Noise from agricultural tools and machinery can cause permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. Repeated exposure to noise will lead to permanent damage. The damage can occur gradually over a number of years and remain unnoticed until it is too late. Remember: once hearing is gone, it is gone forever. Hearing aids can help, but they can’t return your hearing to normal.
Hearing loss can lead to a loss in quality of life. Some early warning signs of hearing loss include:
- ringing in the ears after work;
- difficulty understanding a normal conversation;
- turning up the volume on radio or television when others appear to be able to hear adequately; or
- failing to hear background noises, such as a ringing telephone or doorbell.
The noise exposure standard for an eight hour day in Western Australian workplaces is 85 dB(A). Typical noises in agriculture that can damage hearing include:
- tractor 95-100dB(A);
- header 88-90dB(A);
- orchard sprayer 85-100dB(A);
- angle grinder 95-105dB(A);
- bench grinder 90-95dB(A);
- chainsaw 105-120dB(A);
- pig shed at feed time 95-105dB(A); and
- shotgun over 140dB(C).
If noise cannot be reduced or removed at its source, and there is no way to separate people from damaging noise exposure, personal hearing protectors must be worn.
Reduce noise at its source by:
- purchasing quieter machinery and equipment;
- modifying equipment to reduce noise;
- keeping machinery well maintained; and
- running machinery at lower revolutions.
Protect people from loud noise exposure by:
- limiting the time workers spend in a noisy environment;
- isolating work areas from noisy machinery using distance or insulation;
- scheduling noisy work when fewer workers are around; and
- using job rotation to alternate noisy jobs with quiet ones.
- Try on ear muffs before buying, to ensure comfort and a close fit.
- The higher the SLC 80 (sound level conversion) or Class figure for hearing protection, the higher the protection.
- Use lower SLC 80 or Class muffs for moderately noisy jobs - a high rating might mask out important danger warning sounds.
- Ear plugs may be more comfortable for some people, but must be inserted with clean hands. Re-usable plugs must be cleaned regularly.
- Clean and maintain hearing protectors. Replace worn or damaged parts. Keep protectors near the area of noisy activity, for example in the tractor cab.
- Wear a combination of ear muffs and ear plugs when shooting.
- Commission for Occupational Safety and Health Code of Practice: Managing Noise at Workplaces
- Noise WorkSafe web-page
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