Tell us what you think
This is the full text of the Sound Advice Working Group recommendations for venue owners/operators, designers and builders who work in the music and entertainment industry. It may help you manage your personal exposure to noise.
8.1 Room size, design and building materials can all have a significant effect on the sound levels within a space. Other factors include the range and style of music (particularly rock and pop) and the number of performers, and any other performance noise sources (for example, pyrotechnics or cannons).
8.2 Architects/designers and builders should incorporate design features that help to promote the performance of music under the best possible conditions and in compliance with the Noise Regulations.
8.3 Installing in-built monitors and other equipment can help venue owners/operators to monitor and maintain reduced noise-exposure levels.
8.4 Architects/designers and owners/operators proposing new buildings or major refurbishments are strongly recommended to consult a competent acoustician before undertaking any major work. Do not redecorate existing acoustic treatments as this may reduce their effectiveness considerably.
8.5 Set designers should consider noise levels alongside other health and safety issues. They should carefully consider the effect the materials they use will have on the noise levels experienced by performers on stage. For example, hard, reflective surfaces might unnecessarily increase sound levels experienced on stage. Conversely, soft, damping or absorptive materials might reduce sound levels.
8.6 Where problems are known to exist, the venue owner/operator should consider making arrangements for changes to the layout or improvements to the building to help reduce noise exposure levels. This might be as simple as separating the bar from the performance area by a door or introducing carpeting and absorbent materials such as drapes at the back of the stage.
A small nightclub (250 occupancy) playing mainly rock music all night most nights faced the need to improve so that it could continue to operate as a live music venue. However, after taking advice the owner was reassured to find that there were simple and reasonably practicable solutions which could be made to reduce risks from noise including:
Noise measurements showed a significant reduction. Musicians, staff and audience were asked for their reactions to the changes and they were all very positive.
Source: Prevention of risks from occupational noise in practice European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.
8.7 In many premises the venue operator may have the responsibility of ensuring compliance with the Noise Regulations and if so will need to exercise control over the noise levels from, for example, both the resident DJs and the visiting DJs and bands who may be under the control of an external promoter. Venue operators are advised to develop a written noise exposure policy. This should include as appropriate:
8.8 Venue operators should ensure that duty managers have effective control over all sound levels within the building, however they are made. This may be as simple as setting a comfortable playing level or could include using of noise meters and/or noise limiters if levels are consistently breached.
8.9 Venue operators, when hiring out the premises ('a four walls deal') to others to present an event, should:
8.10 Venue operators who are engaging people to present an event in their premises should also do the following to minimise the exposure of performers and other workers to high noise levels:
8.11 Venue operators should not be deterred from carrying out simple noise controls as simple solutions can often be very effective:
8.12 While it certainly isn't up to a venue operator to determine how the musicians play, it is worth ensuring that things like drapes, blankets and gaffer tape are on hand to dampen sound, for example from drum kits.
A venue owner engages live bands on five nights a week. After consultation with health and safety representatives, he arranged for some noise measurements to be made. With a reference position 5 m away from the loudspeakers, a level of 103 dB was measured. It was clear that the staff were being exposed to excessive noise.
A number of minor architectural changes were made:
The levels of exposure are below.
|Before LEP,d dB||After LEP,d dB|
The venue owner is providing hearing protection for all staff and requires bar staff and glass collectors to use it. He is developing plans for further noise reduction including a review of the policy on music levels.
Figures show the changes made.
Before changes were made
After changes were made
A company with several venues across the country recently reviewed the noise content of its occupational health policy and produced a comprehensive package pulling together aspects of company documentation, a standardised noise assessment procedure and appropriate training.
Company documentation includes a reassessment of safe working practices and procedures. Section 1 covers the basic legal requirements and types of different activities carried out which could produce loud noise. Section 2 details how the noise assessments are carried out by measuring noise levels in identified areas and indicating exposure values for people working in those areas, including the time taken to reach the lower and upper exposure action values. This is used specifically for front-of-house employees where exposure is fairly uniform in defined areas, and not for exposure from specific pieces of equipment used in close proximity to an individual. The existing precautions are then itemised and an action plan drawn up, with immediate, medium and long-term action for each venue.
Immediate actions include the rotation of staff, preventing unnecessary entry to areas and use of personal hearing protection. The medium-term action in one venue includes the use of shielding screens, while a longer-term proposal is to install acoustic panelling and other means to reduce reflected sound pressure levels. The company has several venues so it can make direct comparisons between the physical structure of their venues as well as the different type of acts. Good practice in one venue can be used elsewhere.
When considering personal hearing protection, the appropriate frequency analysis (see paragraph 13 in Sound Advice Note 1 'Introduction and hearing damage') and the need for communication are assessed as part of the selection process. All employees are being given an information pack which explains the different types of hearing damage that can occur, different types of hearing protection, the importance of wearing hearing protection and how to look after it.
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 are required (see Useful information and glossary.
Frequency analysis: The breakdown of sound into discrete component frequencies, measured in Hertz and usually grouped in bands or octaves. Appropriate for selecting suitable hearing protection and designing acoustic control measures.
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 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.
PA: Public address system. Sometimes called a 'Tannoy'. Often used to refer to any loudspeaker transmitting messages rather than music.
Reference positions: Standard location, usually static, selected to enable monitoring of noise levels to be conducted by measurements.
VRD: Volume regulatory device, see noise limiter.