Bursting balloons not eardrums

Posted on 6 May 2010 by The Manufacturer

Operating a five tonne, £38,000 JCB excavator with the sole purpose of bursting strategically placed helium balloons may indeed be the epitome of excess.

Doing so blindfolded simply adds to the absurdity. But for the uninitiated, that is exactly the kind of experience one receives when taking a trip to Diggerland — the pinnacle of big boys toys entertainment.

And what is the point you may ask. Well for most visitors to Diggerland, it’s simply a novel opportunity to ‘play’ with some heavy machinery. But, for The Manufacturer, it was an opportunity to put the latest in hearing protection to the test at what was probably the world’s noisiest press event.

Tim Brown takes the unusual step of donning a blindfold before getting behind the controls of a five tonne JCB excavator. Luckily, fellow TM writer Mark Young is on hand with Sensear’s dual hearing protection and communication enabling ear muffs to guide him around safely.

Arco, the UK safety equipment company, has teamed up with Australian company Sensear to bring the next generation in hearing protection to the UK. Unlike normal hearing protection such as ear muffs or ear plugs, which reduce all noise including useful sounds such as voice, the new technologically isolates and enhances speech while suppressing harmful background noise. The new style ear muffs and plugs incorporate voice isolating microphones for face to face conversation and also feature additional options including two-way radio communication as well as Bluetooth to allow for mobile phone usage without removing the protection device.

When presented with the task of working an excavator whilst blindfolded, the operators were partnered with a guide and both were fitted with the SM1xSR Smart Muffs featuring short range radio communication. Despite the colossal background noise of the excavator, the muff brought the sound level down to a very comfortable level and the two-way radio contact was clear and easy to understand. While the three minutes may have been slightly extended and, at times, the guidance was less than accurate, the task was successfully completed.

Over the course of the rest of the morning, The Manufacturer put the headphones through their paces while engaging in a number of inherently loud heavy machinery related activities. Importantly one of the additional characteristics of the headphones is the ability to select the level of background noise reduction. At the lowest level, the ear muffs reduce the noise to an audible but comfortable 82DB. At this level, users can easily remain aware of the situation around them whilst still providing hearing saving protection. In practice, such a feature will allow the user to be aware of any potential danger in the workplace including machinery, vehicles and alarms.

Arco divisional director of safety products Paul Ness briefs Diggerland attendees on the new technology the company has teamed up with Sensear to provide in the UK

Having not only successfully completed the balloon competition and more impressively walked away with the top honours from the JCB Robot racing, the day was a great success. The Manufacturer has to pay credit where credit is due and dedicate at least a portion of our Diggerland success to the contribution of the Arco/Sensear hearing protection which, in all seriousness, lives up to its promise of allowing for communication and awareness while providing top line hearing protection. This product will undoubtedly prove popular with anyone working in a loud environment and effectively eliminates the need to remove the headphone for any reason whilst engaged in an area of dangerously high levels of noise.

Tim Brown