There’s no question that the mining industry is filled with high-noise environments that require hearing protection devices (HPDs) in order for workers to perform safely. But when traditional HPDs interfere with worker communication, the devices are often removed so that workers can talk to one another, exposing them to the risk of hearing loss the HPDs were intended to prevent.
This risk may be best summed up by the CDC, which features a paper on its website from the Noise Control Engineering Journal that states:
"[M]iners frequently complain of reduced audibility or confusion about identifying spoken words when wearing conventional hearing protectors. This leads to an increased risk of miners being struck by moving equipment or errors in communication with co-workers. Miners will often remove their hearing protectors to overcome these obstacles.”
The Challenges of a Mining Environment
Heavy duty equipment, such as grinders, is commonplace within a mine. This equipment must be constantly monitored. Noise levels can exceed 105 db around this equipment. Traditional hearing protection doesn’t allow for workers to hear the equipment in order to listen for any potential issues. To accommodate for the noisy environment, workers are often forced to move to a quiet area or they rely on the use of hand signals to communicate issues. Digital headsets elevate speech while filtering unwanted noise thus enabling communication between co-workers.
Whether a worker is in the cab of a haul truck, operating a front loader, underground, or in the control room – communication with the rest of their team is critical. In these situations workers may not have line-of-sight visibility to their co-workers. In these situations 2-way radio or mobile phones are the standard means of communicating. Today’s headsets can integrate with existing 2-way radio and mobile phones via Bluetooth technology to provide for seamless communication.
High-noise is not the only challenge faced when it comes to communicating amongst co-workers. Mines provide a very harsh environment that often requires not only the use of hearing protection, but also respiratory protection. Without proper communication tools, workers are forced to remove their respirators to communicate which results in lost productivity and exposure not only to high noise, but hazardous materials. Technology advances have addressed these issues. Smart ear plugs utilize sound waves to pick up speech and allow workers to communicate effectively all the while wearing their respirator and without the need for a boom mic or throat mic.
Unifying Hearing Protection & Communication
In an ideal world, the solution to NIHL would be to reduce the noise of the work place. While advances in technology and an increased awareness of the dangers inherent in high noise environments have led to reductions in equipment operating noise, as of yet there is no way to bring the noise levels of mining operations to a point where hearing protection is not required.
Until that day comes, the mining industry is in need of a device that allows workers to hear one another, stay aware of their surroundings, and still be protected from dangerously high noise levels.
To see a real-world example of how proper equipment and implementation can make a difference in the mining industry, download our case study of how Gold Fields – St. Ives Gold Mine has benefited from digital two-way radio headsets. Sensear’s high noise communication specialists excel at helping customers find the right solution to their specific hearing protection needs. They understand that the global mining industry is a diverse and dynamic workplace, and are prepared to offer a number of custom implementations. Download our overview of some of the loudest, most challenging operating environments in the mining industry, and see how Sensear is helping their clients to increase communication and decrease the risk of NIHL.
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