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We are living in interesting times in the field of hearing damage risk reduction due to the host of new (and forthcoming) ways to reduce risk dramatically. Here are 4 new things that you should know about…
Hearing test free app: launched by the WHO for World Hearing Day (03/03/19) for both Android and Apple, the hearWHO App allows anyone to check and monitor their hearing over time. Running the app is an interesting experience…
More information here>
UK Hearing Conservation Association (UKHCA) launched: this is an umbrella organisation intended to pull together all aspects of best practice to reduce hearing damage risk. As you might expect, the INVC is a founder member providing industrial noise expertise and best practice advice to the group. The new fledgling website has just gone live – keep an eye open for developments as the project comes to life…
New OAE hearing screening test coming soon: audiometry cannot detect early hearing damage. Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) can. The new low-cost OAE test system is due to be available very soon from suppliers as a fast, objective, low-cost office-based annual test to determine how well your risk management programme is performing. We think this will quickly become standard best practice. Contact us find out more, to keep up to date with progress or if you would be interested in a trial when it is available.
The HSE has had enough! Guidance and practice update: you wouldn’t believe just how tired the regulators are of companies wasting time and resources on check-box processes and poor quality placebo noise reports. Instead of unnecessary, largely low quality (2/3rds of assessments are inadequate) repeat surveys that tell you what you already know, they want to see actions such as noise control audits that result in the implementation of innovative low-cost (often self-financing) noise control measures to reduce risk. Contact us to find out if you could remove the requirement for PPE in noisy areas or if you’d like to attend the next HSE/INVC noise control workshop.
Noise Master Class Workshop – 1 day
This workshop covers all these new techniques, the latest best practice and more. More information or book your place to find out how to implement a risk management revolution that can reduce hearing damage risk by c 90% and can also dramatically reduce costs.
Once more there are claims that wrist/glove mounted vibration transducers can be used to assess HAV risk in operators as per the British Standard (BS5349). No they can’t. Thank you for listening…
I would suggest that anyone considering using any of the wrist (or glove) mounted automated transducer measurement systems in an attempt to measure vibration (as against using them as tool timers linked to properly measured tool vibration levels) to assess operator exposure should consider the following before making a decision:-
- It is specifically deprecated by the HSE. Their recent guidance states: “There is currently no wrist or glove mounted device which measures vibration suitable for use in a vibration risk assessment”. Hence as wrist (or glove) mounted transducers do not measure according to ISO/BS5349, the data they produce is not related to the EAV or the ELV dose values and cannot be used for comparison with them in a risk assessment. Those are the facts. This could not be clearer…
- Carry out a simple experiment on a high vibration tool (impulsive tools in particular): measure on the tool handle as per BS5349. Measure on the wrist with the wristband loose, and again with it tight enough to cut off the blood supply to the hand. Compare with the measurement made to the standard. They are different – which means they are wrong by definition as all the risk statistics were based on tool handle measurements.
- How do you persuade the operator to move the wristband to the other hand as is necessary when using different tools/handles or when swapping the tool to the other hand? This doesn’t seem to be mentioned anywhere in the vibration monitoring system sales literature.
- The HSE specifically say that you should spend a minimum on monitoring and focus resources on risk reduction instead. This makes a lot of sense and is best practice.
A recent back-to-back vibration measurement test on 2 items of plant compared the results from BS5349 measurements (2 different personnel using 2 different meters) with those from a “leading” wrist-mounted transducer system (the latter carefully controlled in a way that probably does not reflect general use). Whilst all the BS values were within 5% of each other, the comparable wrist-mounted data varied by between 14% and 240%…
There is an IOM report that is purported to validate wrist measured vibration data. However, this is based on a statistical analysis of supplied data sets without knowledge of any potential exclusions, i.e. it is not an independent study of the validity of wrist mounted vibration monitoring. Validating alternative automated HAV monitoring wrist or glove techniques would require submission to ISO/BS committees, peer review and the extensive reevaluation of risk data, not just a limited statisical analysis carried out in isolation. Moreover, the problems associated with the laws of physics and human nature would still remain.
Now imagine you are the barrister for a HAV injury claimant. Based on the above, just how easy would you find it to drive a coach and horses through a risk management defence based on wrist-mounted vibration data capture? Potentially a very costly mistake…
The new HSE guidance on HAV measurement and management covering the increasing concerns over mis-measurement may well change the way you measure and monitor HAV risk – dramatically… We have developed a short HAV Master Class competency update workshop that covers these and other issues. Check availability and dates to ensure that you are up to date with best practice.
There is considerable deliberately disingenuous disinformation put out by some suppliers taking advantage of the technical nature of the subject to promote sales of products that do not perform as advertised. Tool timers: fine if properly set-up. Vibration dosimeters: absolutely not. In addition, the whole thrust of the wrist/glove mounted automated vibration measurement system approach is that you should spend your resources on continuous, costly logging and measurement rather than on reducing the risk. This directly contradicts HSE advice and goes against current best practice.
In its place
This type of monitoring certainly has a place in risk management – provided that you can justify the high cost. Whether it is a good choice depends on the cost v benefit for your particular circumstances. If you have spent much of your budget on monitoring, there may little left to actually reduce the risk e.g. by buying better tools instead. These monitoring systems may be OK as sophisticated tool timers used to monitor likely exposures provided properly measured tool data is used in the calculation and not the wrist/glove measurements. They can also sometimes give an indication that a tool needs to be serviced – although the operator could do that for free…
Whilst hand-held transducers are not generally recommended, they can be used in circumstances where hard-mounting a transducer would be difficult – as long as you can make sure that the transducer is very firmly held against the tool. However, the results should be treated with care as they can be significantly different to hard-mounted transducer data.
White paper: HAV mis-measurement – to no standards whatsoever… New HSE guidance
Contact us if you’d like to discuss the issues surrounding current HAV risk management best practice. More information about this white paper and a summary of the latest HSE guidance on the topic is available here>.
How to update the current (failing) noise risk management process to make it much more effective – and self-financing
Noise Induced Hearing Loss claims of £400,000,000 per annum show that thousands of people are suffering hearing damage, most of which could be avoided by changing the way risk management is is carried out.
A simple, innovative approach that dramatically improves the effectiveness of noise risk management was described at the BOHS OH2017 conference in Harrowgate by our technical director, Peter Wilson. The key elements are:-
- current risk management processes are demonstrably not working
- applying simple best practice re PPE and noise control would reduce risks by c 90%.
Make this happen by:-
- making this best practice instantly available to anyone on the shop floor (no noise expertise required) so that it gets used
- use a real-world performance algorithm to evaluate and improve actual PPE performance
- track performance and provide feedback
- taking advantage of the fact that this approach is self-financing – it saves money and time compared with current practice
Click the link below to acquire a copy of the presentation.
You can learn more about the new best practice approach and how to apply it within your own organisation on the one day Noise Risk Management Master Class workshop (Jume 15th, Slough). This also functions as an update to noise competency training and includes the revised HSE draft guidance and the radical new otoacoustic emission hearing damage screening test technology that allows you to track annual changes in the hearing damage of personnel.
The current noise risk management process has failed. This is how we fix it to reduce risk by c 90%…
Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) claims currently running at about £400,000,000 per annum is unsustainable and demonstrates that current risk management processes have been ineffective and must be changed. Thousands of people are suffering hearing damage needlessly due to a lack of knowledge. Did you know that:-
- PPE – muffs: lose 70% of their performance after 1 month; 90% due to glasses etc; 40% of PPE users get zero protection
- PPE – plugs: most not fitted correctly; as low as 3dB attenuation; women get up to 9dB less attenuation than men
- Audiometry: the damage criteria used include frequencies that do not reflect hearing loss; no threshold shift is necessarily detected despite substantial damage and reported symptoms
Noise Master Class – one day workshop
Book your place to find out how to implement a risk management revolution that can reduce hearing damage risk by c 90% and that can dramatically reduce costs
This one day workshop provides details of the key innovative changes in best practice that should be introduced to reduce the risks of future hearing damage by around 90% at a fraction of the cost of the current conventional (top-down) risk assessment processes. The day is suitable for anyone with responsibilities for risk management who needs to keep up to date with the latest developments and expectations or for people who have previously attended accredited noise competency training. It includes:-
- New HSE guidance: puts the emphasis on action, not placebo documentation and processes
- New approach to risk management: brings together all the simple, effective “low hanging fruit” risk reduction elements, making them easily available to non-specialists. This replaces the current typical “top-down” process, giving anyone the means and responsibility to reduce risk – at negligible cost. The process is initially available by email, covering: PPE tool: hearing protection database and real-world performance algorithm. Noise control tool: database providing instant access to detailed, low cost engineering solutions to common problems
- New OAE hearing screening test: audiometry does not detect the early stages of hearing damage. Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) does. It can assess and track the actual performance of risk reduction programmes, detecting shortcomings before significant damage is done. OAE will soon be available as a fast, objective, low-cost test by a technician in a quiet office that assesses noise-induced damage to the inner ear structures at an early stage, removing the guesswork as to your risk reduction programme performance.
- Digital Noise Assessment (DNA) App beta: currently under development, this will make the new best practice available to anyone, anywhere on smartphone or tablet with automated action reporting and noise measurement.
Misunderstanding Hand Arm Vibration monitoring marketing material can put hands and safety policies at risk. Caveat emptor.
Stop Press: 27/02/17: HSE has just issued new guidance on HAV measurement and management covering similar concerns. These may well change the way you measure and monitor HAV risk – dramatically… A one-day HAV Master Class and competency update workshop covering these topics is now available. Book a place to ensure that you are up to date with best practice – places are limited.
We are regularly asked about new vibration measurement technology, particularly re the latest hand-held, glove or wrist mounted transducers that are presented as the latest assessment improvements. Whilst they may be useful tools, unfortunately some claims have been disingenuous and end users have misunderstood the limitations inherent in the vibration measurement techniques. Where these techniques do not conform to measurement standards, the results cannot be compared with the regulatory action and limit values. If these values are mistakenly used, then operator risks could be seriously underestimated. Put simply, none of these alternative measurement techniques provide values that can be used for a reliable assessment of the levels of vibration to which operators are exposed as per BS5349.
The following is a summary explaining why alternative HAV measurement techniques may not provide correct values. Click below to acquire the definitive white paper guide.
Why is poor vibration measurement technique such a recurring issue?
Correct measurement technique is a regular issue because the British Standard (BS EN ISO 5349-1:2001 2:2002) technique is time consuming. Common problems include:-
- Service providers taking short cuts: e.g. using hand-held transducers because it is quicker, despite that fact it is inaccurate; strapping accelerometers to tool handles with tape etc…
- New instruments and measurement techniques: many end users have been left with the impression that hand, glove and wrist mounted transducers can be used to carry out vibration measurements to BS5349 – they cannot. Some of the wording used in the descriptions of some systems and services has caused confusion.
Note the statistics used to estimate the relationship between the level and duration of vibration (dose) and the damage risk were based on values from transducers hard-mounted to tool handles. If a new measurement method gives a different value, it is incorrect by definition. Moreover, the HSE guidance recommends spending a minimum on measurement, investing in risk reduction instead. In keeping with this recommendation, for example, most of our HAV risk assessments are taken from our extensive HAV-Base database of accurate field vibration values. This can dramatically reduce (or even eliminate) measurement via virtual assessments by email (contact us for details).
Why non-standard vibration measurement techniques are not accurate
The reasons why alternative measurement systems do not provide vibration values comparable with the regulations are down to the simple dynamics discussed below.
BSEN ISO5349-1:2001/2:2002 measurements: the standard measurement where the transducer is hard mounted to the handle. This can be modeled by a stiff spring with low damping which does not vary. This provides the most reliable and repeatable data which can be compared directly with the regulatory action and limit values.
Hand-held or glove mounted transducer: the transducer is gripped between hand and handle or is mounted in a glove as illustrated. This introduces a set of soft, variable springs with high damping between the handle and the accelerometer. Consequently, higher frequencies are progressively filtered out. In addition, the handle shape and grip strength can seriously affect the measured level of vibration (for a constant vibration source). It is not difficult to measure levels that are less than half the correct value.
Wrist mounted transducer: wrist mounted “watch” based transducer are very effectively vibration isolated from the source. Only low frequency vibration is transmitted into the accelerometer. Consequently, the measured value can bear even less relationship to the actual vibration in the handle than for hand-held transducers. It is also highly variable – how tight do you wear your watch-strap?
HAV tool vibration measurement – the hard (and only correct) way…
The BS5349 measurement technique minimises the number of variables involved in hand-arm vibration measurements and provides the only accurate levels that can be compared with the risk statistics (the basis for the action values in the regulations). That is not to say it is not possible to devise better measurement techniques, but many years of work would be required to relate any vibration values to operator risk.
Some marketing literature surrounding the use of hand-held, glove or wrist mounted transducer measurement systems can be misleading if it gives the impression that the vibration values can be used directly in operator risk calculations. If incorrectly used in this way, these values can dramatically underestimate the risks to operators which could lead to avoidable heath issues and potentially serious repercussions should there be a claim.
If you need to carry out full HAV risk assessments (as well as measurements), there is a best practice guide checklist and open source template tool register available for download. We can also provide a full range of HAV training courses and workshops (up to full competency).
The availability of this new test will have a dramatic effect on the management of hearing loss prevention programmes…
New technology has become available that provides companies with data that they can use to check the real world performance of their hearing conservation programmes very quickly and very easily. It is a development of otoacoustic emission (OAE) screening technology that, unlike conventional audiometry, can be used to detect the very early stages of damage to the outer hair cells in the cochlea. Coupled with the latest hardware, it is a fast, objective, accurate and low cost test that can be used to assess the difference between the theoretical and the actual protection afforded by PPE programmes.
Applying OAE in practice
OAE has been used as standard practice to evaluate the hearing of babies for many years, but is relatively new in the industrial arena. However, AkzoNobel in the Netherlands, for example, has been using OAE to track changes in the condition of staff hearing to inform risk management procedures and as a motivational tool. OAE is an objective test that does not require special soundproof facilities (a quiet office will do) and the results, (in the form of % damage) are easily understood and tracked. An HSE report on the usefulness of OAE testing in occupational health surveillance (in 2011) concluded, that, even then, it was useful for the early detection of at risk groups and commented on the value that it can bring to preventative risk management of noise health risks.
Noise competency training update
As OAE will become an important element of best practice, we will soon be updating our IOSH competency training courses to reflect this fact. These one-day refresher Master Classes will be run in conjunction with Rob Shepheard, Consultant Audiologist and a leading expert on the subject in the UK. Contact us if you’d like advanced information on the dates and venues.
Would you like to test the technology on your site at no cost?
Rob would like to run some additional field trials of the technology as part of a fully funded project (via Acton Plan on Hearing Loss – NHS). This would involve testing a small number of noise exposed personnel and collating the results – at no cost to the host company. You would get the results and be able to test the approach in advance of its imminent adoption as part of best practice.
Please contact us if you would like to discuss the changes we foresee in best practice and the potential benefits to your company. If you would like to take part in the study, contact us or contact Rob directly at email@example.com +44-1603-208419.
This is one of a number of highly rated, interactive and practical noise related workshops developed for Environmental Health Officers. They are held locally by a host authority, saving on travel, time – and at a fraction of the cost of conventional training. It can even be a profitable exercise…
Noise Workshop Content and Objectives
Make the best use of your equipment and speed-up the processing of recordings
Northampton Borough Council: Thursday 27th October
The ability to record sound files is increasingly common – noise nuisance recorders, sound level meters or smartphones. This workshop covers the practical techniques that make recording and subsequent analysis much faster and more efficient, including procedures for accurate and reliable calibrated recording using complainant operated noise nuisance or any other type of recorder. It also covers subjective and objective analysis of recordings (particularly on PCs) and the use of frequency analysis related both to BS4142 and to noise source diagnosis.
The workshop is an opportunity to acquire practical techniques, short cuts and “tricks-of-the-trade” that reduce dramatically the time required to solve intractable noise problems. The workshop carries 2 CPD points and includes:-
- Noise Recording Best Practice
Sound level meters and noise nuisance recorders – complainant issues – £100 on the web converts any old SLM into a sound recording meter, or use a smartphone…
- Best Practice in Processing Recordings
Techniques that speed-up both subjective and objective analysis, from ears to PCs
- Interpretation and Source Diagnosis
Is it a fan – or a pump? Does it exist? Low frequency issues…
- Remote Control of Noise
Free evaluation of what constitutes BPM with costs typically 80% lower than conventional mitigation
- Free audio playback analysis software
Contact us to book a place or to run your own workshop locally.
A simple way to cope with mobile plant and tools
A question about a common problem that came up when giving a presentation at a recent IOSH meeting has a really simple answer. What struck me was the enthusiasm for a solution that we developed and been advocating as best practice for years in our training courses. Whilst the talk was on noise and noise control, the approach is equally applicable to Hand-Arm Vibration – in fact, combining the two (where appropriate) saves resources.
Q: “How do you assess noise risks from mobile plant in practice when tools and locations change all the time?”
A: “Put labels on the plant showing the distance within which PPE is mandatory.”
The very mobility and variations in the tools or mobile plant in factories or on construction sites, at first glance would seem to make it difficult to manage and police likely exposures. For noise, the risks for a “quiet” operator may suddenly escalate when a jack hammer starts up nearby. For HAVS, the degree of risk from a particular tool use may not be obvious (unless you can do the calculation in your head).
Combining Noise and HAV Data
We advocate creating a spreadsheet database of the items of plant which lists noise levels at the ear and also calculates the “safe” working distance within which PPE
is mandatory i.e. the distance at which the noise falls to below 85dB(A). This figure should be calculated for the worst case i.e. when there are reflecting surfaces nearby (which can increase the local noise level by several dB). The same spreadsheet should also include the levels of vibration (where appropriate) and the calculated “safe” working time to reach the Exposure Limit Value (ELV) of 5m^2 (single tool use finger-on-trigger time). Our free template HAV spreadsheet is available via this page.
Print labels for the plant and tools. To check risk management on site, you don’t need a sound level meter or a HAV exposure calculator, you just look at the stickers. A glance at a tool label not only tells you how risky the noise is (it also informs the operator – very simply and with no noise knowledge required), but also who should be wearing PPE. The HAVS version is a very simple way to inform about relative risk (albeit, for single tool use) and is the basis for questions for operators about how long they have been using the tools.
Not perfect, but very simple and very effective…
We already have a huge database of both noise and HAV data for mobile plant and tools that we use to implement this approach. Instant virtual noise and HAV assessment by email…
I’d like more information or to discuss the practicalities
INVC recognised at the UK Energy Innovation Awards
This annual event is organised by the Energy Innovation Centre to celebrate the most successful innovations arising from collaborations between SMEs and the energy networks. In our case, we were awarded the “Environmental Impact Award” for our work in collaboration with Echo Barrier to develop innovative new ways to minimise the noise impact of gas pipe replacement work in built-up areas.
High levels of noise from the equipment used (breakers, saws etc) to dig holes and trenches in roads is a perennial problem, both to pedestrians and to local residents who often overlook the work. There are also the practical problems associated with working in confined areas (increased noise due to multiple sound reflections) with mobile plant that has to be moved quickly and easily with a minimum of staff.
The solution was to develop custom versions of the acoustic tent (with wheels) plus additional mobile acoustic screens making use of the advanced Echo Barrier technology. This means that high noise attenuation can be achieved using low weight components (including a patented waterproof acoustic absorbent layer) which aids with the high degree of mobility and practicality required for this type of project. The typical noise reductions from the INVC designed system are 13dB – 18dB in very confined built-up areas, rising to around 20dB – 25dB when used in the open.
The award is recognition, of our ability to blend practical experience (in this case in construction, demolition and infrastructure noise projects) with innovative engineering to generate new best practice in noise control.