Hearing the safety message

In the noisy and high-risk environment that is road construction, protective communication headsets provide key advantages in safety and efficiency.When working around large, noisy aircraft, protective earmuffs have become an essential safety measure for air traffic ground crew.

Noise-reducing headsets that allow individuals to communicate with one another have gradually become the norm, and a vital addition to safety and productivity in the industry.

While the concept of communication headsets has longstanding roots in aviation, it has also existed in the general construction market for some time now.

However, according to Terry Gorman, Senior Occupational Hygienist in 3M’s Personal Safety Division, the road construction sector has been slow on the uptake.

“Construction communication headsets still need more exposure in the market – people are not aware of the benefits,” he explains. “For us, they’ve been out there for quite a long time.”

Mr. Gorman explains that the headset communications technology has many practical applications in road construction, particularly in improving safety and facilitating site activities.

Equipping a team of workers with the headsets allows each individual to communicate effectively to one another on site, audibly and without excess background noise, as is typical of a construction site.

Mr. Gorman explains that, like a new car model, communication headsets are just an updated version of already existing technology – in this case, the everyday protective earmuff.

“Rather than using hand signals and other types of communication, workers can make direct contact through connected headsets,” he says.

He explains that crews working in noisy, high-risk spaces, such as roadwork zones, can benefit from these headsets because they help reduce the need for impractical and even risky methods of communication.

“The big problem is that when you lift normal earmuffs to talk to someone, it defeats the purpose of using them at all,” says Mr. Gorman.

“In the case of normal earmuffs, there’s also the safety implication that you can’t hear traffic coming from down the road,” he adds.

Communication headsets, on the other hand, can allow users to be better connected with their immediate environment. Users can hear ambient sounds such as conversation and warning signals while still maintaining clear two-way communication over long distances.

Mr. Gorman asserts that this gives employees working on site the advantage of hearing moving traffic next to site, as well as any safety warnings, such as a verbal cue from a workmate elsewhere in the workzone warning them of oncoming vehicles.

“It also has wide advantages with efficiency and time management. You can put a whole team in the same noise environment and, using 3M’s range of headsets, we can have a large group of workers all on the same channel,” he says.

3M’s Peltor range of communication headsets utilise the latest in headset technology, with a range of options available on the market.

He explains that the wireless headsets have helped to change the scope of on-site communication and productivity by reducing the need for cables. The company also has the ability to pre-program sets to work in existing frequencies before the sets are deployed in the field.

“Quality, a proven track record with industry and durability are some of the advantages of the 3M Peltor range,” asserts Mr. Gorman.

The 3M Peltor range of headsets boasts a variety of unique features, and clients are given the option of having “all the bells and whistles” according to Mr. Gorman.

3M showcased its range of Peltor headsets at the 2016 Australian Asphalt Pavement Association National Workshop Series, held around Australia in late July and early August, as part of its push to engage with industry and promote the benefits this underused safety measure may have for road construction crews.

While this kind of communication technology is available in the market now, Mr. Gorman explains that headsets are constantly improving, and how they are optimised on site may evolve even further in the future.

“The research and design team in our laboratories is looking at all that future development. However, we also have to wait for technology to be at a certain price point in the marketplace to be commercially viable.”

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