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Noise control in the music entertainment industry project - summary report  2000

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Strategy
  3. Results
  4. Summary of results
  5. Conclusions
  6. Recommendations

1. Introduction

Over recent years noise levels in the music entertainment industry have increased with the introduction of new, more powerful equipment for both live and pre-recorded music.

The risk of people working in this industry suffering noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus was recognised by the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Commission of Western Australia by the issuing in 1992 of a Code of  Practice - Control of Noise in the Music Entertainment Industry.

The Code needed updating after the 1996 changes in Occupational Safety and Health legislation.

Following consultation with entertainment industry representatives and a public comment period, the WorkSafe Western Australia Commission launched a new version in August 1999.

The Code gives practical guidance on reducing noise exposure in venues and how to meet legislative obligations.

It is aimed at venue owners, designers and operators, performers, promoters, technical and service staff and suppliers of sound equipment.

Previous experience in Western Australia and other Australian States shows that compliance with the noise aspects of occupational safety and health legislation is very low in the music entertainment industry.

In March 2000, WorkSafe Western Australia noise specialists and the Non Metallic, Retail and Hospitality Team developed a project to carry out a series of inspections within the industry to establish whether venue operators were implementing appropriate noise management measures.

2. Strategy

The project began with consultation with professional associations representing all sides of the entertainment industry.

Articles advising of the project were published in SafetyLine Magazine, Clubs of WA Gazette, the WA Hotels Association's publication and the Safety Institute of Australia's publication.

The main Western Australian associations connected with the entertainment industry were then contacted by letter.

Another letter was sent to entertainment venue operators informing them about the Code of Practice, their duties under OSH legislation and the project in general.

A total of 144 venues were identified in the metropolitan area and 44 in the country.

About 10% of the contacted metropolitan venues (8 hotels and 5 nightclubs) were randomly selected for inspection.

Venue Managers were interviewed to ascertain any noise management measures already taken and to arrange monitoring of employees' exposure to noise on a typical night.

In each of the selected venues 2 to 5 employees from representative areas were selected to wear personal noise dosemeters for up to 4 hours, to record their noise exposures during a typical night's work.

Additionally, spot noise level LAeq,T measurements were taken around the venue and peak noise levels during the emptying of glass bottles into bins were checked.

Employees who wore personal dosemeters were asked to fill in a questionnaire detailing usual hours worked, personal hearing protectors supplied and training provided.

All this information was used in a report that outlined whether the company employing the venue staff has any employees exposed above the noise exposure standard in Occupational Safety and Health Regulation 3.45 (LAeq,8h of 85 dB(A) or Lpeak of 140 dB(lin)) and how well it complies with the noise legislation.

This report was discussed with the venue manager and, if any breaches of the legislation had been identified, Improvement Notices were issued requiring the company to rectify the situation.

The following information was also supplied: Control of Noise in the Music Entertainment Industry Code, Case Study of noise control in a nightclub, Shhh! publication, training topics, list of suppliers of personal hearing protectors, list of noise assessors and workforce noise trainers.

3. Results

Thirteen music venues were randomly selected for the project, 8 hotels (H1-H8) and 5 nightclubs (NC1-NC5). All the nightclubs had music presented by Disc Jockeys (DJs) on the nights visited. Four of the hotels had live band music, 3 had DJs and 1 had pre-recorded music from a CD player and juke-box. Forty-three employees were chosen for personal noise exposure monitoring: 23 bar attendants, 3 café personnel, 1 cloakroom person, 1 DJ, 10 glassies, 5 managers and 1 security officer. Results of their exposure levels (LAeq,8h ) are listed in Tables 1, 2 and 3. 

Table 1: Employees' Noise Exposure Levels (LAeq,8h ) in Hotels with Live Band Music

 

H1

H2

H3

H4

Average

Bar Attendant

87
97

90
91
91

94

92

93

Café Attendant

 

 

82
74

84

82

Glassie

95

 

 

93

94

Manager

89

 

88

 

89

 

 

 

 

 

 

Average

92

91

89

91

91

Table 2: Employees' Noise Exposure Levels (LAeq,8h )in Hotels with DJs

 

H5

H6

H7

H8

Average

Bar Attendant

85
87

92

83
85

87

88

Glassie

89

91
95

 

88
89

91

Manager

 

89

 

 

89

 

 

 

 

 

Average

87

92

84

88

89

Table 3: Employees' Noise Exposure Levels (LAeq,8h )in Night Clubs with DJs

 

NC 1

NC 2

NC 3

NC 4

NC 5

Average

Bar Attendant

94

88
94
92

84

94
94

92
91

92

Cloak Room

 

79

 

 

 

79

DJ

 

 

 

 

93

93

Glassie

93

90

 

93

 

92

Manager

 

 

90

95

 

93

Security Officer

 

 

87

 

 

87

 

 

 

 

 

 

Average

94

91

87

94

92

92

Additional information was obtained through interviews with venue managers and from staff questionnaires. The results are summarised in Table 4.

Table 4: Information Obtained from Questionnaires

SUBJECT H1 H2 H3 H4 H5 H6 H7 H8 NC1 NC2 NC3 NC4 NC5
PHP No No No No No Only for empty glass Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Training No No No No No No Yes No No No No No No
Hearing Test No No No No No No No No No Yes No No No
Noise Controls: - Controlling music level   Yes       Yes   Yes   Yes (below 100) Yes    
- Limiters         Yes Yes     Yes Yes   Yes  
- Placement of speakers to face dance floor         Yes   Yes   Yes Yes Yes Yes
(partial)
Yes
(partial)
- Placement of bar/s in quieter ares Yes   Yes Yes Yes   Yes Yes Yes Yes      
- Absorptive walls and/or ceiling     Yes Yes         Yes       Yes
- Quiet rest area for staff                   Yes      
- Rotation of staff           Yes              
- Emptying glass to plastic bins Yes   Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes   Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bags for glass   Yes             Yes        

Spot measurements were also taken in various areas around some venues, throughout the night results are presented in Tables 5, 6, and 7.

Table 5: Spot Noise Level Measurements in Hotels, LAeq,T in dB(A)

Position / Time

H1

H3

H4

H5

H6

H8

DJ Desk
20:30
21:30
22:30
23:30

 

 

 

 

91
91
91

 

Behind Bar (Band or DJ playing)
19:00
20:00
21:00
22:00
23:00
23:30

100

98
96

98

95
96

 

89
93
91

90
92

Dance Floor
20:30
21:30
22:30
23:30

103
101

101

101

92
96
101

 

 

Table 6: Spot Noise Level Measurements in Nightclubs, LAeq,T in dB(A)

Position/Time

NC1

NC2

NC3

NC4

NC5

DJ Desk
21:30
22:30
23:30
24:00

93
92
94

 

82

86
92
90

86
90
93
91

Bar
21:30
22:30
23:00
24:00

91
92

89
91

85
82
87

89
92
92

89
89
92
91

Dance Floor
21:00
22:00
23:00

24:00

82
93
92

 

80
85
87

89
92
96

91
92
95
94

Table 7: Peak Noise Levels Measured During Emptying of Glass Bottles into Plastic Bins Lpeak in dB(lin)

H1

H3

H4

H5

H6

H7

H8

NC2

NC3

NC5

136

123

133

132

133

138

131

122

132

132

Table 8: Crowd Noise Levels, LAeq,T in dB(A)

H1

H4

H8

79 (20:35)

81 (21:35)
86 (23:25)
89 (23:35)

81 (18:58)
91 (21:53)
89 (21:55)

4. Summary of results

All inspected venues, except one hotel that plays pre-recorded music with a DJ, had most monitored employees exposed to noise levels above the noise exposure standard for 8 hours LAeq,8h of 85 dB(A). Exposures ranged from 74 dB(A) for a café attendant in a hotel bar with pre-recorded music to 97 dB(A) for a bar attendant in a hotel bar with a live music band.

On average, employees in hotels with live band music had similar noise exposures to those in nightclubs with DJs -91 and 92 dB(A) respectively, whilst the average for employees in hotels playing pre-recorded music was 3 dB(A) lower - 89 dB(A).

Glassies received slightly higher exposures than bar attendants (93 dB(A) vs 91 dB(A)), glassies in hotels with live music received the highest noise exposure (94 dB(A)), followed by bar attendants in the same venues (93 dB(A)).

None of the inspected venues had employees exposed to peak noise levels above the peak noise level standard, Lpeak of 140 dB(lin).

None of the venue managers had any prior knowledge of the Occupational Safety and Health legislation for noise or copies of the Code of Practice for Control of Noise in the Music Entertainment Industry. None provided adequate training on noise topics to their employees. Only 5 venues provided their employees with personal hearing protectors, and only one tested their employees hearing for noise induced hearing loss.

All of them have some kind of noise control measures in place, mainly because their customers expect some areas to be quieter, to be able to have conversations there. All had plastic bins or bags for empty glass bottles, five have a system of controlling music levels, but only one checks it with a sound level meter. The other four react mainly to customers' complaints or management's judgement.

Three nightclubs and 2 hotels that play pre-recorded music have limiters installed on their amplifying system, mainly to limit low frequency sound or to protect their loudspeakers.

All night clubs and four hotels had their own amplification system whereas the other hotels rely on systems supplied by performing bands.

Three nightclubs and 2 hotels with DJs have placed speakers facing the dance floor, therefore limiting the sound going in other directions.

Two nightclubs and 6 hotels have at least one bar situated in quieter areas. One nightclub and 2 hotels provided their employees with a quiet rest room and one hotel rotates their staff between noisy and quieter areas.

Crowd noise varied between 81 and 91 dB(A) depending on the number of patrons present and the background music level.

In two hotels and one small nightclub observations and spot measurements taken behind bars suggested that the higher noise exposures received by the bar staff were due to their own and customers' voices which needed to be raised above the music and general crowd noise when taking orders.

Twenty-five improvement notices were issued, 12 requiring employers to provide their employees with appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision in accordance with the approved Code of Practice for Noise Management and Protection of Hearing at Work, NOHSC 2009 (1993). Seven improvement notices required employers to provide adequate personal hearing protectors and 6 improvement notices required employers to introduce control measures to reduce noise exposure of their employees.

5. Conclusions

The music entertainment industry in general, is not fully aware of their responsibilities under the occupational safety and health legislation.

The industry does not provide any training on noise issues and only some supply their employees with personal hearing protectors.

Most venues attempt to control their music levels, but in cases where venues do not have their own amplification system they feel they do not have control over music. The bands in general do not have any information regarding music levels they play at and very often bring unsuitable systems that are too large and too loud for smaller areas making it very difficult for venue operators to control their employees' noise exposures.

Introducing sound limiters to ensure that music volume does not exceed a pre-set value has proven to be a practical option. Introducing absorptive material on ceilings and walls can also provide a significant reduction.

It became apparent that the placement of bars in quieter areas and arrangement of speakers so they face the dance floor, can reduce the staff noise exposure levels substantially. For example, Hotel 5 has employees' exposures below 90 dB(A), without having to lower the music level at the dance floor, due to the positioning of the bar.

In places where personal hearing protectors were available, it was observed that glassies were wearing their earplugs all or most of the time, whereas bar attendants tended not to, complaining about not being able to understand their customers. All of the earplugs available provided too high a reduction resulting in "over protection" and difficulties in communication.

None of the assessed venues had employees exposed to peak noise levels above 140dB(lin) because they recycle empty glass into plastic bins or bags rather than metal bins.

6. Recommendations

  1. Risk management for employees' noise exposure should be applied through a hierarch of control measures, ie. elimination, substitution, engineering, administrative controls and as a last resort, reliance on protective equipment.
  2. The industry should follow an appropriate strategy from the Code of Practice for Control of Noise in the Music Entertainment Industry or introduce their own noise control program to achieve the same outcome.
  3. Venue operators should prearrange with performing bands and agents desirable music levels and organise proper placement of the bands' speakers. A simple sound level meter can be very useful to keep control of the music levels. These meters can be obtained from shops such as Tandy Electronics or Dick Smith Electronics for a very reasonable price. Sound engineers can be asked to participate in this task.
  4. Training on noise topics should form a substantial part of a noise management program. The topics that need to be covered include information on health effects of noise, noise assessment results, noise control program details, purpose of audiometric testing, and when and how to use personal hearing protectors.
  5. In cases where noise control does not achieve a reduction of exposure levels to below the standards, venue operators should provide suitable personal hearing protectors and instruct employees to wear them when exposed to high noise levels. It is very important to choose proper hearing protectors that do not over protect, so employees, especially bar attendants who have to communicate with customers, will wear them. Class 1 or Class 2 earplugs can be tried, one for exposure levels LAeq,8h of less than 90 dB(A) and other for LAeq,8h between 90 - 94 dB(A).Some examples of Class 1 earplugs are Bilsom POP and MSA Ear Defenders, and Class 2 are Howard Leight QB2, EAR Ultrafit, Protector Safety EP-35, EAR Ultratech, and Ternen Hearsavers.
  6. Venue operators should arrange audiometric testing for long term employees likely to be above an LAeq,8h of 90 dB(A).
  7. WorkSafe WA should consider offering a service to check simple meters against its own calibrated meters.

WorkSafe WA should consider a repeat inspection survey in 2-3 years time.


Renata MacMillan
Senior Inspector/Scientific Officer Noise

Pamela Gunn
Senior Scientific Officer Noise

June 2000 

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