What makes Formula 1 so exciting? Apart from the speed, the danger and the skill, it’s the noise of course! The incessant roar of the engines as the cars race round the track irrefutably augments the thrill of this nail-biting sport.
But is the high level of noise many sporting events home to as enjoyable for staff at the venue?
With the Formula 1 Racing season in full swing, we explore the effects noisy sporting events can have on staff’s hearing and how we can help protect it.
Firstly, let’s begin with some statistics about noise levels in sport:
- The loudest roar to be recorded at a sports stadium was at the Seattle Seahawks American Football Stadium in 2013. The roar was reportedly recorded at around 137.6dB (decibels).
- Tennis star Maria Sharapova is renowned for her noisy grunts on the pitch, 101dB (decibels) to be precise.
- Last year’s Formula 1’s V8 engine measured at 145dB (decibels).
- Golf might not be considered a traditionally noisy sport, so you might be surprised to learn that some modern golf clubs can measure more than 130dB (decibels) when they hit a ball.
Please note noise level figures do vary with the distance from the noise source and the measuring device.
Under the Control at Work Regulations 2005, the level at which employers must provide hearing protection zones is now 85 decibels of daily or weekly average exposure. The level at which employers must assess the risk to workers’ hearing and provide them with training and further information is now 80 decibels. The exposure limit above of which employees must not be exposed is 87 decibels.
Given that the noise levels in sports can vastly exceed the current regulations, those working at certain sporting events are likely to be risking damage to their hearing.
In its guide on the common hazards associated with broadcasting from sports events, the BBC provides advice for the production staff, news crews, freelancers and managers at sports events. The BBC includes noise exposure from crowds of sporting activities as a general hazard of working at a sports event.
So what can be done to protect staff’s hearing at sports events?
At the Australian Grand Prix at the beginning of 2014, F1 – one of the noisiest sports in existence – took a huge step in making the sport quieter. The cars were fitted with quieter V6 turbo engines, to replace the notoriously loud V8 engines.
Somewhat ironically, the use of significantly quieter cars in the Australian Grand Prix held in Melbourne this year, caused outcry amongst F1 bosses.
“I was absolutely delighted with the whole weekend but I was not too happy with the sound,” said Ron Walker, Australian Grand Prix chief.
“If you sat in the grandstand, you could barely hear them [the cars] coming down the straight.”
“You have to create demand, and part of that demand is people liking the noise of the race cars,” continued Walker.
The deafening roar of the engines might be a powerful aspect of the thrill of F1. However, having considerably quieter cars on the track will help ensure that the hearing of those working as ground staff, in broadcasting teams, as mechanics, the drivers themselves, or anywhere else at a F1 venue, would be less prone to becoming damaged.
Equipping F1 cars with quieter engines is just one step in the right direction to help protect the hearing of staff at racing car events. Another step forward can be to use sound level meters regularly to monitor the noise levels at sporting events and follow advice on the prescription of hearing protection as stipulated in each country’s occupational noise regulations.
The Pulsar Quantifier range of sound level meters are suitable for measuring environmental noise applications. Complying with nearly all global noise measurement regulations for general and environmental noise monitoring, these easy-to-use devices can be an effective way to measure the level of noise being generated. They can also help safeguard the hearing of staff at sporting events around the world.
Download here our latest FREE Guide for Employers ‘5 Steps to Controlling Workplace Noise‘