From OMAFRA’s ONvegetables.com
By: Janice LeBoeuf, Vegetable Crops Specialist, OMAFRA, Ridgetown
Part one of two.
As of July 1st 2016 all employers in Ontario, including farmers, are required to comply with new workplace noise regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The legislation states that farmers and other employers shall ensure that their employees are not exposed to hazardous levels of noise. Hazardous noise, according to the legislation, is 85 dBA or louder, for a time period of approximately eight hours. Examples of 85 dBA are illustrated below.
This legislation does not apply to self-employed farmers with no employees.
What this Means to Farmers
This results in additional responsibilities for farmers to ensure safe working conditions for their employees.
- Farmers shall take reasonable measures for the circumstances, to protect workers from exposure to hazardous sound levels.
- Noise protective measures may be engineering controls (altering work environment), work practices and, where required and permitted, hearing protection devices.
- Measurements of sound levels in the workplace (for the purpose of determining appropriate protective measures) shall be done without regard to the use or effect of hearing protective devices.
- Employers should ensure that workers are not exposed to hazardous sound levels of 85 dBA, for eight hours.
- Except for certain circumstances, employers shall protect workers from exposure to hazardous sound levels without requiring workers to wear hearing protective devices.
- Protective hearing devices are not to be used as a primary means of protecting hearing only in the certain circumstances listed below.
- Where practicable, clearly visible warning signs shall be posted at every approach to an area in the workplace where the sound level regularly exceeds 85 dBA.
The Use of Hearing Protective Devices
Hearing protective devices shall be used if other forms of protection such as modifying equipment, absorbing noise, or changing frequency of noise cannot be achieved due to:
- not in existence or are not obtainable;
- not reasonable or not practical to adopt, install or provide because of the duration or frequency of the exposures or because of the nature of the process, operation or work;
- rendered ineffective; or
- are ineffective to prevent, control or limit exposure because of an emergency.
Training and Instruction on the Use of Hearing Protective Devices
If hearing protection devices are provided employers shall also provide adequate training and instruction on the care and use of the device including its limitations, proper fit, inspection and maintenance and if applicable the cleaning and disinfection of the device.
Selecting Hearing Protection Devices
When selecting hearing protection devices consider:
- sound levels to which a worker is exposed;
- the reduction provided by the device; and
- The manufacturer’s information about the use and limitations of the device.
A hearing protection device shall be used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Summary of Changes
In situations where noise levels are hazardous farmers shall consider the particular circumstances of the situation and use engineering controls, safe work practices and in certain circumstances, provide employees with proper hearing protection devices and necessary training for how to use.
Part two of two.
What is 85 dB and How do I Measure it?
What this means to farmers
A decibel is essentially a unit of measurement for sound. It is a measure of power or intensity of a specific sound. Decibels work in a logarithmic function. For example, 85 decibels is two times louder than 83 decibels, thus for every 3 decibels increased above 85 the sound power doubles and the recommended exposure period is reduced by half.
This new regulation states that employers are required to ensure that employees are not exposed to sound levels equivalent to or greater than 85 dBA, Lex,8. In other words, farmers and other employers shall ensure employees are not exposed to 85 decibels of sound for duration of approximately eight hours. This is due to the possibility of hearing damage occurring.
There are different methods to measure decibels in a work environment. They include:
- Computer program and equipment: Easy to operate and cost effective. Not very mobile.
- Mobile app: Easy and quick to use. Convenient to acquire.
- Decibel meter: Most accurate, but at least $200.
Examples of Decibel Levels (Approximately)
- Garbage Disposal 80 dBA
- Milling machine 85 dBA
- City traffic, inside the car 85 dBA
Common Farm Situations
- Average tractor sitting idle 85 dBA
- Tractor (under full load) 120 dBA
- Chain saw (operating) 94-116 dBA
- Orchard Sprayer 85-100 dBA
While operating a tractor for an extensive amount of time, farmers would be required to supply their employees with adequate hearing protection. Farmers should also consider other common activities that occur on a day to day basis, such as machine work, using tools, and even live-stock birth. For example, a handsaw produces on average 85 decibels and an electric drill produces on average 95 decibels.
Farmers need to determine which tasks involve sound levels equivalent to 85 decibels or above, with exposure time of approximately eight hours or more. This can be determined by using any of the three instruments listed above. If the decibel rating is over 85 dBA and employees will be exposed to this level of sound for eight hours or longer, the famer shall change the work environment so the exposure is under a hazardous level or supply adequate hearing protection.
Once these jobs are discovered, farmers can take measures to protect their employees hearing. In situations where hearing protection devices are appropriate farmers might consider: ear muffs, ear plugs and canal caps. Hearing protection devices are given an NRR or noise reduction rating. This rating uses a simply subtraction method where if a set of ear plugs is given a 30 dBA NRR, and workers are exposed to 85 dBA, then the ear protection reduces the noise to 55 dBA.
Training and instructing employees on the proper fitting, inspection and maintenance and, if applicable, the cleaning and disinfection of hearing protection devices is another responsibility employers will be required to undertake. Additionally, employers will be required to provide visible signage warning of areas where the sound level regularly exceeds 85 dBA.
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