Construction equipment, industrial machinery, and power tools continue to evolve, enabling people to accomplish jobs faster, more efficiently and safely. Demand for equipment designed to increase production and profit will always be a dominant market force within the manufacturing industry. Equipment design and functionality is also influenced by competitive forces driven by the need to develop machinery that can do more but cost less. Considering how powerful such economic influences are it is naive to think user safety is always the top priority when designing machinery.
Renting tools and the construction equipment rental industry were brought to the forefront of related discussions in recent “Buy Quiet” meetings hosted by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). These meetings included global thought leaders working on the Buy Quiet (BQ) initiative.
Buy Quiet is both a call to action and program that is conceptually straight forward: give consumers the option to buy tools and equipment that produce less noise in order to help prevent hearing loss among workers using them. The broader focus of the BQ program involves increasing the demand for quieter machinery in order to influence manufacturers to produce it. Buy Quiet (BQ) is a National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) jointly organized by the NORA Construction Sector and Manufacturing Sector Programs, and the NIOSH Hearing Loss Prevention Program.
Renting or “Rent Quiet” is inherently a concept of Buy Quiet. The words buy and rent are interchangeable within the context of obtaining equipment relative to its use by consumers and workers.
In the case of noise exposure, hearing protection is certainly a valuable tool used to prevent hearing loss. However, a significant opportunity to bring about long term change in reducing noise exposure and thus hearing loss comes from “prevention through design” initiatives like Buy or Rent Quiet.
If you are unable to eliminate hazards or remove workers from a dangerous environment the next course of action is to minimize the risk from exposure. Programs that offer resources to help people “Rent Safe” (a resource being developed by RentItToday.com for 2012) or more specifically Rent Quiet are a viable way to bring safety awareness to the construction and manufacturing industries.
A recent article from the NIOSH science blog mentions some of the challenges that come with getting manufacturers to become vested in and prioritize the production of safer, quieter tools and machines. One sure fire way to bring about change from equipment manufacturers is through influencing consumer purchasing decisions. How is consumer purchasing influenced with respect to buying quieter equipment?
One way is by developing resources that educate and bring awareness to consumers regarding noise levels associated with different types or models of machinery. Examples of such resources include the NIOSH Noise Meter which enables people to listen to different sounds and noise intensities of commonly used items while learning if they could cause hearing loss. Another example is the NIOSH Power Tools Database which enables one to compare the noise levels produced by different tools.
Ultimately if workers and consumers have access to resources that enable them to make informed decisions regarding how safe (or loud) the tools and machinery they rent are, one may increase demand for safer, quieter, equipment thus bring us full circle in the hierarchy of controls and eliminating the hazard.