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This is the full text of the Sound Advice Working Group recommendations on noise risk assessment and planning. It may help you to identify who is at risk, and how. It contains information that you may be referred to from other Sound Advice web pages or advice notes.
3.1 The aim of a noise risk assessment is to help decide what measures are necessary to ensure the health and safety of employees who are exposed to noise. It is more than just taking measurements of noise - sometimes measurements may not even be necessary. But it needs to be drawn up by someone who is competent to carry out the task and be based on advice and information from people who are competent to provide it. This could be someone from within the organisation. Noise risk assessments should:
3.2 In many cases it should be possible to come to a decision quite quickly using what is known about the work going on, or by making simple observations. Other parts of this guidance provide information to help identify those people in specific sections of the music and entertainment industry who are likely to be at risk from the playing of live or recorded music.
3.3 The following 'listening checks' may be useful in deciding whether there are likely to be noise risks. As a simple guide you will probably need to do something about the noise if any of the following apply:
3.4 Even extremely short exposure to very loud noise is dangerous. Some percussive or explosive sounds last for a very short time, but are at such a level that hearing damage can occur. Exposure to such noises is uncommon in the normal environment, however pyrotechnics, fireworks and even loud sound systems can deliver peak noise levels in excess of the 140 dB exposure limit value set by the Noise Regulations.
3.5 Sounds peaking above 140 dB are liable to cause immediate and lasting damage rather than accumulating over time. It is therefore crucial that a thorough noise-control strategy is in place before any exposure to loud noise might occur.
3.6 All employees who are likely to be affected by the noise should be identified. Consider not just people who are exposed to noise in relatively fixed locations, but also people who move between different jobs or types of work, and make sure you understand their patterns of noise exposure. Remember to include people who are not direct employees but who may be affected by the work, for example visitors or subcontractors.
3.7 In considering the potential for people to be harmed, it is mainly necessary to think about hearing damage. But it is also necessary to consider risks to safety which can arise from working in a noisy environment, such as noise interfering with communications or warning signals and the ability to pick up audible signs of danger.
3.8 The daily personal noise exposure (LEP,d) of workers at risk should be estimated and compared with the exposure action and limit values. It takes account of both the level of the sound and how long it lasts. Often a worker's daily noise exposure is made up of a number of periods of time exposed to different levels of noise, so this needs to be taken into account when estimating exposure.
3.9 It is essential that any estimate of employees' exposure is representative of the work that they do. It should take account of:
3.10 The estimates of the noise levels must be reliable enough to be able to assess whether any exposure action values are likely to be exceeded. Reliable information may include:
3.11 Tools are available on the HSE website (www.hse.gov.uk/noise/calculator.htm) that allow noise exposure to be calculated based on information on likely noise levels and durations of exposure. There is a noise ready-reckoner chart (see also page 13) and an electronic spreadsheet.
3.12 When in any doubt, assume that control measures are necessary and that hearing protection will be required until the control measures are sufficient to reduce the employees' exposure to below the upper exposure action value. If music is to be played (especially loud amplified music) it would be good practice to assume there is a risk and some noise controls will be necessary.
If an employee works behind the bar in a noisy nightclub, it is reasonable to assume that exposure will be greater than the upper exposure action value and therefore the necessary control measures should be implemented. It may be sensible to take noise measurements if these are needed to show that the exposure is lower than the upper exposure action value after the measures have been taken or, alternatively, that suitable hearing protection is provided and used.
3.13 Where noise exposure varies markedly from day to day, the weekly noise exposure level may be used as an indicator of risk. It is only likely to be appropriate to use weekly exposure where:
3.14 Using weekly exposure to indicate risk should not lead to the lowering of standards of protection on days where noise exposure is higher. Workers and their safety or employee representatives should be consulted on whether the use of weekly exposure is appropriate.
3.15 Tools are available on the HSE website that allow weekly noise exposure to be calculated based on information on levels of daily noise exposure. There is a noise ready-reckoner chart and an electronic spreadsheet.
3.16 Consult safety representatives about risk assessments along with any control measures. Where there is no formal representation, employers should liaise with the local Musicians' Union and Equity representatives or employee representative groups. Also tell staff about the significant findings of the risk assessment.
3.17 An essential outcome of the noise risk assessment is to control the risks. In carrying out a noise risk assessment employers should:
3.18 The action plan, as well as covering any ways of organising the work or technical measures needed to eliminate risks from noise or reduce noise exposure, should also cover issues such as:
3.19 In developing an action plan for noise, employers should consider what management arrangements are needed to ensure that the control measures put in place are working and being followed in practice. Consider also how to adapt or modify the control measures, for example where a music event may be undertaken in different venues, where differences are anticipated between rehearsal and performance, or where changes to the layout of the working environment are likely which could affect the risks from noise exposure.
3.20 Risk assessment is an ongoing process and regular checks are essential to make sure the control measures continue to be effective. This may also identify any further actions necessary. Any incidents, for example where it is found that control measures are ineffective or not being used or followed, should be investigated to find out why, and action taken. Record the results of monitoring.
3.21 Specific noise measurements conducted in the workplace can help identify the main sources of noise and make it easier to assess where further controls are necessary and when periods of wearing compulsory hearing protection are required.
3.22 It may be helpful to have one or two sound-level meters or noise dosemeters to estimate noise exposures, for example within the orchestra/band or on the dance floor. It may also be useful to establish reference position(s) to enable quick measurements to be made using a simple meter to verify that sound levels are under control.
3.23 This information can be recorded and compared with the assessment, and any relevant findings can be applied to future assessments. Examples of locations for reference positions are included in Sound Advice Note 10 Rock and pop, Sound Advice Note 11 Pubs and clubs and Sound Advice Note 12 Orchestras.
3.24 The noise risk assessment should be reviewed regularly. There are various reasons why this should happen, including:
3.25 Even if it appears that nothing has changed, the risk assessment should not be left for more than about two years without checking whether a review is needed.
3.26 A flowchart summarising the process of noise risk assessment is shown below.
Pre-event noise risk assessment
Name of event:
The Big Festival
Date of assessment:
11 July 2008
Assessment completed by:
What are the nois esources?
Are there sources of noise which are likely to result in personal exposures above the lower exposure action value?
What area(s) may be affected at this level?
Action to be taken to protect staff in these noisy areas
Noise monitoring plan
* This is only strictly required at or above the upper exposure action value.
3.27 Every event needs to be properly planned, to ensure that health and safety requirements are fully considered. The degree of planning will vary according to the complexity of the event but every event will benefit, whether it is a pop concert, a gig in a pub, an orchestral concert or a club with a guest DJ. Larger venues may have a specific policy statement which may help with planning (see Sound Advice Note 8 Venues).
3.28 Start to assess the likely noise levels as soon as possible to identify any potential noise risks. This is best done well before any music is played in rehearsal or performance. The employer, or the principal employer, for example the promoter or pub landlord, should decide whether the proposed event might lead to high noise exposure levels for those working there and what controls might be necessary. They should record and retain these results as part of their noise risk assessment.
3.29 Where appropriate consider:
3.30 Good communications are essential for good planning. The assessment process should involve the exchange of information between people who may be affected by the event, for example, promoters, venue operators, contractors, local authorities and recording companies. This should start at the earliest opportunity and continue. In the case of 'rock and pop' acts, wherever possible the performers should be involved in the planning process and become an integral part of the noise management plan.
Sound levels too high
Individual musicians asking for higher and higher levels from their personal instrument amplifiers or monitors can cause problems. It has been known for audience members to complain that they could only hear one particular instrument during a show. This is not the fault of the sound engineer but the result of lack of communication with musicians. In the case of one famous band, the guitarist left the group, in part due to hearing damage from ever-increasing sound levels. If stage sound levels are too high this can result in reduced enjoyment for the audience and cause serious hearing damage to performers, which could be prevented by proper communication and planning before the event.
3.31 Event organisers should ensure that everybody involved in planning an event is competent and capable of carrying out their duties. There may be a need to provide specific training for technicians and managers.
3.32 When planning events, allow time for a person's ears to recover from exposure to loud noise. The time required to recover fully from the temporary effects of noise is related to the level of noise and the duration of exposure. Musicians who have played at an evening performance need recovery time before rehearsing the following morning. As a practical rule higher levels of noise during the rest period may impede the recovery of hearing and might lead to permanent damage.
3.33 Where there are several employers, all the employers involved should agree at the earliest possible opportunity which employer is to co-ordinate the measures necessary to comply with the Noise Regulations. (This will usually be the employer responsible for co-ordinating other health and safety responsibilities and is usually the person in overall control of the work.) This person should make sure that the responsibilities for controlling risks are clearly defined. Where contractors and sub-contractors are involved it is usually best for responsibilities to be set out in the contractual arrangements (see Contracts in Sound Advice Note 2 Responsibilities).
Multiple employers involved in a musical production
More than one employer is usually involved when a musical production is staged in a theatre. The theatre operator and the producer are usually the main employers with their representatives having designated responsibilities under the Noise Regulations. Depending upon the noise risk assessment, those at risk could include the performers (both the musicians in the orchestra pit and the artists on stage) and the production team (employed by, or freelancers working for, the producer), all the backstage workers/on-stage technicians (who might be employed by either the producer or the theatre operator or could be freelancers) as well as the theatre operator's front-of-house staff in the auditorium.
The representatives of the main employers will establish, often by means of contract (see Contracts in Sound Advice Note 2 Responsibilities), who will be the co-ordinating employer with first responsibility for initiating the noise risk assessment and implementing the control measures. The producer is responsible for the music and will usually initiate this assessment. It is important that any control measures and any hearing protection requirement resulting from the noise risk assessment include all those at risk. The sound designer and the musical director (both engaged by the producer) will usually co-ordinate any control measures required by the noise risk assessment in consultation with the theatre operator if necessary. Any necessary hearing protection will generally be provided by the respective employers.
Multiple employers involved in planning a pub event
The manager of a public house has engaged a five-piece group, using the services of the fixer, to play in his bar. The responsibility for the Noise Regulations involves both the pub manager and the manager or leader of the group; it may also involve the fixer. The prime responsibility rests with the pub manager who should liaise with the band to ensure that risks to people at work are controlled; no one - bar staff, musicians or security staff - should be exposed to excessive noise. The pub manager should undertake an assessment of the noise risk and may need to ensure that action is taken to reduce the hazard.
3.34 Where there is an established safety committee they should be consulted on how best to develop the management and monitoring of noise exposure. Employers may wish to consider other methods that have been adopted such as noise committees. Specific input might come from people such as responsible managers, players, conductors, safety and occupational health and safety advisers, and representatives from frequently visited venues. Where amplified sound is used, people such as sound designers, sound engineers, sound contractors and production managers should also be involved.
3.35 Any group, or its members, should have enough authority to implement the necessary controls or protective measures, including long-range planning and venue alterations etc. A group will probably operate in different formations for different purposes - for example, the grouping needed to consider the noise implications of long-range planning decisions may differ from that finishing the arrangements for that night's concert.
3.36 A written statement of venue policy is a good way of communicating controls to those working in or using the venue. The policy may include:
3.37 Pre-planning is especially important when taking a production or band on tour:
Working elsewhere in the EU
3.38 The European Directive on which the Noise Regulations are based (Directive 2003/10/EC) sets down minimum standards for the control of noise at work throughout the European Union. Individual EU countries may have additional requirements.
Working outside the EU
3.39 Outside the EU, local requirements might not correspond to EU requirements. Those working outside the EU are recommended to clarify the position. Those employed in the UK who are touring are advised, where necessary, to negotiate for the maintenance of health and safety standards equivalent to those of the EU to be included in their contracts of employment. For those employed outside the EU it is advisable to clarify the health and safety standards that will apply and seek to get the safeguards required to protect their hearing.
Noise exposure ready-reckoner
|Sound pressure level, LAeq (dB)||Duration of exposure (hours)|
|Total exposure points (EP)||Noise exposure LEP,d (dB)|
Example one: Bar staff
|Noise level||Duration||Notes||Exposure points|
|90 dB||2 hours||2 hour column and 90 dB row||80|
|94 dB||2 hours||2 hour column and 94 dB row||200|
|80 dB||2 hours||The exposure in the cloakroom and staff room are added to give a total of 2 hours||8|
|Total noise exposure points||288|
|LEP,d||89 to 90 dB|
|Activity||Duration||Noise level (LAeq)|
|Travel to show||45 minutes||75 dB|
|Load-in and installation||2.5 hours||72 dB|
|System check||15 minutes||89 dB|
|Sound check||30 minutes||92 dB|
|Show||2.5 hours (inc. support act)||96 dB|
|Load-out and travel||1.5 hours||73 dB|
|Activity||Duration||Noise level (LAeq)|
|Stock check and equipment preparation||3.5 hours||68 dB|
|Loading/unloading vehicles||1.5 hours||78 dB|
|System operation check||15 minutes||92 dB|
|General admin and office||2.75 hours||65 dB|
|Use of spray booth||30 minutes||83 dB|
Establishing personal noise exposureDetermining personal noise exposure depends on knowing the noise levels that a person is exposed to, and how long they are exposed to these levels. When making noise measurements the aim is to establish the noise at the position occupied by the head of the person whose exposure is being evaluated.
Hand-held sound-level metersOne method is the use of a hand-held sound-level meter. This is most suited to making sample noise measurements at the position of a person's head. Where noise sources are distinct and close to the subject, such as playing of musical instruments, it is particularly important to choose an appropriate measurement position. Where the measurement is made at the side of a person's head, it should be made on the side where noise levels are higher. Where a person is working in an area with a broader diffuse noise source then the measuring position is not so critical, as it is the noise level in the area into which the person is entering that is being measured, such as an area in front of a stage at an outdoor event. In this case taking an average noise measurement over the area may be appropriate.
Personal dosemetersAnother method is the use of dosemeters. These have the advantage of being able to measure noise over prolonged periods of time, even the full working day. Various types are in use but all of them will have a microphone that can be mounted on the shoulder, to make a representative measurement of noise at the head position. The microphone should be placed on the side of the head most exposed to noise. Elevated noise levels will be recorded where dosemeters are mistreated. They can be prone to errors by accidentally knocking, rubbing or covering the microphone, so employers need to be sure that the levels recorded reflect the working conditions. They often allow a visual record of noise levels over time to be produced, so can help to understand the dominant sources of noise exposure for people who are exposed to various noise sources during the day.
Fixed monitoringThis is often used by employers to monitor noise levels in a specific area where previous investigations have established a level that should not be exceeded. A microphone will be installed at a point that has been identified as being important for monitoring and the information relayed to a metering point that can be seen by a duty manager. This is useful in clubs and pubs where bands bring in their own equipment. Noise limiters with feedback systems (see Sound Advice Note 11 Pubs and clubs) are a variation on this theme.
For a more detailed explanation of terms see Useful information and glossary.
Competent: Having such practical and theoretical knowledge and such experience as is necessary to carry out the work (see Useful information and glossary).
Exposure action values: Levels of exposure to noise at which certain actions need to be taken (see Useful information and glossary).
Exposure limit value: These relate to personal exposure to noise and must not be exceeded (see Useful information and glossary).
Musicians Union: 60-62 Clapham Road, London SW9 0JJ. 020 7582 5566 www.musiciansunion.org.uk.
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 a sound level, which is the level of noise measured at a particular moment.
Noise limiters: 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.
Noise measurements: Decibels (dB) are used for measuring noise. A-weighting is used to approximate to the frequency responses of the human ear. C-weighting is used to measure peak, impact or explosive noise.
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).