A Sound Hazard Identification Eradication Logging Device, designed for early warning and prevention of hearing damage in the construction industry
‘In order to limit the risk of occupational hearing damage, we look into innovations that help manage and reduce noise exposure of construction workers in their working environments, ’.
Why hearing issues?
Our early desk research showed that the construction industry sees the second-highest number of workers exposed to hazardous noise, and through direct conversation with many workers, it was clear that there was a very prevalent ignorance of the dangers of hearing loss. Therefore, focusing on the construction industry brought greater focus to the project.
58% of construction workers experienced significant abnormal noise-induced hearing loss between 1996 and 2010. This highlights the scale of the underlying issue within the industry.
Our Insights from User Research
Within the industry, there is a strong emphasis on head and eye protection, while the importance of hearing protection is often undermined. With the effects of hearing damage only noticeable over extensive periods of time, hearing protection itself is often out of sight, and out of mind.
So, how might we create a sensorial stimulus, to prompt people to be aware of potential noise hazards?
After interviewing occupations from different industries and mapping their daily work routines, we analysed the root causes for hearing damage and synthesized, realising the gap but also hidden opportunity to incorporate something into existing regulation and PPE wearing practices. Our focus target also shifted from enforcing user behaviour to more high-level site management after talking to senior safety officers and construction managers.
And why not incorporate sound measuring and feedback into people's routinely used equipment?
A storyboard highlighting the typical situation where workers forget to put on their hearing protection while at construction site.
Ideation, Concept Development, and Prototyping
After exploring many design possibilities, we tested and experimented with various ways to attract workers' attention to the presence of noise hazards. Given the working condition at construction sites, haptic and audio notifications were less effective. And therefore, a visual stimulus becomes critical.
Working in a team, we carried out a few iterations of design to validate the capability and recorded the limitations of the current design. This process is very rewarding.
Material Breakdown of a typical Ear Protection Device in the Market
Proof-of-concept prototype by James
Outcome and Reflections
The ‘SHIELD’ clips onto a pair of ear defenders, integrating into workers’ daily wear, in a clearly visible position. Once dangerous noise levels in the environment are detected, the on-screen display lights red to prompt the user to put on their protection. This eliminates the uncertainty of when ear protection should be put on.
Real-time sound data is relayed to the site managers via a phone application, highlighting the critical areas on a sound map. Managers are also alerted and prompted to carry out check-ups when safety regulation is breached.
Impact and Award
In a team of three, we branded our product SHIELD into a PPT innovation - Protec.
This Human-Centred Design Engineering project has won the Design Engineering Selected Innovation REcognition (DESIRE) Award in 2020, among the top 3 student design project of our cohort and demonstrated significant impact in design for human wellbeing.