By Garrett Burnett, MS, MBA and Amanda Terminello, MPH

Every year 22 million workers are at risk of losing their hearing from workplace noise hazards. Work-related hearing loss is a widespread problem, but it is a problem that can be solved. On August 1, 2016, NIOSH, OSHA, and MSHA issued a challenge to inventors and entrepreneurs with the dual goals of inspiring creative ideas and raising business awareness of the market for workplace safety innovation. More than 30 entries were submitted and the top ten were invited to present their ideas at the Hear and Now Noise Safety Challenge event on October 27, 2016. A panel of judges consisting of business experts, investors, and innovation specialists listened to pitches, asked questions, and selected three winners based on the assumed effectiveness of the solution combined with its commercial viability. This blog entry is the second in a three-part series summarizing the solutions presented by the Challenge winners and finalists. References to products or services do not constitute an endorsement by NIOSH or the U.S. government.

Finalists: Manesha Kachroo and Bibek Das

Manesha Kachroo is the founder and CEO and Bibek Das is the president and CTO for a Houston-based company that provides safety support to other businesses. Both are engineers who love to solve problems. In their work, Ms. Kachroo and Mr. Das saw a big problem that needed to be solved: risk of hearing loss from exposure to job-related noise. They recognized that despite decades of traditional regulatory and administrative interventions,  hearing loss is still a pervasive issue. In the manufacturing sector, for example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that hearing loss is the most commonly recorded occupational illness (17,700 cases out of 59,100 cases), accounting for 1 in 9 recordable illnesses. In considering the problem, Ms. Kachroo noted that there “isn’t any holistic solution for this on a single platform that is user-friendly and that caters to the needs of the individual customer.” Ms. Kachroo and Mr. Das were inspired to begin thinking creatively about how workers and managers could proactively manage exposure to and protection against industrial noise. They sketched out ways they could combine their deep experience in the safety and continuous improvement universe with technology to protect workers’ hearing.

Together they started on an integrated software platform that they dubbed iPING and recruited their colleague Dilip Amin to assist with business management. Ms. Kachroo and Mr. Das are building iPING to be a user-friendly, web-based, real-time solution that incorporates sensor technology, and predictive analysis into an Internet of Things framework. They intend the ultimate product to be a complete solution to a company’s hearing conservation program. At the Hear and Now event, Ms. Kachroo described how iPING will collect data and translate it into meaningful information so that it is available “at the right time, in the right place, for the right person.” She defined how the iPING platform will enable communication from machine to machine, person to person, and machine to person. In one example of iPING’s utility in workplace hearing loss protection, the technology will predict...Click here to read the rest of the blog post.