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Noise Regulations

The MU is advising employers to review their health and safety procedures. It is crucial that noise risk assessments are carried out in workplaces, and that the resulting action plan is also carried out.

Last updated: 30 October 2020

Overall, noise at work issues are covered by The Control Of Noise At Work Regulations 2005 (CNWR) but because of the very specific situation in music and entertainment, a special guidance called Sound Advice was created.

Local authority enforcement officers are responsible to ensure that all premises comply with the CNWR, and have powers to serve a Health & Safety Improvement Notice if an employer’s premises are found to be in breach of the regulations.

This is separate from the local authority responsibilities for the noise created by a venue and its effect on those around it.

Noise is measured in decibels (dB) and there are two action levels — these are at 80dB(A) and 85dB(A).

  • First Action Values require that suitable hearing protection must be made available for workers when there’s a daily or weekly exposure above 80dB(A), or a peak sound pressure of 135dB(C).
  • Second Action Values require that suitable hearing protection must be used when the daily or weekly exposure exceeds 85dB(A), or a peak sound pressure of 137dB(C).
  • Exposure Limit Values, which must not be exceeded are a daily or weekly level of 87dB(A) or a peak sound pressure of 140dB(C). These limit values take account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection.

Please note that the typical dB(A) levels reached by a rock band can be anything up to 125dB(A), and for a symphony orchestra, 94dB(A).

There are a number of jobs that have additional hearing factors to consider, such as DJs and sound engineers.

Employer responsibilities

In the context of those Regulations the term ‘Employers’ includes, for example, concert promoters, record labels, orchestra managers, event organisers, theatrical producers and contractors.

Even if you are not employed in a strict legal sense, your engager will most likely have a legal responsibility to protect you from injury while you’re working for them.

Employers must:

  • Assess the risks to employees from noise at work.
  • Take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks.
  • Consult employees and their representatives (MU Safety Representatives/Officers) on measures taken to reduce noise exposure.
  • 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.
  • Carry out noise health surveillance where there is a risk to health.

Employers are also advised to:

  • 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, boards and trustees.

Having reviewed best practice from across the sector, our experience indicates that noise exposure can be most effectively reduced when employers:

  • Carry out noise risk assessments whenever there is a significant change to a show or programme, including the music played or the layout of the orchestra or pit.
  • Carry out noise risk assessments in situations where repertoire and layout are the same at every session (for example in the West End) in rehearsals and early performances, and then review on a regular basis to ensure that no major changes have occurred.
  • Maximise the use of space and spread musicians out as much as possible. This can assist in reducing noise exposure as well as injuries and other problems that occur when musicians are working too closely together in a cramped physical space.
  • Look at various measures that can reduce exposure to noise, including booths, screens, baffles, etc.
  • Limit noise levels in rehearsals and reduce noise exposure wherever possible. This may involve educating conductors and music directors as to the risks of over-exposure to noise, and ensuring they are aware of their responsibilities to the musicians they work with.
  • Limit amplification of music where possible.

The Noise Regulations also state that employers should include consideration of “appropriate work schedules with adequate rest periods.” Many Union Agreements provide for breaks and these should be properly observed.

This list of measures is not exhaustive and we are asking employers to explore any other reasonable avenues open to them.