The traditional picture of a farm as a serene and quiet workplace couldn’t be further from the truth. Machinery, motors, and even sounds made by animals, sometimes creates a noisy and often hazardous environment.
“Since the industrial revolution, noise is one of the most common occupational health hazards, ” explains Marcel Hacault, executive director of the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association (CASA). “Noise-induced hearing loss is 100 per cent preventable. But once acquired, hearing loss is permanent and irreversible.”
“PPE only works if you use it!” is the theme of this year’s Canadian Agricultural Safety campaign with a focus on the use, fit and access of personal protective equipment (PPE) in agriculture.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB). A normal conversation takes place at about 60 dB, whereas a gunshot is above 130 dB and will cause pain.
Most power tools operate at between 90 and 120 decibels, chickens inside a building are about 105 dB and a pig’s squeal can reach up to 130 dB. Hearing protection should be worn if noise or sound levels exceed 85 dB. The degree of hearing hazard is related to the level of the noise and duration of the exposure.
Here are two easy ways to determine if a noise is loud enough to damage your hearing. First, if you have to raise your voice to talk to someone who is an arm’s length away, then the noise is likely hazardous. Second, if your ears are ringing or sounds seem dull or flat after leaving a noisy place, then you probably were exposed to hazardous noise levels.
The best way to prevent occupational hearing loss is to reduce noise at the source by engineering methods such as installing a muffler or building an acoustic barrier.
How to wear soft foam earplugs: Roll the earplug up into a small, thin “snake” with your fingers. You can use one or both hands. Pull the top of your ear up and back with your opposite hand to straighten out your ear canal. The rolled-up earplug should slide right in. Hold the earplug in with your finger. Count to 20 or 30 out loud while waiting for the plug to expand and fill the ear canal. Your voice will sound muffled when the plug has made a good seal. Check the fit.
Most of the foam body of the earplug should be within the ear canal. Try cupping your hands tightly over your ears. If sounds are much more muffled with your hands in place, the earplug may not be sealing properly. Take the earplug out and try again.