People who use tractors for work know that it’s nothing like taking a Sunday drive in your pickup truck or family sedan. Truck drivers, farmworkers, and equipment operators who have to spend 8 or more hours every day inside the cab of a truck, tractor, or another piece of heavy equipment have a right to expect comfortable conditions. Upgrades that improve the cab payoff in both the short- and long-term.
How do you soundproof a tractor? There are many sources of noise that find their way into the cab of a tractor. Engine noise, exhaust, vibrations, rotating equipment, and more all add to the total decibel level that an operator has to endure while they’re operating the machine. Fortunately, there are easy steps to follow if you want an effective DIY solution that delivers a quieter cab.
OSHA requires employers to provide workers with PPE, and a hearing conservation plan anytime their job will expose them to the threat of sudden or prolonged exposure hearing damage. Prolonged exposure is an issue anytime a worker is subject to noise over 85 dB averaged across an eight-hour shift. Most tractors operate at levels above 85 dB, and only the newest models provide the necessary sound insulation to protect operators. But an upgrade can make an older tractor safe and comfortable.
Reasons to Soundproof a Tractor Cab
There are plenty of good reasons to look into the possibility of soundproofing your tractor. A quieter cab is a cab that is safer for the operator’s health and one that promotes safer operations for people and property in the area where the equipment is being operated. There is also an economic benefit to soundproofing the tractor you have rather than buying a new tractor. Finally, there are issues of comfort and convenience that end up being more than just “creature comforts.”
Anything that makes being inside the equipment that you rely on to get your job done a little bit more comfortable will pay dividends. If you can spend long periods in the cab without becoming uncomfortable, you can get more done in a day. If you can work a lifetime in the equipment without suffering health care issues, you’re getting a win-win return on your soundproofing.
Hearing loss injuries are currently one of the biggest issues that OSHA and other worker protection agencies are focused on. That is because hearing loss injuries are cumulative and difficult to detect until the irreparable damage is already done. Even if your business isn’t subject to OSHA inspections, you should still follow similar guidelines to take care of yourself and other workers.
There just isn’t a downside to staying healthy while you get the job done. Healthy hearing is essential to being able to communicate effectively on the job and an important part of living an enjoyable life. Imagine never being able to hear your favorite music, television, or movie again. Now, imagine how you’ll feel knowing that you could have prevented it for less than the cost of a nice dinner for your family.
Health Reasons to Soundproof Your Tractor Cab
One of the biggest challenges to protecting workers from hearing loss injuries is getting them to take the threat seriously and do what they need to do to protect themselves. Because hearing loss injuries can be the result of sudden loud noises like explosions or gunshots but also come from prolonged exposure to less extreme volume over the course of a worker’s lifetime, the battle is being fought on two fronts.
It’s easier to get people to protect themselves from noise events that are obviously and immediately harmful, painful, or uncomfortable. You won’t find many people complaining about wearing hearing protection at a shooting range or around jet engines. Most people are even willing to wear hearing protection at loud concerts or other social events.
It gets tougher when you ask workers to wear PPE that is immediately noticeable as less comfortable or convenient than not wearing that PPE. And when the damage you’re trying to protect them from is damage that they won’t notice because it happens so gradually, the task becomes a real challenge. But that is exactly the kind of problem that a noisy tractor cab can cause and exactly why you should do something about it.
Being exposed to the noise inside a tractor cab that isn’t soundproofed threatens the operator’s health in more ways than just hearing loss. OSHA recognizes that prolonged exposure can be detrimental to job performance, lead to stress-related issues, elevate heart rates, cause fatigue, irritability, and tension. It can also be a contributing factor to accidents or injuries in the workplace.
Economic Reasons to Soundproof Your Tractor Cab
A tractor of any size, regardless of the accessories or capabilities, is a serious investment. According to the most recent figures available, a small tractor in the 22-135 horsepower range can run between $10,000 and $120,000. Mid-range tractors that have between 90 and 160 horsepower cost between $40,000 and $160,000 when purchased new. Large tractors that have between 110 and 290 horsepower will cost between $110,000 and $400,000, while the largest tractors can run up to $600,000.[Source]
Most new tractors are engineered to protect the operator from noise levels that will cause hearing damage. Even basic packages without any of the bells and whistles that can be added are now expected to provide for the safe operation of the equipment. But you don’t have to purchase a new tractor to get hearing protection or accept the risk of your current machine to your hearing. There’s a better option.
A DIY soundproofing job can extend the life of your current machine or open up a whole range of used equipment options that wouldn’t be available to you if you were shopping for a machine that came ready to use with adequate hearing protection. For as little as a few hundred dollars, you can turn any used machine into a quiet and comfortable work environment that will make work safer and more enjoyable.
Whether your responsible for equipment maintenance on a large commercial farm or working just enough land to feed your family and sell some surplus at a local farmers market, the goal is to reduce or eliminate costs so that you can enjoy bigger profits. A DIY soundproofing project is a great way to avoid new equipment costs without sacrificing health and safety in the process.
Additional Benefits of Soundproofing Your Tractor Cab
Of course, basic health and safety is a paramount concern when it comes to being able to get a job done. And as soon as you’ve made sure you can do the job safely, it makes sense to focus on making sure that you can do the job profitably. But those are just the basics. It’s okay to expect a little bit more. Wanting a tractor cab that you can enjoy being in doesn’t make you high-maintenance or frivolous.
Let’s face it, an eight-hour day in a tractor cab can be a long day. That’s especially true if the work that you’re doing is repetitive, tedious, or monotonous. It’s nice to have some distractions while you’re in the cab, like a stereo playing your favorite music or talk-radio. But when the cab is too loud, to begin with, you’ll have to turn the stereo up louder just to hear it. That just adds to the noise level you’re exposing yourself to.
A lot of us are in jobs or personal situations where we have to wear a lot of different hats. Maybe your long day in the tractor is spent mowing a lot of land around your home. Maybe it’s spent plowing, furrowing, and planting commercial crops. Either way, you might need to juggle phone calls or other duties while in the cab. A quiet cab makes phone calls and other multi-tasking possible.
If your farm is a family affair and your tractor cab is too noisy, then you already know that it can be a struggle to get other folks to volunteer to help out with tasks that require time in the tractor. You’ll find it easier to recruit assistants when the cab is quieter and more comfortable for the helpers that you tag for the jobs.
Ways to Protect Your Hearing Inside a Tractor Cab
There are a couple of different options for protecting a worker’s hearing inside a noisy tractor cab. Following the OSHA guidelines for protecting workers, we could say that the first approach is to use PPE. But as OSHA notes, it is always preferable to use an engineered solution when one is available. Noise-reducing earmuffs or earplugs are a PPE option while soundproofing the cab is an engineered solution.
From a business owner’s perspective, the reasons for choosing an engineered solution over a PPE solution have to do with the consistency and reliability of the protections afforded to workers. When you rely on PPE to protect workers, you have to work harder to provide the PPE, educate workers on the reasons for using it, train workers on proper use, and monitor for compliance with the program.
From a worker’s perspective, the reasons to prefer an engineered solution have to do with convenience and comfort. You won’t have to worry about remembering earmuffs or earplugs, cleaning reusable PPE at the end of the day, or any of the other inconveniences that come along with PPE programs if the cab you work in is already soundproofed for your protection.[Source]
There is also likely to be an economic benefit to soundproofing over the long-term. A one-time purchase of soundproofing materials will last a lot longer and cost less in the long run than replacing ear muffs or purchasing more earplugs. A little bit of time and effort and some basic, inexpensive supplies can deliver results that make a big difference in the quality of your work environment.[Related Article: Soundproofing A Car In 4 Simple Steps]
A DIY Guide to Soundproofing Your Tractor Cab
There’s nothing too difficult about a DIY soundproofing project on your tractor cab. If you’re handy enough to perform routine maintenance on the tractor, you should be able to do all of the work that it takes to get great results with ease. The materials that you need are relatively inexpensive and typically pretty easy to find at your local supply store or through an online retailer.
Like any other job that you tackle on the farm, there are ways to cut corners and make the job faster, easier, and less expensive. But just like most things in life, the more that you put into this job, the more you’ll get out of it. Taking the time to do a thorough job will mean that you’ll only have to do the job once to get the results that you’re hoping for.
If you follow our easy, step-by-step guide, you’ll be riding in style (and comfort) in no time.
The first step to getting quality results from your soundproofing project is to do the necessary prep work. That means removing as many of the obstacles from the cab of your tractor as possible. This will give you access to the areas where you need to soundproof and also make it easier to clean those areas so that you get the best adhesion possible when you install the materials.
The floor and the firewall are the two areas of the cab where you will get the biggest return on your investments of time, effort, and money. It’s well worth it to remove the dashboard, seat, and other elements that obstruct your access to these areas.
Once you’ve cleared the work areas, clean everything thoroughly, and you’ll be ready to move on to measuring and purchasing.
The materials that you’ll be using to soundproof the cab aren’t expensive, but they’re not cheap either. It will help you control the total cost of the project if you measure all of the surfaces after they’re cleared and cleaned, but before you order your materials. Unless you have other uses for leftovers, there’s no point in ordering and paying for more than you’ll need.[Related Article: How To Reduce Noise For Your Motorcycle Helmet In 8 Simple Steps]
Some suppliers still sell ready-made kits for soundproofing. Once you provide them with the dimensions of the cab you’re soundproofing, they’ll set you up with the exact amounts and types of materials that you’ll need. Even if you can’t find a source for a kit, you’ll be able to order the materials individually with no issues.
For the floor of the cab and the firewall, you’ll want to use baryfol or similar fireproof material that will block sound without introducing a fire hazard. For the walls and ceiling of the cab, you’ll want to use a heavy-duty acoustic foam with a vinyl backing that will protect it from wear and tear and ensure that it will last for years.
Every seam that you end up with means your finished project will have a weak point where sound can get through. So, rather than piecing in your material, it is recommended that you use heavy-duty paper to make templates that will allow you to cut the exact sizes and shapes that you need to install your soundproofing material in as few individual pieces as possible.
Remember to follow the golden rule—measure twice and cut once. Both baryfol and acoustic foam is easy to cut with heavy-duty shears or a razor knife equipped with a fresh blade. If you took the time to make templates, then cutting should be as easy as tracing once with a marker and again with a knife.[Source]
Whether you order self-adhering material or need to use a separate glue to get your material to stick, the most important part of this process will be making sure that you’re installing the material on a clean surface. If you don’t order self-adhering soundproofing material than spray adhesive will probably be the easiest way to get an even application without making a big mess.
Button-Up the Cab
Once your soundproofing is installed, you can return the elements of the cab that you removed like dash components, the seat, and anything else that you pulled to make the job easier. Use this as an opportunity to make sure that all of the hardware that you find in your cab is snugged to help eliminate vibrations.
Once you’ve finished the main body of work, take some time to double-check window and door seals and other elements that might be letting in noise.
The reasons to consider a DIY soundproofing project for your tractor cab are numerous. There are the health benefits of a quieter workspace. There are the cost savings compared to purchasing a new tractor just because you’re sick of the noise inside the one you have. There are the intangible benefits that come from enjoying your time at work more because you’ve eliminated the stress and annoyance of all that noise.
If you’ve been making the best of a bad situation, don’t spend another season gritting your teeth and bearing the noise. Use your downtime between growing seasons to make an easy and inexpensive upgrade that will make a major difference in your life.