Amplified Live Music

What do you need to do?

Case study: Outdoor music festival

Staff at a major music festival were exposed to very high noise levels without adequate care for their safety. This was a large music festival with more than 50,000 people present and with two major outdoor stages.

The following problems were found:

  • Security staff were less than one metre from the front of the bass speakers for the main stage.
  • Food vans for the main stage were facing the stage and positioned close to the PA delays.
  • There was no refuge from the noise. Sound levels in staff rest areas reached or exceeded 79 dB, and there were no quiet areas or refuges where staff were working.
  • There was little or no evidence of control of the noise levels that the staff were exposed to, or limiting of the time spent in the noisy locations, or warning of the risks due to the noise.
  • Hearing protection had been provided without training on its use. In some cases security staff receiving the highest exposures were choosing not to use any hearing protection.

Hearing protection had not been considered for staff at the food outlets.

The Table below gives the daily noise exposure for workers at the festival.

Job Location Hearing protection LEP,d dB
Paramedic Side of main stage Muffs 100
First aider Tent at side of main stage Muffs when outside tent 97
Food service By PA delays of main stage None 100
Gate security Side of main stage None 101
Gate security Wheel chair area for main stage None 95
Door security Secondary venue tent - 1 None 99
Stage security Secondary venue tent - 1 Ear plugs 108
Door security Secondary venue tent - 2 None 103
Drummer On stage None 104
Bass guitarist On stage None 101
FoH sound engineer Tower approx. 30m from stage Earplugs 99
Monitor engineer Side of stage, behind PA None 96


The use of noise control and hearing protection was inadequate. Both the event organiser and the individual employers were in clear breach of the law.

Under the law employers have a duty to protect their own employees from the risks associated with high noise exposures. In addition there is a duty to other workers who are also put at risk by their noisy activities. These duties had clearly been neglected.

Exposure needs to be reduced by means other than hearing protection as outlined in this chapter. Where a risk still remains the correct fitting and use of hearing protection needs to be enforced.

Employees have a duty to use hearing protection provided for them if their exposure is likely to exceed 85 dB.

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