We have recently been asked by two nightclubs in London to undertake noise surveys during busy club opening hours; this has meant being in the club late on a Friday evening. The first came about after a visit from a local EHO and the second after staff had raised concerns about noise levels.
What we found was that when the clubs were quiet the noise levels were comfortable but as the clubs filled the noise levels rose significantly. This was due to the conversation growing louder as the music got louder. In both cases we found the staff were potentially at risk even after a couple of hours exposure; much to the surprise of the clubs management.
Unfortunately, typical noise solutions for industrial type workplaces are not so relevant to this type of environment; nevertheless, the Noise at Work Regulations still applies and a reduction in exposure is necessary. Our detailed report offered the clubs recommendations on how the problem might be addressed.
It was interesting to listen to the feedback from the management in the first club, which was that they had been in the entertainment industry for many years and felt the club was not on the louder end of the entertainment sector. They expressed their surprise that changes were needed; however accepted the findings and took the recommendations on board. The report was subsequently presented to the EHO who then called us to follow up.
So if the club was right that other venues are far louder, why are they not being picked up and what is needed to raise awareness to the fact? We have discussed this at MESH and feel that until a case is taken against a large venue or national chain then the industry is unlikely to take much notice. The result is that staff will be at risk of long-term hearing damage.
There is technology available to the clubs to monitor the noise from the music but this requires the DJ to understand how it works and when the noise needs to be turned down. In our experience this is unlikely to be effective as the DJ`s just want to keep the music pumping out. The key is for staff to understand the risks and to be informed of the options available to provide protection from excessive noise exposure.