When does the law apply to my pub?
The main legal duties apply where noise exposure in your business is likely to be at, or above, certain levels, known as “action values”.
The main ones are 80 decibels and 85 decibels averaged over a working day or week – although there are also values relating to the maximum, or ‘peak’, noise to which employees are exposed.
Here are a few examples of decibel levels you might encounter in your pub:
- normal conversation 60-65 decibels
- noisy or crowded pub 70 – 80 decibels
- kitchen appliances 75 decibels
- amplified rock band – 120 decibels
Your focus should be on controlling noise through good practice rather than measurement.
If anybody in your work has a daily personal noise exposure level at, or above, 80 decibels you must:
- carry out a noise risk assessment and check the actual level of noise exposure
- provide information and training about noise risk
- supply hearing protection to workers who ask for it
If the daily personal noise exposure level is 85 decibels or above you must:
- take steps to reduce exposure
- supply hearing protection to affected staff (and ensure that it is properly used and maintained)
- identify the area as a hearing protection zone
Where this is a risk to health, you must provide health checks and keep health records. This usually applies to workers frequently exposed to noise above 85 decibels.
You must also ensure that your employees are not exposed to noise levels above 87 decibels. This limit takes account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection.
Your Customers and Other Members of the Public
Remember to consider the impact of the pub’s noise on people who live in the vicinity of your business. Under environmental legislation people may be able to make a noise-related complaint of “statutory nuisance” against your business. Noise pollution complaints are usually dealt with by local authority environmental health departments.
Assess the risks from noise in your pub
The risks posed by noise generated by your business’ activities should be covered by your overall health and safety risks assessment for your business.
As with any risk assessment, your assessment of workplace noise should be carried out by a competent person and should:
- identify the sources of possible noise hazards
- determine who is at risk
- work out the daily personal noise exposure levels of employees
- note other noise risks, such as exposure to occasional but very loud noises
- assess whether current protective measures taken are sufficient
- decide what more can be done to provide hearing protection or control noise levels
- determine your priorities for action
You may have to seek professional advice from an Acoustic Engineer or Noise Consultant, especially if you are subject to an abatement notice from your local council. You can find information on how to find one here: http://www.association-of-noise-consultants.co.uk/
Remember that you’re required to keep records of your noise assessment, just the same way as you are with a Fire Risk Assessment, for example. You should also regularly review your assessment, particularly when circumstances change – for instance, if you decide to start featuring live music as part of your entertainment program.