phones, radios and MP3 players, which allows workers to block out noise from their work environment while talking on the phone or listening to their favourite music – hopefully, at a reasonable volume.
Tagged Atlas Copco, British Columbia, Canada, Carriere Industrial Supply, Custom Protect Ear Inc., db Blocker, Greater Sudbury, Jerry Romanyszyn, Manitoba, medical-grade silicon solution, Mining, Mining Technologies International, Noise reduction, Northern Ontario, Northern Ontario Business, Occupational safety and health, Ontario, Pat Heaphy, potential hearing loss, Protective gear, silicone, Soucie Salo Safety Inc., Sudbury, Surrey, Thompson, Timmins, Xstrata Copper