'm an ex-ID who now operates heavy equipment (bulldozers, scapers, excavators, etc.). These pieces of equipment are incredibly dangerous, hot, and noisey (95+dB isn’t unusual in the enclosed cab of a big dozer).
A real product need; more complicated than an Ipod.
A safety helmet (hard hat) that incorporates hearing protectors with a communication capability. An “OSHA” rated helmet system that incorporates hearing protectors that don’t give the user an immense headache after a ten hour day. It must also incorporate sun / dust protection for the eyes.
Combine FSR radio reception (so we can communicate with other operators and supervisors) with an MP3 capability. Since this would be an industrial setting safety is the primary concern, with supervisory input being second; hence the FSR circuit should over ride the MP3.
There are approximately 23,000 union Operating Engineers in California. There are three times as many who are independent. The math looks something like 50 x 100,000 operating engineers in the US … alone.
Why combine all of these elements?
There are currently hundreds of safety helmets (hard hats) available and there are headphone type hearing protectors available that can be plugged into a lot of them. The problem with the “aftermarket” hearing protectors is that they have to be small enough to “universally” fit under the edge of the greatest number of helmets. As a result they are so small that they pinch the ears; after an hour it’s agony, after ten the red marks don’t go away until the next morning.
The helmet needs to be designed so that the hearing protectors are large enough to provide room around the ear for it to lay naturally; it would also increase the surface area and lower the pressure against the head. This added space would be more than enough for speakers. Ear plugs, and earbuds, are out, I’ve tried them under my hearing protectors and it’s just too hot, uncomfortable, and you have to remove both your headphone hearing protector AND the earbud to use the radio or speak with personnel on the ground. The delay in removing these to respond to a command is a real safety issue. The “mike” should be a manually keyed throat worn device, as opposed to “hands-off” voice activated unit. The reason? The noise level in these machine is enough to “key” the transmitter.
Why should this system include eye protection?
This is a very dusty (abrasive) environment in which to work and ultra violet radiation is damaging to the eyes; something like 12% of operating engineers, who have worked in the industry for thirty years (their whole working life) develop cataracts, so vision protection is very important.
When you wear a headphone type hearing protector you have to slip the temples of your sunglasses under the headphone which does two things; 1) it breaks the seal around your ear and it gets noisey again, and 2) the headphone pad presses the sunglass frame into that tender area immediately above your ear.
Not a quick, or easy project … but does address a real human factors problem.