Sound Advice Note 4

Noise-control measures and training

This is the Sound Advice Working Group general advice on noise control measures. It may help you to identify in general terms how to control noise risks and noise exposure from music and entertainment sources. Specific advice on noise control relevant to particular parts of the music and entertainment sector is contained within other parts of this good practice guidance.

Controlling noise risk and noise exposure

4.1 Wherever there is noise exposure at work employers should be looking for ways of working that would reduce the noise or mean that people are exposed for shorter times. Employers should also be keeping up with what is good practice for noise control within their sector.

4.2 Where there are things that can be done to reduce risks from noise, which are reasonably practicable, they should be done. Where the risk assessment shows that employees or subcontractors are likely to be exposed at or above the upper exposure action values, the employer must put in place a planned programme of noise control. The risk assessment should have produced information on the risks and an action plan for controlling noise.

4.3 There are many ways of reducing noise and noise exposure, however, it is important to tackle the dominant or loudest noise sources first. Pick the most appropriate solutions to resolve the particular problems of the specific event.

4.4 Collective protective measures should always be used in preference to individual protective measures. The approach for the control of noise should be, in order of preference, to:

  • eliminate the hazard or risk altogether (if it is reasonably practicable to do this, it should be done);
  • control the risk at source (for example reduce the volume, substitute quieter sources);
  • reduce the noise as it travels to the people exposed (for example physical barriers, distance, absorptive materials);
  • reduce exposure (for example by organising the work to reduce the duration of exposure or the number of people exposed to noise).

4.5 If these measures are not adequate to reduce the exposure enough, then hearing protection must be provided (see Sound Advice Note 5 Personal hearing protection)

4.6 Control measures should be accompanied by:

  • provision of information, instruction and training;
  • proper and regular maintenance of equipment.

4.7 Noise measurements may be necessary to establish the effectiveness of any control measures.

Control measures

4.8 Any immediate risks should be tackled immediately - this will include providing hearing protection as an interim measure while more permanent noise-control solutions are put in place. This includes any noise hazards that are liable to cause immediate and lasting damage rather than accumulating over time, for example pyrotechnics, fireworks and even loud sound systems. For these types of potential hazards it is crucial to ensure that a thorough noise-control strategy is in place before there is any further exposure.

4.9 When examining possible measures, consider, for example, the types of instruments being played, the number and positions of performers, whether amplification is being used, the acoustic of the venue and the noise associated with stunts and effects. There may also be other workplace noise such as construction noise, power tools, PA noise and noise created by the public.

4.10 Some measures may not be feasible. Others may prove ineffective in reducing noise exposure levels on their own. Often a combination of measures may have to be tried, as each measure may itself have implications for others in a variety of ways. A range of appropriate solutions for a particular type of performance or source of sound within the specific venue should be identified. Those involved should be encouraged to suggest ideas for noise control and noise reduction, which can be tried out and adopted when appropriate.

4.11 Some noise-reduction measures take some time to get used to, for example brass in an orchestra raised on to rostra/risers may not have to play so loudly (see Risers).

4.12 When selecting noise-control measures, always consider whether the measure concerned might create other health and safety issues or unwanted side effects. Two examples from live music are the use of high risers, which may have fall implications (see the Work at Height Regulations 2005), and incorrectly positioned personal acoustic screens, which can cause problems for the player and other players.

4.13 The noise-control measures should be reviewed to ensure they are properly applied and effective. Any difficulties should be investigated and the findings fed back into the risk-assessment process.

4.14 The following paragraphs provide general advice on noise-control measures. For more specific advice see the more detailed recommendations for each sector.

Eliminate the hazard

4.15 Wherever practicable do not generate hazardous levels of sound in the first place. Think of ways of eliminating unnecessary exposure such as avoiding noisy activities, for example, sound system checking while riggers and others are working adjacent to loudspeakers. Also tailor the programme to the venue and avoid reverberant or unsuitable spaces.

Control the risk at source

4.16 Consider how the noise level can be reduced, for example by reducing the sound output from individual instruments such as damping drums or closing piano lids, leading to an overall reduction in volume. Fold-back levels on the stage should be reduced to the minimum level at which it is possible to work. Noise can also be controlled by the careful design of the premises, for example by using acoustic absorption panels. Adding an acoustic ceiling, acoustic wall linings or carpeting may increase acoustic absorption.

4.17 Sound-level adjustments can be more readily carried out where amplification is used and it is simple and highly effective to turn amplified sound down. However, it is essential to monitor sound levels to ensure they are not increased again above acceptable levels. A control mechanism within the sound system may help, by providing a warning (or limiting) when a preset sound level is reached.

Separate people from the hazard

4.18 'It is sometimes possible to separate people from the hazard by physically isolating the noise source, for example by using booths for noisy instruments in recording studios or increasing the distance between front-of-house workers not on stage and the stage area and loudspeakers.

Reduce exposure time and number of people exposed

4.19 If people, such as pit crews and monitor engineers, have to work in very noisy environments, take measures to reduce the duration of exposure. This could include shortening sound and system checks and rotating staff between noisy and quieter duties. For an individual concert this may not be practical for a specialist such as a monitor engineer, but in the context of reducing an overall weekly exposure level, task variation may be useful. Show days might be balanced with office/warehouse work to achieve a minimised weekly exposurelevel.

Provide information, instruction and training on noise

4.20 Awareness of noise risks and controls is very important, as people will then take notice of the risks and use any risk-reduction measures properly. People in the industry have to be made aware of the potential for permanent hearing damage associated with working in a very noisy environment. This may require a considerable shift in personal attitude and collective culture.

4.21 Understanding the risks from high sound levels should form part of the basic education of performers and technicians, so people coming into the industry know how to protect themselves and become part of the solution rather than the problem. Information and instruction should also include posting warning notices around designated hearing protection zones and briefings to performers and other workers about the noise-reduction strategies adopted for the event.

4.22 Employers should try to ensure that employees understand the need to follow the employer's or venue operator's instructions on control measures including, for example, abiding by any agreed arrangements for job rotation or restriction of access to noisy areas or following any instructions relating to achieving agreed noise levels, as well as wearing hearing protection when required. Employees should be encouraged to report to their employer any new hazardous noise situations or hearing loss or tinnitus.

4.23 It is also worth educating employees on the general risks of noise from other non-work activities which still contribute to exposure. For example, the noise level within the in-ear headphones of music players such as MP3 players can be 94 dB at around half volume (with peaks of 110-130 depending on headphones) and 105 dB at full volume (peaks 110-142).

Role of management

4.24 The role of middle management and supervisors in developing and applying a successful noise policy is important. Their training and instruction is a high priority and should include:

  • training to the level required for their responsibilities;
  • having those responsibilities clearly set out and knowing the responsibilities of other managers/supervisors;
  • understanding the health and safety policy of their employer;
  • understanding the importance of providing a safe environment for workers.

4.25 Employers should also convey their findings to their employees for example by displaying the outcomes of risk assessments by programme, session or day on a prominent notice board or by making this information available when confirming rehearsal and performance schedules with players. Findings should also be provided to safety representatives and other employee representatives.

4.26 Employers should ensure their employees and other workers or self-employed people affected by the work activity understand the noise risks they may be exposed to. Employers should at least tell them:

  • the likely noise exposures and the risk to hearing this creates;
  • what is being done to control risks and exposures;
  • where and how people can obtain hearing protection if this is needed;
  • how to report defects in hearing protection and noise-control equipment;
  • what their duties are under the Noise Regulations;
  • what they should be doing to minimise the risk, such as the proper way to use hearing protection and other noise-control equipment, how to look after it and store it and where to use it;
  • what health surveillance is provided if this is appropriate.

4.27 Make sure information is provided in a way that can be understood and, if necessary, make special arrangements for workers who do not understand English or cannot read.

Freelancers and self-employed people

4.28 Where a management or orchestra regularly engages the same freelancers, they should be considered as being employed and provided with training on control measures (including the use of screens and personal hearing protection) as well as regular health surveillance (see Sound Advice Note 6 Hearing health surveillance).

Training courses

4.29Trade Unions, trade associations and other professional bodies may be able to advise or help identify suitable training courses where these are needed.

4A1 Risers

1 Risers are platforms, sometimes called rostrums or rostra, used to raise musicians so that the sound from their instruments is not aimed directly into the ears of musicians in front (or behind in the case of French horns). Typically risers are used to elevate the brass section and woodwind sections but they may be useful for other musicians such as percussion and choirs. Wind instrument players will generally not have to work so hard to produce their sound if risers are used.

2 The height of risers should be adjusted to suit particular performers. If, for example, a trumpet player habitually performs with bell down, putting the trumpeter on a riser could make matters worse by causing the noise to be directed directly at the ears of the musician in front. (In this case staggering the layout so that the sound of the trumpet is directed between the torsos of the musicians in front may help.) Experimenting is usually necessary to decide the most suitable heights of risers in the particular circumstances.

3 A height of 50 cm is often regarded as a good starting level. When using risers, make sure that there is still good headroom and that the performers are not too close to the ceiling. Wherever possible there should be between 2.5m and 3.5m between the riser and any overhanging ceiling.

4 The edges of risers should be marked. Access to risers must be safe and suitable. Guardrails or other protection is needed at the rear of risers to stop people, instruments and equipment falling off the edge. The effect of risers

The effect of risers

Glossary

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.

Fold-back monitors Loudspeakers sited near performers to allow them to hear specific sounds which would otherwise be too quiet, for example for a singer on stage to hear a pit orchestra. Includes onstage monitors and side fills.

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

Health surveillance For the purposes of this guidance, ongoing assessment of the state of aural health of an employee as related to noise

Hearing protection zones (sometimes referred to as HPZ) Areas where the wearing of hearing protection is compulsory. See Useful information and glossary

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.

PA Public address system. Sometimes called a 'Tannoy'. Often used to refer to any loudspeaker transmitting messages rather than music.

Tinnitus Buzzing, ringing or tone in the ear. Temporary tinnitus is a warning; a sign that 'you got away with it that time'

Bibliography

  • Control of Noise in the music entertainment industry. Code of practiceWorksafe Western Australia Commission 2003 www.docep.wa.gov.au/worksafe)
  • 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 www.opsi.gov.uk)
  • 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
  • Listen While You Work: Hearing conservation for the arts for performers and other workers in art and entertainment Safety & Health in Arts Production & Entertainment (SHAPE), Canada 2001 ISBN 978 0 7726 4643 9 www.shape.bc.ca/resources/pdf/listen.pdf)
  • 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 of10 ISBN 978 0 7176 6165 7) www.www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg362.pdf)
  • 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
  • The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (as amended): A brief guide Leaflet INDG401(rev1) HSE Books 2007 (single copy free or priced packs of 10 ISBN 978 0 7176 6231 9) www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg401.pdfwww.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg401.pdf

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