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Innovations in Engine Design and Cab Structures of Agricultural Equipment Considerations for Noise Exposure

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2022 ASABE Annual International Meeting  2200299.(doi:10.13031/aim.202200299)
Authors:   Brian J Ahlstrom, Jayce Zilles, Michael L Pate
Keywords:   Emissions, Equipment, Noise, Safety, Tractors

Abstract. Occupational health and exposure to hazards in agriculture is a major concern especially with the use of mechanized equipment. Hearing loss affects approximately 12% of the U.S. working population with 24% caused by occupational exposures. Tractors and machinery are often associated with excessive noise levels above 85 decibels however recent engineering designs of cab structures as well as tier 4 emissions complainant exhaust systems have reduced operators‘ exposures to excessive noise level. With the induction of Tier 4 engine requirements new designs have prompted a closer examination of noise exposures of cabbed and non-cabbed self-propelled equipment used in agriculture. As tractors and equipment that are utilized on farms may have limited preventive maintenance resulting in the deterioration of cab sound insulation or opening seals which may result in higher noise exposure to operators. Accessible agricultural equipment manufactured between 1978 and 2021 which were actively used on farms in Northern Utah were assessed for operator noise exposure. Following NIOSH recommended exposure limits A-weighted, 8-hour time-weighted average using a 3-dB exchange rate was collected from 29 different equipment units. The noise testing was completed after the harvest season during winter storage between December and April. Testing occurred with equipment stationary with no load. Full throttle idle engine speed averaged 2,346.9 RPMs (SD = 161.5). Average noise levels at high idle were 77.5 dBA (SD = 7.6). At high idle, non-cabbed equipment averaged 89.2 dBA (SD = 5.4). At high idle, cabbed equipment averaged 74.8 dBA (SD = 5.1). Tractors and equipment (n = 10) that were 12 years or older averaged 76.7 dBA (SD = 7.9). While this pilot project did not account for equipment loading, results from testing cabbed equipment indicate that noise levels were not significantly correlated with age of equipment (r = -.165, p = 476) however number of cab openings was significantly correlated with noise levels (r = .643, p < .001). Operators should select cab designs with fewer openings as well as follow preventive maintenance procedures to ensure integrity of seals around openings and acoustic insulation around the cab.

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