Sound Advice Note 2


This is the full text of the Sound Advice Working Group recommendations on responsibilities. It may help you understand your responsibilities under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations.

General responsibilities

2.1 Everyone involved in music and entertainment has a responsibility to help with noise management: from the promoter or venue operator through to performers, technicians, bar staff, stewards and DJs. The normal arrangements of employer/employee are sometimes difficult to determine and often vary with each engagement or show. Add to this the large number of self-employed people working as performers, sound engineers or technical crew and the picture can become very confused.

2.2 Because of these complexities, everyone working at live music events needs to take personal responsibility to think about their own noise exposure and take reasonable care not to damage their own hearing or that of other people. Simply relying on an overall 'employer' may not always be the most effective approach. It is important that the people who can most readily control sound levels, such as conductors, musical directors, sound engineers and sound technicians, recognise their responsibility for providing a safe workplace

Responsibilities of employers

2.3 The primary responsibility for complying with the Noise Regulations rests with the employer. Employers in the music and entertainment sectors may include, for example, concert promoters, event organisers, theatrical producers, contractors and publicans.

Employers must:

  • assess the risks to employees from noise at work;
  • take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks;
  • provide employees with hearing protection if the noise exposure cannot be reduced enough by using other methods;
  • make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded;
  • provide employees with information, instruction and training. It is important that employees understand that the Noise Regulations also apply to them;
  • carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health.

2.4 To help meet the requirements of the Noise Regulations employers are advised to:

  • consult with their staff and with employee or safety representatives where they exist;
  • ensure their documented health and safety policy makes clear the specific noise responsibilities of staff from senior management downwards;
  • ensure their health and safety policy specifies the arrangements for managing noise risk assessments and controlling the risk;
  • communicate this policy to their staff, management colleagues and boards and trustees.

2.5 The Noise Regulations place duties on all the employers involved in work at the same workplace. Employers have responsibility for their own employees and, so far as is reasonably practicable, to any other person at work who is affected by the work they do. Employers should exchange information and collaborate to ensure that they fulfil their duties without unnecessary duplication.

2.6 Engagers/contractors, fixers and freelancers engaging 'deps' (substitutes) or extras should ensure that the risks and control measures in place are communicated to replacement and temporary workers.

People at particular risk

2.7 Some workers should be given particular consideration when making a noise risk assessment, for example people with a pre-existing hearing condition, those with a family history of deafness (if known), pregnant women, children and young people.

New and expectant mothers

2.8 Employers have duties under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (the Management Regulations) towards new and expectant mothers in their workforce. Employers must assess the nature, degree and duration of exposure of pregnant workers to risk (including noise) and ensure that where there is a risk it is controlled.

Young people and children

2.9 The Management Regulations restrict the employment of young people (those under 18) where there is a risk to health (including noise). Children (those under the compulsory school age) must not be employed where there is any risk to their hearing from noise. Employers must also ensure that young people employed by them are protected against any risks to their health and safety at work that are due to their inexperience, immaturity and lack of awareness of risk.


To protect its child workers from noise risks, a TV company decided to limit the noise exposure of children to less than half that of adults, for example, if the adults might be exposed to an average of 78 dB over 8 hours, any children would only be exposed over a maximum of 4 hours.

2.10 There are also obligations on employers under the Management Regulations to:

  • co-operate and co-ordinate where two or more employers share a workplace (whether on a temporary or permanent basis). These obligations also apply to employers sharing a workplace with self-employed people and to self-employed people sharing a workplace with other self-employed people. See also Sound Advice Note 7 Freelancers.
  • establish appropriate procedures to be followed if there is serious and imminent danger to people at work in their undertaking. These procedures should enable the people concerned to stop work and immediately proceed to a place of safety.

Part-time workers

2.11 It is important that employers who engage workers on a part-time basis work with them to ensure that their exposure to noise is properly managed. Where part-time workers work alongside full-timers doing the same work, they should be subject to the same protective measures. Where it is known that part-time workers are exposed to noise during other employment, employers should consider the overall risks to those people in deciding how to protect their hearing, and not just look at their noise exposure during the specific periods when they are employed by them.

Responsibilities of employees

2.12 Under the HSW Act, employees must take reasonable care for their health and safety and that of others while at work and co-operate with their employer to enable the employer to carry out their legal duties. Employees should take care to avoid actions that might damage their hearing or the hearing of others.

2.13 Under the Noise Regulations employees should:

  • use control measures in accordance with their employers' instructions;
  • wear hearing protection in accordance with their employers' instructions;
  • take care of hearing protectors and noise-control equipment;
  • report faults and difficulties in using noise-control equipment;
  • make themselves available for health surveillance.

Responsibilities of self-employed people

2.14 The HSW Act defines a self-employed person as an individual who works for gain or reward but is not under a contract of employment. Under the Act, self-employed people must conduct their work in such a way to ensure their own health and safety and that of others. Under the Noise Regulations they have the same responsibilities as employers and employees for their health and safety arising from the exposure to noise and for other people whose hearing might be damaged by their 'acts or omissions'. Although self-employed people are not required to provide themselves with health surveillance, it is recommended that, where appropriate, they consult an occupational health service provider. Many performers and sound operators are self-employed. Note, however, that the members of the self-governing orchestras are regarded as employees for health and safety. See also Sound Advice Note 7 Freelancers.

2A1 Contracts

Using contracts to help with noise control

1 Contracts can help the planning process by setting out the arrangements for noise control. They have been found particularly helpful where there are several contractors working together with a producer/venue provider(s). Contracts can be useful when dealing with the specific requirements of the Noise Regulations and can form part of the overall health and safety considerations for the event/production.

2 A contractual approach is often more readily understood by the parties concerned as so many matters are already covered in this way - from performers' riders to equipment specifications. The contractual approach can also act as an aide-memoire. Experience shows joint meetings can often slip by because of time constraints, whereas specified contractual obligations for consultation are usually taken on board.

3 Including things in a contract can help principal contractors/producers to pass on relevant information to subcontractors. For example, a contract stipulating a hearing protection zone could insist that subcontractors' crews wear earmuffs.

4 The roles of different professionals in achieving effective noise-control measures should be clearly set out. This may be most successfully accomplished by inclusion in a contract, either within the main document or as appendices. Central to this process are professionals such as sound engineers, DJs, conductors and musical directors. The extent of their responsibilities should be clearly specified. Designated responsibilities should be appropriate to their training and experience.

5 For smaller-scale events, contracts may be the most direct way of ensuring noise-control issues are considered. Key points can easily form part of standard contracts for musicians. These may be of most help to those with individual contractual arrangements, particularly for short hire periods. Similarly, venue operators can include some standard points relating to their requirements from performers - for example which instruments and equipment will be brought to the performance by the performers and what, if any, control measures will be carried out by them.

6 In small venues a contract should help remove grey areas about who would do what and identifying what needs to be done by laying down responsibilities early on (apart from the non-transferable legal responsibilities).

7 Work undertaken for a client by a contractor is usually covered by a civil contract. It is good practice for health and safety requirements to be written in to such a contract. However, health and safety responsibilities are defined by criminal law and cannot be passed on from one party to another by a contract. In any client/contractor relationship, both parties will have duties under health and safety law. Similarly, if the contractor employs subcontractors to carry out some or all of the work, all parties will have some health and safety responsibilities. The extent of the responsibilities of each party will depend on the circumstances. (Extract from: Use of contractors: A joint responsibility INDG368.


One fixer expressed this view:

'When going to work in premises new to me, it would be helpful to make it part of the contract that the venue owner ensures there is a briefing re exits, hazards, fire arrangements, equipment location and to include noise issues.

'I'd like to see set out what noise-reduction features and equipment are available within the venue. They should make available noise assessments carried out by other users of the venue when performing, including what measures they took and the effectiveness of those measures. I don't want to have to chase it up but to have it as a clear part of the contract. No arguments.'

8 This appendix lists some of the considerations that could form part of an agreement. However blanket get-out clauses such as 'you must wear hearing protection at all times' should be avoided. Contracts should be tailored to the particular situation. This advice does not cover the area of contracts of employment nor is it exhaustive:

  • Clarify the responsibilities, requirements and the different health and safety needs and commitments of the parties.
  • Establish who will be the key person to make final decisions; this is essential where many contractors/subcontractors will be working. Ensure this information is provided to everyone who needs to know.
  • Establish whether noise level measurements are to be carried out - both initial and ongoing monitoring.
  • Specify who is responsible for the control of amplified sound levels.
  • Establish whether limiters are set on any amplified music.
  • Establish which, if any, parties would suffer financial loss if it became necessary to terminate a performance because of noise issues.
  • Take account of any pyrotechnics or similar effects at an early stage and specify the requirements to meet noise risk assessment outcomes in the contracts with suppliers of the effects
  • Establish time parameters
  • Provide a summary of key tasks to be carried out.
  • Establish who is responsible for ensuring that a sufficient noise risk assessment be carried out and at what time and who will implement any necessary control measures.
  • Specify site meeting(s) with the relevant person(s) from the venue(s) and the producer(s) to discuss noise-control strategies.
  • Consult with the enforcing authorities where required/appropriate.

9 Provide information such as:

  • what noise-control equipment, both fixed and mobile, will be provided in the venue;
  • details of measurements of sound levels in the venue taken by the venue owner;
  • access to accumulated records relating to noise from other venue users including, where available, assessments of the repertoire suitable for the venue and noise-control strategies adopted
  • audience seating plans for the production
  • any known requirements/concerns/recommendations/comments made by enforcement authorities about noise issues specific to the event or the venue;
  • regarding equipment: technical specifications including noise-output parameters, integration with other equipment and best positioning for performance and noise-control requirements;
  • where hearing protection is identified as necessary, a specification of the type and use of hearing protection for all contractors to meet;
  • anything relevant arising out of the event to the venue operator to add to databases of user assessments in the venue.

10 The implications for noise-reduction control measures could form part of all relevant contractual relationships covering such matters as:

  • refurbishment/decoration contracts;
  • effects of using or siting other equipment/materials;
  • set designs for productions;
  • putting down floor or stage coverings;
  • changing furniture;
  • fitting double-glazing

11 Any such issues should be considered in conjunction with other health and safety concerns such as fire.


For a more detailed explanation of terms see Useful information and glossary.

Freelancers: Someone who is not permanently employed full-time by any one employer. A freelancer may go through periods of self-employment or be employed by more than one employer.

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.


  • The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.
    SI 2005 No 1643 The Stationery Office 2005 ISBN 978 0 11 072984 8 (also available from
  • Controlling noise at work. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. Guidance on Regulations
    L108 (Second edition) HSE Books 2005 ISBN 978 0 7176 6164 0
  • The event safety guide - A guide to health, safety and welfare at music and similar events.
    HSG195 (Second edition) HSE Books 1999 ISBN 978 0 7176 2453
  • Management of health and safety at work. Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Approved Code of Practice and guidance L21 (Second edition) .
    HSE Books 2000 ISBN 978 0 7176 2488 1
  • Noise at work: Guidance for employers on the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.
    Leaflet INDG362(rev1) HSE Books 2005 (single copy free or priced packs of 10 ISBN 978 0 7176 6165 7)
  • Protect your hearing or lose it!
    Pocket card INDG363(rev1) HSE Books 2005 (single copy free or priced packs of 25 ISBN 978 0 7176 6166 4)
  • Use of contractors: A joint responsibility Leaflet INDG368
    HSE Books 2002 (single copy free or priced packs of 10 ISBN 978 0 7176 2566

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