It should come to no surprise that job sites can get noisy. Between all of the equipment in operation and any noise coming from being outdoors, such as street traffic, it can be a lot to deal with. Vacuum trucks certainly aren’t the quietest pieces of machinery, either. With excess noise, it can actually get dangerous and compromise everyone’s safety. Instructions or warnings can be hard to hear and understand.
That being said, it is imperative to prioritize the well being of all employees. To do this, proper communication is the key. Whether it be creating hand signals or using a headset, we have a few suggestions. If you’re interested in making your workplace safer, read through these tips:
Tip #1: Increase the Volume of Your Two Way Radio
First of all, if you don’t have a two-way radio, it is time to invest in a set (or several!). This will make communication so much easier, especially if the two or more people working together are any considerable difference apart. Shop around online and read through the various reviews listed. This will help you purchase the best investment for your business. With many different makes and models, you are sure to find the best fit for your company.
Once you have acquired those, and you are still struggling to hear the other person, increase the volume of the headset. The sounds around a job site are sure to fluctuate as machines turn and off and people move around. You need to be prepared to make any adjustments to your headset at a moment’s notice. If you just purchased a brand new set, make sure to test your headsets properly before heading out on the job site. Charge them or replace the batteries often as well.
Tip #2: Yell If You Need To
If you don’t have a headset, or you didn’t bring it with you to work that day, it is okay to holler when you need to. While it is not as reliable as directly communicating through a headset, it will do in a pinch. Whether you need to communicate with a co-worker regarding a set of instructions, or warn them to watch their head, just make sure to raise your voice over the volume of your vacuum trucks or any other equipment currently operating.
Obviously, resorting to yelling above the noise is not the most ideal way to communicate as it is not the most effective. However, it will do where it is necessary. Just make sure to take care of your throat and use a cough drop or drink some water once the job site is packed up for the day.
Tip #3: Block Out Noise
For many job sites, workers are required to wear some sort of protective ear plugs to help counter the sheer volume of noise, as constant exposure to high decibels can do some serious damage to hearing. If you are operating an isolated vacuum truck, it often isn’t that bad, depending on what task you are doing. However, in a full-on construction zone, some of the noise can be unbearable.
While this measure does protect your ear drums and prevent any sort of hearing damage, it also does hinder communication. Oftentimes, workers will remove an ear plug (or both) in order to talk with a coworker or assess how a machine sounds. Be mindful of when you remove your ear protection. Again, this would be an ideal time to have a headset. Some headsets can serve as noise canceling while simultaneously providing a means of communication. These might be a bit pricier, but it will be worth it in the long run.
Tip #4: Increase Awareness
Once again, when using headsets or noise cancelling ear protectors, it is important to increase your spatial awareness and be cognizant of the environment around you. Dulling one of your senses, especially hearing, can make things more dangerous. For example, it might be more difficult to hear someone shout out a warning to watch your step or to hear a machine malfunction.
That being said, it is important to not take your eyes off of critical tasks for too long. Keep focused on what you are doing, especially when operating one of the vacuum trucks in your fleet. When working with others, assign a critical task to each individual and create a system that will keep each other safe. If you are working alone or in pairs, make sure to double check and assess your job site prior to getting started. Look for any red flags, such as loose debris or even if any sort of inclimate weather is moving in.
Tip #5: Use Hand Signals
Other than shouting and making your voice hoarse, you can actually create a series of hand signals. These don’t have to be anything complicated. In fact, the simpler, the better. Use a cut and dry system to signal information such as ‘stop’, ‘go’, and any basic indicators an individual might need to be aware of for operating your specific piece of equipment. Train on these early on so that all employees are on the same page.
While hand signals don’t replace the rich communication you can get from using a headset, they will do the job in a pinch. Use them whenever is needed to tell a coworker something simple and on the fly. Or, if your coworker is looking, pair hand signals with verbal instructions to clear up any miscommunication.
When you are working on a job site, things tend to get a bit noisy. While it is very important to protect your hearing from any increased exposure to high volumes, it is also instrumental to communicate with coworkers or those around you. Investing in a quality headset can make the world of difference on your job site and serve to help preserve the safety of all parties involved. If you don’t have a headset available, make sure to shout above the volume of your vacuum truck or create a series of hand signals to help avoid accidents.