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Headphones on the shop floor7/19
I found an older thread on this from 2011 , but i'm curious now 5 years later how you guys handle Headphones on the shop floor?
To be fair, when I was on the shop floor all day everyday I too listened to my music via headphones, but you could come up to me and talk to me and I could still hear you. And the guys are hard workers . I see them each from time to time staring at their phone to change music or skip a song.
We are a custom small shop, everyone works on their own projects . And the guys do work hard.
What are your thoughts?
Absolutely no way. Do you want to be the one to explain to his next of kin what happened to him because you let him wear headphones and he could not hear someone yelling for his safety? Sorry, but that will not be me.
And, that is before we start talking about insurance and lawsuits...
Same. Not allowed unless given special permission, which no one has asked for yet. Not even on installations.
You have to be kidding.
As a long-time (50 year) amateur, even I fully realize that you (and any employees) can't EVER be in a position of not having all your faculties fully attuned and concentrated on what you're doing on machines that can do you grievous bodily harm in an instant.
Assuming you have liability/work comp insurance, your insurance company, if they knew of your current rules, would be appalled and demand change or cancel your liability/work comp coverage. You qualify as a claim waiting to happen. They don't need it and neither do you.
If you had a lawyer who knew what you are allowing, he or she would be screaming at you to stop this nonsense, right now.
It's funny, I've owned a number of businesses and employed many, many dozens of employees (doing very tame, non-machine things) and never has even one of them thought that they should be able to listen to any tunes while they were working.
Not even in the shipping department of my retail operation. Work is work and tunes are something you do on your own time. Simple as that.
If you don't put a total, flat-out stop to this, at some point (could be tomorrow or years or decades from now) something bad will happen.
If (when) it does, you could wind up with no business and no assets when the legal wreckage is cleared. Not to mention feeling guilty about being so stupid.
Much better to impose your will on your employees who are apparently feeling entitled to do what they wish. That can't be allowed. Your bank account and their body parts will ultimately thank you.
Do (or would) you let your kids wear them while they are driving?
Two sides to this.
We want them to wear ear protection for loud noises but not listen to music.
When I'm running my CNC with ear protection, I can't hear anything that's going on anyway, so why not add a little music to the day?
with 35% hearing loss, I'm all for hearing protection. You can manage noise through hearing protection to provide the employee a safe environment. You cannot control their use of the volume control to create an even louder noise to drown out the machine which is 1) what prevents them from hearing warnings, and 2) creates even more damage to their hearing.
Hearing damage is permanent and cumulative. You don't need to contribute to nor encourage the creation of a deaf generation.
Sound is a very important sense in an environment where machinery is operating. If things are going pear shaped, then a change of note might be the only early warning.
Also, these jobs demand 100% attention, which cannot happen if you are listening to music.
Thanks everyone . You all are right and make valid points. For the longest time we convinced ourselves we were creating a happy environment where everyone enjoyed too be. But at some point you have to draw the line.
Ear muffs to preserve hearing are one thing, music (at whatever volume needed for it to be heard in those muffs) is something else entirely.
So, why not have a little music? Simple. It's a distraction.
A recipe for disaster. Never underestimate the ability of any plaintiff's lawyer to come up with reasons why YOU owe a lot of money, no matter what the facts are.
And, there really are two sides to this.
One side is you and your assets and you and your employee's fingers, etc.
The other side is the damages you will likely pay if something ever goes wrong.
It only takes one totally unintended screw-up and the resultant lawsuit, which you won't enjoy at all should it ever happen.
The idea is to not expose yourself to the risk in the first place. They can listen to all the tunes they want when they're not on your clock.
It would be very interesting to see if anyone can find what insurance companies would say on this subject, much less have in their policies.
I'm asking mine - you go ask yours. "A friend of mine has a shop that allows music in their hearing protection...."
As an employer, you are liable for the employee's hearing. If there is a loss, you can be held liable if you cannot demonstrate enforced hearing protection policies. I used to measure everyone's hearing once a year - got a baseline audiogram, then go back annually. If there is a shift, then hearing protection has to be improved, and enforced.
This is true even if they incur hearing loss off the job. I had guys that were hunters that would all lose some hearing in that range of gunshot. I had to document when they hunted or target shot and try to get them to wear hearing protection when shooting.
I even had a boss suggest I hire deaf people!
The New York Times ran a series of articles about a year ago that discussed the link between hearing loss and early onset dementia. Apparently when you have a hard time hearing your brain has to use all of it's ram to assemble sounds into words and as a consequence has bandwidth crashes.
Your ear has a series of membranes that process vibrations. Sound pulses against these membranes and your brain interprets the percussion of these pulses. In ordinary conversation ambient air dampens the spikes in these pulses. If you bypass this cushion of air the membranes in your ears have to perform what air resistance used to.
Long story made short: If you played football in high school and don't wear your headphones you're doubly screwed.
I gotta say I am surprised by some of the responses.
Headphones have no place in a noisy shop only because they provide zero protection and require a high music volume to overcome the environmental noise.
Earmuff music volume can be very low and have a minimal effect on hearing external sounds. Sometimes those external sounds are important (music off), sometimes they aren't. Sometimes music is a distraction, sometimes it helps prevent distractions. A responsible person knows whats distracting and knows when music is not appropriate.
Phones are a distraction. I had to make my own bluetooth earmuffs to get music controls on the earmuffs.
Someone totally focused on their work may not hear you yelling at them w/ or w/o earmuffs or music.
The answer to this is simple. You can't wear headphones while wearing your government mandated hearing protective devices.
Excellent point Jerry, it is imperative to abide.
Hearing loss is real.
As Steve pointed out, it is permanent and cumulative. Imagine for a moment how frustrating it is to have a bad cell phone connection. If you lose your hearing EVERY conversation you have for the rest of your life will be like bad cell phone reception.
Just because your point about not being able to "wear headphones while wearing your government mandated hearing protective devices." is amusing (and makes a great soundbite for a tea party candidate running for office) doesn't make your hearing problem go away.
I will be covering this topic soon on my podcast. If you can't hear it you can always read it. I will also be offering this in braille If you're of the tribe that also thinks safety glasses are unnecessary government intrusion.
cabmaker- I'd love to listen to your podcast, but my hearing went years ago. Since I did not hear well, I missed the warnings about safety glasses and have lost vision in both eyes. As you can imagine, I then had a horrific accident (not my fault) on the tablesaw and lost 9-1/2 fingers. Since I work in Aromatic Red Cedar, I now have a nasal carcinoma, since I wore no inhalation risk prevention. So... even if your podcast is in 'smell-o-vision' I wouldn't be able to learn anything from you. On a bad day, I can get depressed, but mostly I just love to work wood.
However, I'd love to find out where such a podcast can be found. If you are wondering how I am typing this....I still have a few other skills.
Jerry speaks to the point that his liberty to make a profit gets blunted by the pernicious regulations, small things that avalanche into what we have today.
So the cabinetmakers in Somalia must really be cleaning up?
They do not have as much capital in machinery as in the US.
None the less the Somalian economy has made continual improvement.
Where does one listen to your podcast?
I guess I'm the odd man out, I wear my headphones whenever I'm operating machinery and haven't found them the least bit distracting. In fact I believe it's much safer as I'm slightly more relaxed with the headphones on and concentrating on my work. If I do a quick cut without them I find I'm thinking about how bloody loud this machine is and not focusing on the task as much!
If someone needs me they call just about as loud as they'd have to yell anyway, as they have to overcome the noise of the machine.
Now I should clarify my headphones are on when I'm using machinery. I don't wear them all day, too bulky and this time of year much too sweaty to be comfortable! I don't think I'd be in favor of full time use for reasons already brought up.
Please clarify what you mean by Headphones...Are they ear buds, or muffs?
I'm also in the minority. I listen to podcasts while building and spraying. Actually did a whole class through iTues U with lectures from Yale on the American Revolution.
Recently, I encouraged my employee to wear his headphones while sanding primer while I was cutting up the next project. Since then, he has been wearing them for other tasks and I'm seeing the downside. I think my rule will be that they are ok during tasks that are without tools. Sanding primer, breaking edges of face frames, even using the DA on cabinets ok. Everything else, no.
I can see both sides of this. I too listen to podcasts.
The trouble with physical work is that there is a tendency to think about other things while doing the work. You don't usually see someone who is doing mental work wearing headphones.
So I see it more as a symptom of someone not focussing.
Admittedly it is hard because there are so many distractions. E.G. audible books and driving. Yeah probably more likely to have an accident.
The idea of multitasking is BS. If I really want to get something I'm listening to ( non fiction) I have to focus on it, or if I'm detailing I have to focus on the detailing.
Obviously I'm not above the doing this but maybe that should be the goal?
Something's becoming obvious.
At least some shop owners are capable of differentiating what sort or level of distraction or diversion MIGHT be OK under certain circumstances.
Hand sanding? OK. No power tools? OK. Power tools? Maybe OK, but I don't really think so. You can do what you want, but you can't say "Do as I say but not as I do because I'm the owner" and expect to be taken seriously.
Most employees certainly don't have the employer's interest (or even their own) in mind when arriving at the same fine distinctions as to what's OK and what's not OK.
Music? My favorite music? OK! Let's rock! This is great! I love this place!
But, employees have a different definition of what's "appropriate." That guy who does great work, but is thinking about that cute chick he met at the concert by the artist he's listening to as something goes sideways and he's injured?
As a shop owner, there's no way I'd ever allow anyone to listen to anything other than what's going on around them. Period. Such as they can ascertain through their mandated hearing protection.
They work in a wood shop. The machines are loud. You're stuck with that. And so are they.
We all wish that saws and jointers and planers and moulders played happy tunes and farted unicorns, but it's a noisy industrial environment and that ain't gonna change.
Music? Listen to it on your own time, you're here to work, not be entertained. Don't like it? Find another job.
The last thing you want is to be sued by some moron who had no idea he could ever be distracted by something you could have easily prevented.
You're exactly right about "You don't usually see someone who is doing mental work wearing headphones."
My companies were mainly a bunch of salesmen, but not even the guys who were custom-building computers or packaging and shipping them (with no loud or dangerous equipment) thought about tunes.
Would have been a firing offense.
And I'd extend the definition of "mental work" to running any piece of wood through any machine, even though it's generally easy to do.
Until robots do it all, humans bear all of the physical risks of dealing with stuff that spins at high rates.
It might be apt to mention that concentration is a valuable skill. Not that I'm always focused, but try.
I once read where a group of very sucessful people were asked what was their secret to success. 2 of them gave the same answer, the ability to concentrate. They were Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.
I have often heard that of two athletes with equal ability the one with better concentration will win.
IOW this skill is useful in many things.
Ok back to pokeyman.
Gary, mine are full earmuff style headphones, Howard Leight to be specific.
I'm not an expert in human psychology so I can't say one way or another, but when I'm running several hundred board feet through a planer I can't even fathom how listening to music, or NPR for that matter, is going to make me less safe?
I also agree though that if I'm doing something that requires mental work, figuring out how to do something, or getting a complicated shaper setup ready for instance, I prefer not having the headphones on.....which of course I wouldn't as it's not a noisy task. So that just kinda isn't an issue for me.
I guess I come out on the other side of the "mental work" position, I don't consider feeding wood through machines as mental work at all. Its not even as much as say driving a car. and lets face it, anybody....and I mean anybody can drive a car while listening to the radio.....is there anyone who doesn't? No mental work to me is the act off actually using ones brain to accomplish something....generally not something done while feeding 1000 lf of lumber through a machine. That is a task I would argue requires no more focus than walking down a city street or mowing the lawn.
But that's just my opinion for what little it's worth, and I'm certainly not trying to persuade anyone else.
This isn't about how shop owners deal with distractions, you're not gonna sue yourself, it's about what employees are allowed to do.
Concentration is everything. Anything that reduces or might reduce an employee's concentration is by definition a bad thing.
Sure, an owner knows his limits. Can you trust every single employee to be equally wise and judicious?
It's just not a good idea to leave your assets open to legal assault due to the possible bad results of employees' musical preferences and decisions.
" I can't even fathom how listening to music, or NPR for that matter, is going to make me less safe?""
The human brain is not (yet?) capable of multitasking. What we call multitasking is simply switching between several tasks. Studies have shown that the results of this switching is a very crappy work product. To excel, you need to concentrate on and complete one task at a time.
Have you ever tried to read a book and listen to music. You can either read the book or listen to the music but you cannot do both.
So are you carrying out a wood operation, some of which are inherently less risky than others, or are you listening to the news? You don't want your workforce to be making risk-based decisions on when it's OK to be listening to music rather than doing the work that they are ostensibly paid for.
Operating a well-maintained molder with all safety gear working is pretty straightforward but riding your bike on city streets with headphones is an order of magnitude more dangerous.
So your wearing headphones makes you less safe compared to someone who isn't for the reasons stated above. Whether that's an acceptable risk is up to you and your particular situation.
As a general rule for a larger shop, listening to headphones while working is completely unacceptable.
Music provides a more pleasant environment, its not something that needs to be actively listened to. Like work songs, music can increase productivity and reduce boredom.
Banning music, because you don't trust your employees to be responsible, isn't going to solve/prevent anything. Like the OP's not being able to yell to get an employee's attention, it doesn't address the root problem.
Read, I don't disagree.....but we're not talking about multitasking. We're talking about performing one task while listening to music. Just like driving a car while listening to music, or cooking dinner, or a multitude of other things one can do with music on. And personally, I have no problem reading a book while listening to music. In fact I prefer some background noise.....don't care for absolute quiet all that much myself.
but to each their own....so no music for you;)
I encourage using headphones. There's no reason to be talking to anyone, and having a stereo cranked up all the time is annoying. If you don't have enough situational awareness to be able to function without hearing in a shop, you've got no place in mine. It's not like you can hear anything anyways even without music.
3M sells headphones that double as ear plugs. Before I found those I would wear headphones under ear muffs. I can't stand earmuffs, hot, they smash into my big head, and they make my big head even bigger.