But what happens when we are exposed to prolonged periods of excessive noise? And what constitutes loud noise or an extended period of time?

Pasztor danielle
Farm Safety Specialist and HR Consultant / PeopleManagement Group Inc.

This article will look at noise levels on the farm, proper precautions and some best practices related to hearing protection. We will also examine employer responsibilities related to employees and noise on the farm.

A new noise regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) was approved on Dec. 9, 2015. The farming operations regulation has also been amended so the new noise regulation will apply to farming operations with persons employed under the act. First, let’s think about what noise means.

How do we measure noise?

dB stands for decibel and is a unit of sound measurement. This unit measures the loudness of a sound or the strength of a signal, computed as the signal-to-noise ratio.

Humans do not hear all frequencies equally. For this reason, sound levels in the low frequency are reduced, as the human ear is less sensitive at low audio frequencies than at high audio frequencies.


In order to account for this, different weightings have been created to give a loudness measurement that takes into account how the human ear actually perceives sound.

Values that have been corrected using the “A” weighting system are shown using units of dBA. Values not corrected to account for human hearing are written using units of dB.

Levels of noise

According to the OHSA act, sound level equal to or greater than an equivalent sound exposure level of 85 dBA during an eight-hour shift requires hearing protection.

Therefore, any area on your dairy, piece of equipment or work task that is equal to or exceeds this level is what we are concerned with. To put this into perspective, below are some examples of typical dBA levels on the farm:

  • Tractor, without cab – 90 to 100 dBA
  • Tractor, with cab – 80 dBA
  • Augers – 93 dBA
  • Skid steer, full throttle – 85 dBA

The levels below are an indication of how much noise is too much and effects of the amount of noise on our hearing:

  • 85 decibels (dB) – the “action level” where hearing protection is required

  • 90 dB – the OHSA eight-hour average exposure limit

  • 100 dB – exposures longer than 15 minutes are not recommended

  • 110 dB – regular exposure of more than one minute risks permanent hearing loss

Employer duties and best practices

The act states, “Every employer shall take all measures reasonably necessary in the circumstances to protect workers from exposure to hazardous sound levels.”

But this is difficult – to protect from every possible circumstance – as we don’t know the sound levels in each area of the farm.

Using a sound level meter to determine the noise levels in loud areas, or near or on equipment you think might be over this level is a good way of knowing where to require protection to employees.

The act also requires the employer post a clearly visible sign in areas where hearing protection is necessary. You may need one in your parlour when the fans are on or while the crowd gate is moving and the parlour is filling. Also while cleaning stalls, bedding, etc.

Another area to focus on is the type of hearing protection. Disposable foam earplugs are not the best for the type of sound people are exposed to on the farm, as they do not protect to the level of sound we need to address.

The best method of hearing protection are earmuffs that cover the entire ear. In certain instances, depending on the level the meter has picked up, both may be a best practice.

At the end of the day, we want to make sure we are protecting our hearing over time, throughout careers in agriculture, and on the dairy especially. Hearing damage is irreversible and lost forever once it is gone.

Because we are not aware as it is happening, once it is found out, it is generally too late. Following best practices, using proper hearing protection and monitoring sound levels is the best way to protect yourself and your team.  end mark

Danielle Pasztor