Since 6 April 2008, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 - that protect workers from exposure to excessive levels of noise at work - have also applied to the music and entertainment sectors.
The regulations compel employers in the music and entertainment sectors to take steps to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work. The rules also apply to employees and self-employed people.
This law applies where live music is played in the workplace or in places in which recorded music is played, including restaurants, bars, public houses, discotheques, nightclubs, or alongside live music or a live dramatic or dance performance.
For many industry sectors, the regulations came into force in April 2006. The European Directive (2003/10/EC) on which they are based allowed the music and entertainment sectors an additional two-year transitional period in recognition that music is unusual as it is noise deliberately created for enjoyment and therefore practical guidelines are necessary to help workers, employers and freelancers in the music and entertainment sectors protect their hearing and safeguard their careers.
Businesses in the music and entertainment sectors are those that operate:
- where live music is played
- where recorded music is played
- as restaurants, bars, public houses, discotheques or nightclubs
- alongside live music or a live dramatic or dance performance
The key message of the regulations is that exposure to music can cause hearing damage.
The noise regulations require each employer to manage the risk to their employees by controlling, reducing and monitoring exposure to noise. Many of the controls are simple and cost-effective and allow the audience to enjoy the performance with the controls in place.
Obligations for employers
Employers are required to:
- carry out frequent risk assessments
- take action to reduce noise exposure that produces those risks
- provide employees with hearing protection if noise exposure cannot be reduced enough using other methods
- ensure that the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded
- provide employees with information, instruction and training
Under separate environmental rules, businesses also have to consider the impact of workplace noise on people who live or work near your business.
In practice that means that an employer should ensure that:
- hearing protection is provided and used
- any other controls are properly in place
- provide information, training and health surveillance
Estimating employees' exposure
It is essential that you can show that your estimate of employees' exposure is representative of the work that they do. It needs to take account of:
- the work they do or are likely to do
- the ways in which they do the work
- how it might vary from one day to the next
Your estimate must be based on reliable information, for example, measurements in your own workplace, information from other workplaces similar to yours, or data from suppliers of machinery.
You must record the findings of your risk assessment. You need to record in an action plan anything you identify as being necessary to comply with the law, setting out what you have done and what you are going to do, with a timetable and saying who will be responsible for the work.
Review your risk assessment if circumstances in your workplace change and affect noise exposures. Also review it regularly to make sure that you continue to do all that is reasonably practicable to control the noise risks. Even if it appears that nothing has changed, you should not leave it for more than about two years without checking whether a review is needed.
How to reduce noise
There are many ways of reducing noise and noise exposure. Often a combination of methods works best.
Of course you may not be able to remove the loud noise altogether.
If that is the case, do all you can to control the noise or control the exposure to noise. Consider redesigning the workplace and reorganising working patterns, for example, can your staff work shorter shifts so they aren’t in the noisy environment for so long. You may be able to install silencers near to a bar area so that employees are not subject to the loud noise.