A computer program to protect against machine noise has earned the 18-year-old German inventor a design award at a Munich trade show.

Johannes Hartmann’s noise protection system — the Wireless Work Protection System (WWPS)—may contribute to improving workplace environments. “The program makes sure that you can switch on noisy machinery only if you are wearing hearing protection,” said Hartmann, a high school student from Schongau, Germany.

It is designed with sensors to be attached to machines to determine whether proper hearing protection is in place. It is also fitted with an emergency switch with wireless remote capability to turn the machine off. This design allows a worker to turn off a machine without having to look for a switch on the machine.

While many countries have implemented noise restriction regulations in the workplace, people often forget or neglect to take the proper steps to protect themselves from machinery noise. In Germany, about 7,000 new cases of work related hearing loss are reported annually, according to the Web site www.hear-it.org. Hartmann says he came up with the idea for the WWPS after working at several internships where he repeatedly found “that noise hazards are not taken seriously in many companies.”

His invention was one of 12 to be singled out in the Award for Outstanding Innovative Contribution to Manufacturing category. He used the 5,000 Euro prize to patent his invention.