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Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

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.

 

Safety Procedures

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.

 

http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/

https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/r15381

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Defining Sustainability

Sustainability is a holistic, long-term approach to business.  It maximizes the economic and environmental stability, equity, and health of the farm, business, and family.

A sustainable approach to farming is more than talking about environmental actions or maximizing profits.

Sustainability focusses on business processes and practices, rather than a specific food, fibre, or feed output.  It integrates economic, environmental and societal values to create a Triple Bottom Line (i.e. understanding and accounting for three “bottom lines”: economic, social, and enviornment, instead of simply looking at a cash flow analysis for actions in your operations).  This is very different from a purely profit-driven approach, where businesses benefit economically, but often at the expense of the environment and society.

Agricultural Context

Sustainable Agriculture is…

“the efficient production of safe, high quality agricultural product, in a way that protects and improves the natural environment, the social and economic conditions of the farmers, their employees and local communities, and safeguards the health and welfare of all farmed species.” (Sustainable Agricultural Initiative Platform, 2010)

There is a growing global demand to increase sustainability in agriculture.  What this means on-farm differs depending on where the farm is (the Place), what the farm produces (the Product), and where the product is sold and for what price (the Price). Regardless of what is purchased, grown, or sold, there are broad perspectives that can increase the sustainability of every agri-business by addressing the TBL of economic profitability, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

Consumers are increasingly concerned with how their food is grown and processed.  The single largest share of impact within the supply chain is the food production itself. Food processors and retailers need long-term and ever-increasing supplies of quality raw materials. Unpredictable weather extremes and global water scarcity make agricultural production and food processing more volatile.  Sustainable practices help ensure businesses along the entire supply chain have reliable sources of product.  At the same time, reliability creates new opportunities for enhanced branding to meet consumer demand.  Sustainable sourcing is a point of differentiation in the marketplace.

While these components are discussed separately below, their goals overlap; impacting and influencing each other.  For example, economic decisions will impact the environmental and social components; the environmental actions taken will impact the economic output and social well-being.

Economic Profitability

To be sustainable, a farm must be economically viable.  While the environmental and social pillars of sustainability may not always translate into immediate economic profit, sustainable practices will have a positive economic impact on the farm.

For example, the diversification of crops can help reduce financial risk.  Over time, diversification of crops can reduce financial risk while improving water quality and increasing other environmental benefits that raise the value of the farm itself.

These factors must be taken into consideration when managing a farm business.

Production and machinery costs are directly affected by sustainable practices.  Fertilizer and pesticide applications can be applied responsibly and, in some cases reduced, based on crop rotation, variety selection or market availability for end-product.  Sometime overall yield may decrease, but differences between production cost and revenue can be improved, leading to increased profitability for the farm.  Likewise, management, marketing skills, and experience of decision-makers will have direct economic effects on the business.

Indicators of your farm’s economic profitability may include:

  • increasing net worth or savings,
  • debt is consistently decreasing, and/or,
  • farm is consistently profitable year after year.

Environmental Stewardship

Stewardship is a familiar concept to farmers.  For many, this is what comes to mind when they think of sustainable agriculture.  Environmental stewardship uses ecologically-sound practices that have a neutral or positive impact on the natural resources and non-renewable resources used on-farm.  It can mean reversing damage that has already occurred, like soil erosion or draining of wetlands.  It can also be enhanced by taking steps to prevent the future degradation of land and water resources through conservation practices, like:

  • naturalizing riparian zones,
  • using smart cattle watering practices,
  • establishing proper cover crops.

These are factors that have direct impacts on your cost of production and economic profitability components of sustainability.

Another key to successful environmental stewardship lies in soil health.  Maintaining adequate soil organic matter, biological activity and nutrient balance are essential to feed crops in the long-term production of the business.

There are many ways to enhance soil fertility and improve soil health, such as including legumes in crop rotation, using manure or compost instead of and /or in complement to synthetic fertilizers, and maintaining a working knowledge of the fertility of the fields so as to properly manage them.

Other stewardship concepts include:

  • protecting water quality,
  • year-round soil cover (residue or cover crop),
  • integrating crop and animal systems to maximize efficiencies, nutrients and energy,
  • controlling invasive plants.

Some traditional practices conflict with sustainable practices, because they severely damage the soil structure and resiliency of a field to adapt to extreme weather events, climate change, and the stresses of intensive crop production.

All practices, new and traditional, must be considered when implementing sustainable farming practices.

Social Responsibility

Social responsibility relates to the quality of life for everyone who interacts with the business: employees, customers, neighbours, local community members, and the farmer.  The most prominent examples of this in rural Ontario are agricultural cooperatives, farmers’ markets, on-farm events and twilight tours.  Other examples occur within the business itself, like fair treatment of workers and good business practices.

Some indicators of social responsibility include:

  • support for other local businesses and families within the community, circulating money within the local as well as the global economy,
  • the rural community population is stable or increasing,
  • post-secondary school graduates return to the community after graduation, to succeed on family farms or with associated businesses.

Summary

Sustainable agriculture is defined by three interactive components: economic profitability, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility.  It is important that sustainability is embraced at all levels; farm practices can have compound impacts across the entire supply chain in very complex ways.

Sustainability is a goal. However, a farm should never expect to “achieve sustainability”.  As farm practices become more sustainable, farmers gain a deeper understanding of the natural resources they steward and how this affects their business.

A competent working knowledge of sustainability creates further opportunities for new sustainability practices.  This in turn increases the farmer’s ability to respond to market pressures and environmental conditions, and help develop a robust and resilient business. The profit in sustainable practices is both tangible and intangible. It includes economic gain, environmental stability and social benefit.

Sustainability, like our seasons, is a never-ending journey, which is why it is so important to continue to work towards this goal.

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Over the past few months Harry Cummings, of the University of Guelph, and his consultant team, have conducted a complete review and assessment of the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program (AALP).  Now, with the evaluation complete, the Rural Ontario Institute (ROI) is accepting applications for their fifteenth class which will begin in September 2013 and run through March 2015.  Applications are due by Tuesday, April 30.

 “The results are in and the recommendations have been incorporated to create a dynamic, refreshed program for our next class,” says Rob Black, CEO of the Rural Ontario Institute.  “We have held off on promoting the program until we had all of the details in place.  As in the past, we wanted applicants to have a clear picture of exactly what they are applying for, and what their time and financial commitments would be.”

 The dates for seminars, study tours and an all new component of the program, seven one-hour webinars, are now all set for AALP Class 15 and the complete Curriculum Outline is available online.  New, for the upcoming cohort, are two optional activity days, to be held in conjunction with the Toronto and Northern Ontario seminars.

 For more information and the various application forms please visit http://www.aalp.on.ca/application.aspx or call the ROI office at 519-826-4204.

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