How can you spot an older ginner? Well, says Charles Glover, he likely is missing one or more fingers and/or is deaf as a post.
To the industry's credit, says Glover, with E. Ritter Gin Co., Marked Tree, Ark., the evolution of gin machinery has brought a myriad of safety features. Combined with concentrated employee safety training programs, the rate of injury and death due to ginning accidents has dropped significantly.
But, he told members of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at their summer meeting at Branson, Mo., “Gin noise continues to be a problem, and everyone is continuing to look for ways to reduce it and the hearing damage that can result from prolonged exposure.
“Gins have become a lot bigger, faster, and more efficient, but they haven't become a lot quieter. Exposure to loud noise, particularly high frequency noise, is one of the most common causes of hearing loss.”
Efforts to get gin workers to wear ear plugs for hearing protection has met with limited success, Glover says.
Although gins are currently exempt from OSHA noise standards, he says, “We expect they will be looking at this more closely in the future.”
Exposure to noise levels above 90 decibels for extended periods can cause varying degrees of permanent hearing loss, he notes.
A power mower can hit 105 decibels, a pneumatic drill 100, and loud rock music from 90 to 130. The threshold for pain is 140 decibels.
Studies have shown gin noise levels in the 97 to 99 decibel range, Glover says. “Lint cleaners, at about 95 decibels, are some of the loudest equipment in the gin.”
Experiments with solid-wound doffing brushes resulted in a “considerable” noise reduction, to about 70 decibels. “It was possible to stand near them and carry on a conversation while they were running,” he says.
Measurements of noise at four locations from the center of the lint cleaners and 5 feet from the floor showed “a dramatic difference in sound levels” with the solid-wound brushes.
“We noted no operational problems from the solid-wound brushes after 40,000 bales,” Glover says. Costs are about the same as for new standard brushes, but the 5-inch filament lengths allow more adjustment than conventional brush sticks.
Also, he notes, a silencer installed on the discharge side of blowers will also dramatically reduce noise.