Noise at work

Control of noise in music and entertainment sector

Britain’s pubs, bars and nightclubs employ 568,000 people, many of whom are being exposed to dangerously loud music in the workplace. Recent research suggests 170,000 people in the UK suffer deafness, tinnitus or other ear conditions due to exposure to excessive noise at work.

In April 2008 the existing regulations protecting workers in the music and entertainment sectors from exposure to excessive noise will be replaced by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (Noise Regulations). For all other workplaces these regulations have been in force since April 2006.

The music and entertainment sector includes all workplaces where live or recorded music is played in a restaurant, bar, public house, discotheque or nightclub, or alongside a live dramatic or dance performance.

Useful information

What the new regulations mean for employers in the entertainment sector

Employers are required to prevent or reduce the risk of potential hearing damage to their workers which may be caused through exposure to loud music at work. Noise exposure is measured by assessing both the noise level and the length of time a worker is exposed to that level. The greater the noise level, or the longer the duration of exposure, the greater the person’s exposure will be.

Acceptable noise exposure levels for workers

Noise is measured in decibels and if noise exposure reaches 80 decibels or more, the employer must take certain action to control exposure.   

How to estimate if your workers are exposed to 80 decibels or more

There are three simple listening tests to help you decide:

  • If the noise can be heard but normal conversation is possible, the noise level is likely to be 80 decibels. If your employees are working in that environment for six hours or more you will need to take action.
  • If you have to shout to talk to someone two metres away, the noise level is likely to be 85 decibels. If your employees are exposed to this level for two hours or more you will need to take action.
  • If you have to shout to talk to someone one metre away, the noise level is likely to be 90 decibels. If your employees are exposed to this level for 45 minutes or more you will need to take action.

Action you should take if the noise level is at or above 80 decibels

You need to assess the risks to your employees from working in a noisy environment and take action to reduce the noise exposure. This involves an understanding of worker activity during a typical shift and consideration should be given to hours of work, shift patterns, job rotation, premises layout, hearing protection, health surveillance, information, instruction and training of workers and the monitoring of noise control measures.

Getting more information and guidance on the new regulations    

Environmental health staff from Islington Council will be visiting licensed premises to offer guidance on compliance with the regulations. 

Industry guidance will be available in 2008 to give you practical solutions to protect your workers from preventable hearing damage. Many of the controls are simple and cost-effective.

For further information and guidance view the websites listed below or contact:

Commercial Environmental Health, Tel:  020 7527 3816


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