The festive season is upon us and, if you own or operate an entertainment venue such as a club, public house, concert hall, hotel with live entertainment or broadcasting outlet, you are gearing up for the busiest season of the year.
You want to make sure that the punters coming through your doors have a good time but are you fully aware of your Health and Safety responsibilities towards staff as far as noise exposure is concerned?
Entertainment venues such as nightclubs or public houses can be noisy places; that is what makes them so fun and exhilarating. Because the sound is generally regarded as ‘enjoyable noise’, the effect of exposure to noise over a working shift on the hearing of bar and floor staff, stewards, glass collectors, security, DJs and sound engineers and performers, can often be overlooked and neglected.
Besides, loud noise comes with the job, right?
This may well have been the case decades ago but not anymore. First, there is widespread awareness of the subject. Secondly, strict occupational legislation is now in place to protect and safeguard workers in the entertainment industry from excessive noise exposure and noise-induced hearing loss. In 2008, after a two year extension to embed, those working in the entertainment industry benefitted from the same protection rights than workers operating in other noisy industries under the Noise at Work Regulations (2005).
The Noise at Work Regulations effectively put a duty of care on the employer and made them responsible for the ‘assessment, management and reduction of noise in the workplace, including the provision, where appropriate, of suitable hearing protection. Equally, staff employed in this industry have a legal duty to wear hearing protection if relevant and where instructed by their employer.
Guidance for Employers on the Noise at Work Regulations is available on the Health and Safety Executive website including a numbers of audio clips to demonstrate the process of noise-induced hearing loss. The HSE has also created a dedicated website called ‘Sound Advice’ designed to provide clear practical advice for those working in the music and entertainment industries which is well-worth a visit.
At the heart of it all is the relationship between the noise level and the amount of time spent working in that environment, namely the overall exposure level for a given employee. Being able to gather and provide this type of data against the Noise Regulations requirements will prove whether a venue is compliant or not.
A few years ago, the BBC also issued guidelines to entertainment venue managers on controlling noise in its Musician’s Guide to Noise and Hearing – Part II: Toolkit for managers which is still relevant today. In it, the BBC advises that a venue’s ‘Monitoring and Measuring’ risk assessment needs to include some indicative noise exposure figures. It also provides advice on how venue managers can comply with their responsibilities under the Noise Regulations. It includes a list of precautions including issuing hearing protection to staff, running a risk assessment, measuring noise levels if no figures exist, informing staff, ensuring musicians and other staff have regular rests away from the noise.
What action can you take to make things better for your staff?
One easy way to safeguard workers’ hearing would be to implement some rotation schedule. Under the Noise at Work regulations, the legal exposure limit currently in place is 87dB (decibels) averaged over a day or a week. Making employees work for shorter shifts, such as four hour blocks, would be one solution.
Physical changes to improve the working environment
These can include:
- Fixing sound-absorbent panels to the walls and ceiling around the stage.
- Lifting monitor speakers on stage off the floor and directed towards the musicians.
- Installing a loudspeaker system with speakers mounted over the audience to distribute the sound more evenly.
- Erecting acoustic screens around the noisy equipment such as drums.
- Monitoring noise level in house.
- Moving entire areas such as a bar away from where the music is played into a different room.
There exist discreet hearing protection to be worn by workers in this industry, including in-ear monitors, flat response earplugs specially designed for musicians or normal earplugs for those who do not need to hear the music. Earplugs may not be suitable for all situations and, in some cases, will be used as a last resort such as in orchestra.
How loud is it?
Action on Hearing Loss lists some examples of the average decibel levels of common noises. According to the Charity, the average noise levels of a nightclub is 110(dB) decibels. If you do not measure the noise levels regularly, it is difficult to know how loud the sound in your venue really is and whether you are putting your employees at risk.
In order to fully comply with the legislation and safeguard the hearing of your employees and, by doing so, help prevent costly and time-consuming hearing loss compensation claims, investing in a professional sound level meter will be another step in the right direction.
There are many noise meters on the market ranging from basic sound level meters such as the Model 14, ideal for sound pressure levels or quick assessments inside and outside of your entertainment venue. Another invaluable device to help measure personal noise exposure would be the Pulsar Noise doseBadge. This device is an ideal measurement tool for capturing real noise exposure levels of workers that move about a lot, from one area into another, such as in a large nightclub or music arena.
Finally, the PulsarSafeEar is a wall-mounted noise-activated warning sign which is perfect to use in nightclubs or other venues in order to warn your staff when noise levels become too high. The device flashes a highly visual safety icon and message when a pre-set level is exceeded, calling for action.
Check out Pulsar Instruments’ large range of noise meters, personal noise dosemeters and noise-activated warning systems to help you measure effectively and efficiently levels of noise in and outside your venue this festive season.
Download Pulsar’s FREE Guide for Employers: ’5 Steps to Controlling Workplace Noise’