Hearing Protection Meets Ingenuity

Serge Gagnon, Electrician at Chute-à-Caron Power Station, is one of the initiators of this project.

Power Operations employees today can use adequate and functional pre-moulded Bluetooth earplugs thanks to the initiative of Serge Gagnon, Electrician at Chute-à-Caron Power Station, and Annie Cloutier, Prevention Representative, both members of the health and safety committee for the Saguenay area. They decided to take on the project and find a way to make the existing earplugs work inside the power stations so that everyone would benefit from equipment adapted to the acoustic environment that is specific to Power Operations facilities.

“The first thing to understand is that the noise frequencies are different at Power Operations because of the turbine-generator units,” said Sébastien Savard, Health and Safety Advisor. “When the Bluetooth earplugs, which are also used in several other Rio Tinto facilities, would come into contact with these frequencies, they would go off-balance and create sound feedback. Since noise is a major risk factor during operations, we needed upgraded earplugs that would meet our needs in every respect.”

A prototype was produced after a series of tests were conducted with Laliberté d’Entendre, the hearing aid specialist that supplied the equipment. With these custom-designed earplugs, employees can protect their hearing at all times in exposed areas. Josiann Perron, an industrial hygienist, added, “In addition to muffling the sounds that penetrate the ears, the new earplugs are connected to the employees’ new phones, making communication between them much smoother during operations that require teamwork. Communication is one of the best control measures to properly manage everyone’s safety.”

With the new equipment, we can communicate more easily while keeping our hands free,” said Gagnon. “In addition to having a battery life of one week, the earplugs are adapted to our work environment. They absorb all surrounding sounds because they are very airtight, and so we hardly hear any noise when we communicate with each other.