Audible and infrasonic noise levels in the cabins of modern agricultural tractors--does the risk of adverse, exposure-dependent effects still exist?

Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2013 Jun;26(3):488-93. doi: 10.2478/s13382-013-0116-0.


Introduction: The agricultural tractor is one of the most commonly used vehicles on farms and one of the most prominent sources of noise. This article presents an exemplary assessment of the audible and infrasonic noise levels in the cabins of selected modern wheeled agricultural tractors.

Materials and methods: Operator-perceived audible and infrasonic noise levels in the cabins were examined for 20 types of modern tractors during typical conditions of work. The tractors had been in use for no longer than 3 years, with rated power between 96 kW and 227 kW, designed and produced by world-renowned companies. Noise level measurements were performed in accordance with PN-EN ISO 9612:2011 (ISO 9612:2009).

Results: Audible noise levels (A-weighted) ranged from 62.1 to 87.4 dB-A (average: 68.2 to 83.8 dB-A) for different work tasks. The factors influencing noise levels include performed tasks, soil, weather conditions and the skills of individual drivers. In spectrum analysis, the highest noise levels occurred at frequencies 250 Hz, 1 and 2 kHz. Infrasound noise levels (G-weighted) ranged from 87.3 to 111.3 dB-G. The driver-experienced exposure to infrasound was found to increase significantly when the vehicle was in motion.

Conclusions: Average audible noise levels have no potential to adversely affect the hearing organ during tasks performed inside the closed cabins of the analysed modern agricultural tractors. Due to the relatively low audible noise levels inside the cabins of modern agricultural tractors, non-auditory effects are the only adverse symptoms that can develop. Modern agricultural tractors emit considerable infrasonic noise levels. All tractors introduced into the market should be subjected to tests with regard to infrasonic noise levels.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Motor Vehicles*
  • Noise, Occupational*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis*