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This is the full text of the Sound Advice Working Group specific recommendations covering pubs, clubs and similar venues playing amplified music
11.1 This advice provides methods of controlling the risk of hearing loss in venues where amplified music is played, including nightclubs, bars, pubs and restaurants. In most industries noise is an unwanted by-product. However, high sound levels often provide the principal stimulus for customers to attend a pub or club. It is important to remember that all employees, including any guest performers, are covered by the Noise Regulations and employers have responsibilities to protect their employees' hearing. Self-employed people should also read Sound Advice Note 7 'Freelancers'. A noise risk assessment flowchart for pubs and clubs is shown at the end of this advice note.
11.2 There is a strong likelihood that workers in venues playing amplified music will be exposed to noise levels at or above the upper exposure action value of the Noise Regulations. For representative exposure levels see the table below. Remember that no single measure will be appropriate for every situation and it is important to identify the actions that will best control the risk.
|Bar staff||89 - 99|
|Glass collectors||90 - 100|
|DJs||93 - 99|
|Dance floor||94 - 104|
In this example the employer must:
11.3 Methods of reducing noise in work areas can be split into two categories - physical separation and focusing the music in the desired locations. Architects/designers and owners/operators proposing new buildings or refurbishments should consult competent acousticians and/or sound engineers before undertaking any major work. See also Sound Advice Note 8 'Venues'
The three components of noise
11.4 The noise in a venue is made up of three components: the direct path is the uninterrupted path between the loudspeakers and the ear, the reverberant path is the sound reflected off one or more surfaces, and the structural path is through the fixings and mountings. The careful positioning of loudspeakers may reduce direct exposure and isolation mountings may be needed to reduce structurally transmitted noise. However, many noise-control measures aim to reduce reflected sound. This may be achieved by acoustic absorption to control the reverberant paths. Note the absorption can also improve the quality of the reproduction of the music.
11.5 It is important that the materials used meet the required standards of flame retardancy and flame propagation.
11.6 The following techniques help separate staff from the music:
11.7 Successful noise control requires the music to be focused where it is wanted (such as the dance floor or the performance area). The following techniques can help to focus the music and therefore reduce the noise levels away from the dance floor or performance area:
11.8 Venue operators are encouraged to develop a written noise-exposure policy. This document should aim to provide clear messages regarding the control of noise in the venue to all staff and subcontractors (see also Sound Advice Note 8 'Venues'). It should also include policies on the following:
11.9 The exposure of employees to noise levels will depend on the volume of music played as well as the duration and proximity of the noise source. There will be instances where the volume needs to be controlled by setting maximum levels. This is usually done by the use of limiters, and many clubs and pubs will already be aware of their use for reducing noise breakout as part of the licensing procedure and local nuisance control.
11.10 Where noise-volume-limiting devices are used for reducing exposure to employees, the responsibility and ability to alter the maximum level should be clearly identified in the noise-exposure policy. The policy should also be clearly communicated to all people who have the means to adjust levels up to the maximum during events (for example duty managers, DJs, musicians and technicians).
11.11 Karaoke systems should have in-built noise limiters as they are used by members of the public who are not covered by management noise policies.
11.12 Where required, the choice of noise limiter will depend on the type of equipment to be controlled:
11.13 Where spot checks of the noise levels are being used as part of an assessment they should be at predetermined reference positions to allow direct comparisons between different situations. This will also allow for other representative exposure calculations to be carried out if necessary.
Example of pub/club layout showing reference positions for noise measurement
11.14 Managing exposure to noise could include:
11.15 The Noise Regulations allow the noise exposure to be assessed over a week rather than a day in certain circumstances (see 'Estimating noise exposure using the points system' in Sound Advice Note 3 'Noise risk assessment').
11.16 Sound equipment does deteriorate and should be properly checked and maintained. Note in particular there is a tendency to increase the volume if the music system is distorting.
11.17 Equipment such as noise limiters, acoustic screens, sound absorbers and vibration isolation mounts should also be kept in good working order.
11.18 Employees need to understand the risk of hearing loss and how it is being controlled, including the proper use of hearing protection. Individuals who have influence over the noise levels (duty managers, DJs, musicians and technicians) need to understand their responsibilities.
A 24-year-old DJ related that one night, after working in a club where the sound system was particularly loud, he went home with a ringing sensation that was so bad it took several days for his ears to recover. The ringing in one ear (tinnitus) has never completely stopped. He has become very sensitive to loud music, particularly high frequencies, and his tinnitus increases dramatically if exposed to loud noise. He is now careful always to wear earplugs when DJ-ing.
Refurbishment of two nightclubs in one building provided an opportunity to re-design them with the aim of reducing the employees' exposure to noise. Before the refurbishment the clubs had very little acoustic absorption in them and the lack of space made it difficult to introduce a quiet zone.
The following design changes were introduced as part of the refurbishment:
The measured daily noise exposure before and after refurbishment was:
|Job||Before refurbishmentLEP,d dB||After refurbishmentLEP,d dB|
|Bar Staff||90.3 - 95.9||86.6 - 89.1|
|Glass collector||95.2 - 98.1||94.5 - 97.0|
|DJ||98.6 - 99.8||97.3 - 98.2|
A significant reduction in the exposures of bar staff was achieved, however, hearing protection was still required. Glass collectors were required to wear hearing protection and DJs were encouraged to avoid using monitor loudspeakers and to use earmuffs with sound restoration or in-ear monitors.
11.21 Any venue that engages performers, such as musicians or DJs, should have a formal contractual relationship with the performer(s) and anyone else involved such as an agent or a fixer. The contract should, among other matters, identify the responsibilities of all parties under the Noise Regulations. See Contracts in Sound Advice Note 2 'Responsibilities'.
11.22 Many venues, in particular small pubs, do not issue written contracts when engaging performers. However all venues should consider this procedure to ensure that the engager/contractor and the performers are fully aware of the responsibilities of both the venue operator and the performer(s).
11.23 Visiting performers should be encouraged to use the in-house PA system rather than setting up their own temporary arrangements, which may make it more difficult for management to control noise exposure.
11.24 Between 'sets' performers should be encouraged to move to a quiet area. When arranging for live 'gigs', ensure that support acts, such as DJs, disco or karaoke, are arranged so that they will not contribute to excessive noise exposure.
Risk assessment for amplified music played in nightclubs, pubs and restaurants
For a more detailed explanation of terms see Useful information and glossary.
Exposure action values (EAV) Levels of exposure to noise at which certain actions need to be taken (see Useful information and glossary)
Engager/contractor In the entertainment industry employers are often known as engagers or contractors. Other terms used, which may or may not imply employment, include producers, promoters, managers and fixers.
Health surveillanceFor the purposes of this guidance, ongoing assessment of the state of aural health of an employee as related to exposure to noise.
In-ear monitors Essentially earplugs with built-in miniature monitors (loudspeakers). It is essential that they are fitted with noise limiters.
Noise exposure 'The noise dose', which can be calculated, takes account of the actual volume of sound and how long it continues. Noise exposure is not the same as sound level, which is the level of noise measured at a particular moment.
Noise limiter Sometimes known as volume regulatory device (VRD), controls noise exposure from amplified music. Modern noise limiters can be fitted with anti-tamper relays connected to external switches to improve system security
PA Public address system. Sometimes called a 'Tannoy'. Often used to refer to any loudspeaker transmitting messages rather than music.
Reference position Standard location, usually static, selected to enable monitoring of noise levels to be conducted by measurements. See Sound Advice Note 4 'Noise control measures and training'.
Tinnitus Buzzing, ringing or tone in the ear. Temporary tinnitus is a warning; a sign that 'you got away with it that time.'
Upper Exposure Action Values: see Exposure action values.
VRD Volume regulatory device (see noise limiter).