Why Metal-Detectable Earplugs Can be Important in Food Manufacturing

In any food manufacturing facility, preventing food contamination is a top priority. The last thing food producers want to do is unintentionally harm a consumer. If a stray earplug made its way into food produced at that facility, a company’s reputation could also be damaged, and they could be faced with a public relations nightmare. Metal-detectable earplugs are one of the easiest ways to help ensure that this type of non-food object is found before the food leaves the production facility.

For instance, in the first half of 2019, a major food producer issued a widespread and expanded recall after metal fragments were found in frozen poultry products. As a result, they announced they would install metal-detecting X-ray machinery as well as a third-party video auditing system for metal detection verification to replace an existing metal detection system. This is just one example highlighting the benefit of having hearing protection worn by food processing workers contain metal – to be detected by this equipment and help avoid these types of issues.

Why Using Metal Detectable Earplugs Can Be Important

3M Metal Detectable Earplugs

Metal-detectable earplugs can help food-processing facilities quickly identify any food that has been contaminated by an earplug or cord that contains metal and accidentally finds its way into the product. As previously mentioned, food manufacturing facilities commonly use metal detectors that test outgoing product for metal, helping prevent contamination of food. It is important for the food manufacturing facility to conduct validation studies to ensure that the metal-detectable earplugs can be detected in their specific process and equipment.

Key Points About Metal-Detectable Earplugs

Metal-detectable earplugs contain a small metal component within them. Some metal-detectable earplugs contain a small stainless-steel bead located in the earplug or its stem.

These metal-detectable earplugs may also feature plastic cords that contain metal particles. For safety reasons, earplugs and the cord that attaches them are designed to come apart easily. If the earplugs become separated from the cord, there is a high chance that the earplugs would be detected and removed. But unless the cord is also metal-detectable, it may not be found.

It also helps when the cord attached to the metal-detectable earplugs is brightly colored because it makes visual inspection for contaminants in the food easier. The color should be one that is a contrasting color to most food products.

How Metal-Detectable Earplugs Serve a Dual Purpose

Employee productivity is crucial to any company’s success. When employees wear earplugs that fit properly:

  1. They may be less likely to remove the earplugs due to discomfort.
  2. It is less likely for the earplugs to accidentally fall out and contaminate food.

This is why it is so important for employees to have a selection of metal-detectable earplugs that fit properly, feel comfortable and provide the right level of protection (attenuation). This helps decrease the chances of earplugs entering the food supply and may increase employee compliance.

How to Choose the Right Metal-Detectable Earplugs for Your Workers

The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requires manufacturing facility employers to provide hearing protection, which is part of a hearing conservation program, whenever employees’ noise exposure equals or exceeds an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) of 85 dBA or more. Providing proper hearing protection for employees can be challenging when the facility has strict health, sanitation and safety requirements.

For help with performing quick, objective fit testing, check out this system, which helps determine a worker’s Personal Attenuation Rating (PAR). Using this system in your hearing conservation program makes it easier to confirm that the worker is receiving the needed levels of attenuation and this can help with the selection of the right hearing protection for them.

There are metal-detectable earplugs that come in numerous styles such as foam roll down, push-to-fit or reusable. Providing a variety of earplugs can make it easier for employees to select hearing protectors that fit properly, are comfortable, and provide appropriate noise reduction. To learn more, contact our specialists.