Requirements for the use of ear defenders
If the employer is of the view that employees are exposed to risks as a consequence of noise, the place of work assessment must include an assessment of the noise load. Measurements are carried out insofar as this is necessary in order to clarify what loads are involved.
Measurements can ensure correct assessment of whether ear defenders should be used. A rule of thumb is that if two people with one metre between them can only understand one another when they shout, ear defenders must be worn, unless the noise load can be reduced in some other way.
It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that suitable ear defenders are provided to staff if the noise load exceeds 80 dB(A), or if the peak values of impulses exceed 135 dB(C), and otherwise if the noise load is harmful or causes significant inconvenience.
Staff must wear ear defenders if it is not possible to remove the noise load or reduce it to below 85 dB(A). The same is true if the peak values of impulses cannot be brought below 137 dB(C). Even if the noise load is below 85 dB (A), ear defenders must still be worn if someone is of the opinion that the work may damage hearing.
BFA Bygge & Anlæg recommends under all circumstances that ear defenders be worn between 80 and 85 dB(A) to be sure of not damaging hearing.
Ear defenders must be worn the whole time you are exposed to noise. Even a short time without ear defenders in noisy surroundings can cause significant hearing impairment.
Ear defenders in general
Ear defenders must be CE-labelled. The packaging and usage instructions must indicate damping values at various frequencies, among other things.
This makes it possible to assess which ear defenders will damp the noise sufficiently.
Ear defenders must not damp the noise as much as possible, because the user has to have the opportunity to communicate with his surroundings and hear warning signals.
Therefore, damping must not prevent the use from hearing what it happening around him; i.e. the noise must be damped to a level of approx. 75-80 dB(A).
If several different types of ear defenders meet requirements, individual staff members may select the ear defenders that suit him best.
You can normally achieve slightly greater protection if you combine different kinds of ear defenders, such as earplugs and earmuffs. This means that the earplugs continue to offer protection when the earmuffs are removed.
Single-use or multiple-use earplugs are available. Most types can be shaped and so be made to fit different people’s ears.
There are also various types of shaped earplugs which are produced to users’ specific dimensions.
Only touch earplugs with clean hands as dirt in the ears may irritate the skin and cause eczema.
Earmuffs are ear defenders which enclose and cover both ears and are kept in place by a strap or headpiece which can be adjusted to fit the head. They must fit tightly.
You should regularly check the sealing rings (beads) on earmuffs and replace them as soon as they start to go stiff or if they break into pieces.
You can get earmuffs which can be fitted to helmets. You can also get earmuffs with built-in electronics or filters which ensure that the sound inside the ear defenders is restricted and regulated. Electronic muffs or muffs with filters have the advantage of only damping the noise once it reaches a certain level (75–80 dB(A)).