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New hearing protection selector tool

3M Europe : 28 June, 2006  (New Product)
Noise monitoring is becoming more and more an integral part of many workplace health and safety risk assessments. However, because different types of noise require different levels of attenuation, it can be a time consuming and confusing task to translate the data produced from a noise assessment into the type of hearing protection equipment required. In response to this, 3M has developed an automatic, on-line HPE Selector Tool that, using the very latest 3M technology, helps safety professionals quickly and easily select the correct type of HPE.
3M Occupational Health and Environmental Safety Product Manager Adele Copsey explained, 'There are two suggested methods used for estimating the effective sound level at the ear when wearing hearing protectors:

The high, medium and low frequency method, which involves the use of both A-weighted and C-weighted sound measurements in the calculation, and
The more accurate octave band method, which involves the measurement of un-weighted sound level at each octave band centre frequency, ranging from 63Hz to 8000Hz.

With the use of professional noise monitoring instrumentation, a noise risk assessment records the frequency and decibel level of the noise in the workplace. When HPE is submitted for standard testing, it is tested at each octave band centre frequency to determine the different levels of attenuation that the product provides. Normally, when selecting HPE, the safety professional will use product attenuation tables together with data from the noise risk assessment to work out which products offer the appropriate level of protection without under or over-attenuating, in line with the action levels of current legislation. In addition, all the other necessary factors like comfort, personal choice and compatibility with other PPE should be taken into account.'

'To improve this lengthy selection process, the 3M Online HPE Selector Tool software processes the data that is input from the noise assessment report and instantly produces a list of colour-coded 3M product options that would be acceptable for that particular application. For example, if the noise level at the ear is within the optimum limits (between 75 and 80dB) when HPE is worn, the colour coding will be green. If levels fall below 70 or above 85 dB (therefore making that product unsuitable for a particular level/frequency), the colour code switches to red. Products with acceptable attenuation will show up amber. This minimises the effort in selecting HPE for different applications or a number of individuals, speeds up the process considerably and also increases the user's confidence in selecting the appropriate product when scrolling down through lists of HPE available,' said Adele.

The calculators within the HPE Selector Tool are suitable for use to ensure compliance to both the current and updated noise regulations. To ensure accuracy of calculations 3M recommends that all sound level measurements required for the HML and Octave Band method be carried out using Type 1 or Type 2 instrument and that the equipment is calibrated in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. 3M has designed the hearing protection calculators and selection tools as a guide for use by safety professionals with a proper understanding of noise measurement and noise safety.
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