Noise in the music entertainment industry

Loud music can damage your hearing. Every time you leave a music venue with ringing in your ears, it’s a sign that some hearing damage has occurred.

One of the unique features of the music industry is that sound levels loud enough to cause noise-induced hearing loss are often thought to be needed for the music to appeal to patrons.

Permanent hearing loss from excessive noise exposure, and in some cases tinnitus (ringing in the ears), is often suffered by people who have worked in or with the music industry over a number of years.

The primary duty of care in the Work Health and Safety Act places responsibilities on the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to ensure the health and safety of workers while they are at work and others who may be affected by the carrying out of work.

Reducing the noise

Consider reducing the noise at source, i.e. reduction of the music level. This may be approached through a process of consultation with the entertainment providers, health and safety representatives and committees. Also find out if there are any restrictions on the music level needed to comply with the Environmental Protection (Noise) Regulations 1997.

When a maximum music level is decided on, this can be included in contractual agreements with the entertainment providers. If the noise cannot be sufficiently reduced at source then try to stop it from reaching workers. This may be done by moving the workers further away, by creating quieter work areas or by using sound-absorbing materials to reduce the build-up of noise. For more information see the Code of practice: Control of noise in the music entertainment industry.

Strategies for the music entertainment industry

Venue owner

As an owner you are responsible for ensuring the practical architectural changes which may be needed to reduce the noise exposure of people in the venue are implemented. Whilst you have no direct responsibility to provide advice or information about safety and health, it may be advisable to bring the following matters to the attention of the venue operator:

Note the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and Environmental Protection (Noise) Regulations 1997 may also apply in these circumstances.

Venue operator

Noise Assessment - Identify situations and areas of the venue where noise is likely to be above the exposure standard. As a rule of thumb, if a person needs to speak in a raised voice to be understood one metre away, the A-weighted sound level is likely to be above 85 decibels.

Arrange for a noise assessment to be carried out by a competent person during a performance typical of louder performances in the venue.

Noise reduction - If ‘8 hour exposures’ exceed the exposure standard for noise:

  • consider reducing the noise at source by reducing the level of the music;
  • consider reduction of noise though increasing the ‘room loss’ e.g. by changing the lay-out and adding acoustic absorption;
  • seek professional assistance from architects and acoustical consultants;
  • reduce ‘8 hour exposure by reducing the amount of time staff are exposed to noise

Personal hearing protectors – If it is not practical to avoid exposing workers at the workplace to noise above the exposure standard, provide appropriate personal hearing protectors, training and hearing tests to all affected workers.

Entertainment provider

Music level - Identify if your performance is likely to produce exposures above the standard. As a rule of thumb if a person needs to speak in a raised voice to be understood by another 1 metre away, the A-weighted sound level is likely to be above 85 decibels. If so, find out the ‘music level’ of a typical performance under typical conditions (you may wish to combine your efforts with a venue operator).

If you employ workers such as sound mixers/engineer, lighting/road crews or musicians, you will need to consider the following to prevent excessive noise damaging their hearing:

  • increase the distance between non-performing workers and stage area or loudspeakers;
  • reduce the ‘music level’ within the workable range;
  • reduce the ‘foldback’ levels on the stage to lower (but still workable) levels;
  • reduce sound output for individual instruments, e.g. damping drums, using smaller amplifiers to reduce sound levels on stage; and
  • provide hearing protectors, training and hearing tests.

PCBU of service staff

  • Consult with venue operator
  • Find out if your workers are likely to be exposed above the exposure standard for noise
  • Instruct staff in administrative measures to reduce noise exposure such as avoiding noisy areas, rotating staff between noisy and quiet positions;
  • Provide staff with appropriate personal hearing protectors as advised by the venue operator;
  • Provide training sessions on noise; and
  • Arrange hearing tests.

Suppliers and installers of equipment

Information – Provide information to customers at point of supply on potential noise hazards including:

  • operation conditions likely to result in a noise hazard
  • the need to monitor ‘music level’; and
  • any areas where the peak noise level is likely to exceed 140 decibels.

This could take the form of verbal advice to the receiver of the equipment, written information accompanying the equipment or a hazard warning sign affixed to a prominent part of the system.

Installation – arrange the placement and orientation of the loudspeakers to reduce the sound directed to workers locations.

Arrange the placement of loudspeakers to enable restriction of access where peak noise levels are likely to exceed 140 decibels.

Operation – Find out if there is an agreed maximum ‘music level’ for the venue and don’t exceed it.

Arrange for the music level’ to be monitored and advise venue operator.

Arrange training for workers in monitoring and methods of achieving specified levels.

Workers in music venues

Find out if noise exposure is likely to be excessive.

  • Follow instructions on noise control strategies including:
    • instructions relating to achieving any agreed ‘music level’; and
    • abiding by any agreed arrangements for job rotation or restriction of access to noisy areas.
  • Do not wilfully misuse or damage any equipment provided to reduce noise in the venue.
  • Use personal hearing protectors provided in the manner instructed.
  • Report any new hazardous noise, hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in ears) to your manager.
  • Request annual hearing tests.

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