Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - Farm safety
GROUND COVER FARM SAFETY 15 HEARING LOSS Make sure you can hear the message MANY FARMERS ARE INJURED WITHOUT REALISING IT -- AND NOISE IS TO BLAME IT IS PRETTY rare for an Australian farmer to reach retire- ment age without sustaining at least one serious injury as a result of their occupation – and the damage will have most likely been to their ears. Noise injury and hearing loss are two of the most common farm-related injuries. Hearing tests conducted at NSW field days since the 1980s indicate that farmers and farmworkers suffer a sig- nificant reduction in mean hearing thresholds from ages as young as 15 to 24. Of the 6373 farmers and farmworkers tested between 1994 and 2001, two-thirds had a significant degree of hearing loss and nearly half experienced noise injury (tinnitus). This compares with 22 to 27 per cent of the general Australian community suffering hearing loss. Noise injury on farms is due to exposure to hazards such as tractors, chainsaws and firearms. Damage can be caused by cumulative effects of noise greater than 85dB over many years, or instantly by peak noise levels over 140dB (such as a shotgun at the user’s ear). Surveys indicate that farmers will wear protection when working with a loud noise for a short time, such as a chainsaw, but are unaware it is just as damaging to drive a tractor without a cabin for a long time The Farmsafe Australia Noise Injury Prevention Strategy for the Australian Farming Community, funded by the Farm Health and Safety Joint Research Venture, aims to reduce rural noise injury by educating farmers about what levels are considered dangerous and just how quickly damage can occur. Farmers are being taught to understand the cumulative effect of various noisy activi- ties, rather than just to consider the impact of the noisiest activities of the working day. If there is exposure to a noisy activity for half the recommended daily limit, such as an angle grinder for 10 minutes of its 20-minute daily limit, the remaining noise exposure in the day should not exceed half the recom- mended daily limit for another example, such as four hours instead of the recommended eight hours on a tractor with a radio. Field-day surveys have shown the most typical situ- ations in which farmers are exposed to noise are use of chainsaws and workshop tools, followed by firearms, tractors and heavy machinery. The type of hearing pro- tection most commonly used by people surveyed at field days were ear muffs (45 per cent) followed by ear-plugs (10 per cent). But 28 per cent of farmers used no hearing protection at all. In 1997, a question was added to the questionnaire about how often hearing protection was worn in common noisy situations on the farm. Very few people answered that it was worn all the time. Surveys also indicate that farmers will wear protection when working with a loud noise for a short time, such as a chainsaw, but are unaware it is just as damaging to drive a tractor without a cabin for a long time. As a simple rule, farmers need to use personal hear- ing protection when they have to raise their voice to be heard at a distance of one metre, or when the noise level is greater than 85dB (a tractor with no cabin, an auger, pigshed at feeding, angle grinder etc). It is recommended farmers have their hearing fully assessed if they: ¢ need to ask people to repeat what they said; ¢ need to have the television up louder than the rest of the family finds comfortable; ¢ do not always hear the telephone ring; ¢ have difficulty following conversations if there is background noise; or ¢ experience tinnitus in the ears or head after a day’s work. For more information: Noise Injury Prevention Strategy, www.farmsafe.org.au FARM SAFETY CONTACTS National: Farmsafe Australia, 02 6752 8218, www.farmsafe.org.au; RIRDC, www.rirdc.gov.au New South Wales: Farmsafe NSW, 02 6752 8218, www.aghealth.org.au; Workcover NSW, 02 4321 5000, www.workcover.nsw.gov.au Queensland: Farmsafe Queensland, 1800 818 006 (Queensland), 1300 737 470 (interstate), www.farmsafe. com.au; Workcover Queensland, www.workcover.qld.gov.au South Australia: Farmsafe SA, 08 8578 1344, 1800 214 453, www.ausgrow.com.au; Workcover SA, 13 18 55, www.workcover.com Tasmania: Farmsafe Tasmania, 03 6332 1826, www.tfga.com.au Workcover Tasmania, 1300 366 322, www.workcover.tas.gov.au Victoria: Farmsafe Victoria, 03 9207 5503; WorkCover, 1800 136 089, www.workcover.vic.gov.au Western Australia: Farmsafe WA, 08 9359 4118, www.farmsafewa.org Workcover WA, 1300 794 744, www.workcover.wa.gov.au Ground Cover is brought to you by growers and the Australian Government through the publisher, the Grains Research and Development Corporation. Write to: The Editor -- Ground Cover, PO Box 5367, Kingston ACT 2604 Executive Editor : Ms Maureen Cribb, Publications Manager, GRDC; 02 6272 5525 Managing Editor : Brad Collis, Coretext; 03 9670 1168; fax 03 9670 1127 © All material published in Ground Cover supplements is copyright protected and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from the GRDC. Design and production : Coretext; www.coretext.com.au Advertising sales: Hyde Media; 03 9870 4161; fax 03 9870 4163 Registered by Australia Post Publication No. NAD 3994 Ear muffs are the most common form of protection -- but many farmers wear no protection at all.
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