How to Choose Your Hearing Protection – (part 2)
Are you paying too much? A balancing act.
This is part 2 of a series on how to choose the right hearing protection as part of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and what things to consider. Over the next few weeks we will go into several different aspects to consider, such as noise levels, cost effectiveness, certification AS/NZS1270, comfort, attenuation, durability, type of noise (frequencies), and more. In part 1 we discussed noise levels. We will now go into cost effectiveness.
Within the boundaries of proper tested and certified hearing protection, investing in a more cost-effective and efficient (including time) form of hearing protection is the ultimate goal for all.
We all know that budgets and costs play a huge part in the decision making processes in businesses. We need to balance current expenditure against the gains in the short to long term. This is no different in choosing the right hearing protector.
As we have seen in part 1, choosing just any type of hearing protection does not necessarily mean satisfaction of the duty of care for an employer. Employers need to make sure the protection has the right attenuation (sound reduction) levels at the right frequency levels to keep hearing and the workplace safe.
As most know, the actual costs of any product does not solely point to its purchase price. Durability, maintenance costs, efficiency, environmental costs are some other considerations. I will stick to the short and medium term considerations for the purpose of this piece when comparing different types of protectors.
Type of Protectors
We can divide hearing protectors in the following main groups:
- Disposable Ear Plugs – Single Use
- Custom Fitted Ear Plugs
As we are firm believers that any universal fit hearing protectors, with foam or plastic tips, are only to be used in moderation and for recreational use. One size does not fit all. They are not for extended industrial and heavy use, because of its restraints. We have therefore not taken these into account.
Ad 1. Earmuffs
There is a wide range of earmuffs available, different pricing, different quality. Usually, the lower the price, the lower its durability is though.
For the purpose of this article we will assume that the outer ear muffs have an average durability of 4 years or longer. You can decide for yourself if that is the case for you. The purchase price of a medium set of earmuffs is $60.00.
With heavy use, as in most industries, it is advised to replace the sealing rings and cushions at least 2-3 per year (every 3 to 6 months) to retain the attenuation levels (sound reduction) and comfort. A hygiene kit, as it is called, cost on average $30.00 (excl. GST). Which means a minimum of $240 (excl. GST, a minimum of 8 replacements) over a 4 year period. The material used for sealing rings and cushions is the same non-recyclable material as the foam plugs. Weight ranges on average between 60 and 100 grams per (hygiene kit) set. Over a 4 year period this equates to an average of 8 x 80 grams and is over 7kg (incl. Earmuffs) in non-recyclable waste per person.
The actual purchase price including maintenance kits per person over a 4 year period a minimum of $300 (excl. GST). The environmental burden is over 7 kg per person.
Costs are spread though in a one-off purchase price and 8 other times over a period of 4 years.
Ad 2. Disposable Ear Plugs – Single Use
On average companies using single use foam plugs are spending a minimum of $0.90 (4 sets) per day per person. A full time employee works on average 240 days per year. The actual purchase price per year per person is a minimum of $190 (excl. GST) per employee. And the weight of these non-recyclable Ear Plugs, and therefore the environmental burden, measures up to 3.8 kg per person over 4 years.
Would you like to compare the use of disposable plugs against our Custom Fitted Ear Plugs use our Cost Saving Calculator and you will be amazed at what you can save.
The actual purchase price per person over a 4 year period $740 (excl. GST). The environmental burden is 3.8 kg per person. Costs are spread out entirely over 4 years.
Ad 3. Custom Fitted Ear Plugs
Custom Fitted Ear Plugs are moulded to the ear of the user. These earplugs have a recommended life span of 4-5 years and that is because the (shape) of the ear might change over time. The materials used will outlast this period easily. Silicone earplugs do not need any maintenance in those 4 years. They will keep their intended attenuation. They can be cleaned with a little water and soft soap if need be.
There is no price difference between the level of attenuation, AS/NZS1270 classes 1 to 5 or similar. The filters used are interchangeable so that attenuation can be changed easily if needed without a change of earplug.
The purchase price (incl. Class 5 earplugs) are the actual costs for a minimum of 4 years, $262.00 (excl. GST). The silicon ear plugs weigh on average less than 5 grams per set and are a very small environmental burden.
The actual purchase price including maintenance per person over a 4 year period $262.00 (excl. GST). The environmental burden is 5 grams per person. Costs are invested once and upfront.
Apart from the time spent buying, replacing pads, researching, the actual attenuation levels, the safety provided, it is clear that foam plugs are the most expensive hearing protectors around, in actual costs and the cost to the environment.
The initial purchase price for average priced earmuffs are lower than those for custom earplugs but the maintenance costs to keep earmuffs up to date with attenuation levels take the total price above custom hearing protection.
Buying custom fitted hearing protection is an investment upfront that pays itself off. They are more durable, without (costly) maintenance, and they are therefore more cost effective than other hearing protection; it is also the eco-friendliest option.
Next we will talk about Frequencies and Attenuation.
If you would like more information in the meantime, please feel free to contact us firstname.lastname@example.org