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Tag ‘noise at work regulations’

Noise – Bagpipes told to pipe down!

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Pipe down! Brussels slaps a noise order on heart of Scotland (The Sunday Times, 20 April 2008, page 7)
Bagpipes are to be quietened by an edict from Brussels. From this month, pipers must adhere to strict volume limits or risk breaking European Union health and safety laws. Bands have been ordered to tone down or wear earplugs to limit noise exposure to 85 decibels.

This article on noise at work regulations and their potential effects on bagpipe playing, whilst entertaining, unfortunately rings false on several counts.

First, there is no question of the ‘new’ rules silencing bagpipe playing. The EU noise exposure limit of 87 decibels is averaged over a working week of eight hours per day.

There are plenty of practical ways to control or reduce musicians’ exposure to excessive noise in a cost-effective way without stopping them from playing. These include various types of hearing protection devices such as in-ear monitors, flat response earplugs specially designed for musicians (which are constantly being improved, thanks to technology), using absorbers, resonators and screens in rehearsal and performance areas and changing the layout of bands or order of play to reduce concentration of the loudest music.

Many orchestras, in Britain and abroad already make use of these options. They are developed together with organisations like the British Musicians’ Union and the International Federation of Musicians, and will help bagpipers and other musicians stay healthy while the show goes on.

Moreover, the Commission has very firm scientific evidence which shows that long-term exposure to excessive noise levels at work can cause irreversible damage to human hearing, from tinnitus to a complete loss of hearing. Around 22.5 million people across the EU already suffer from impaired hearing and a Danish study from 2006 found that 27% of musicians in orchestras suffer hearing loss. The consequences are not only the loss of a job, but also the danger of social exclusion – not forgetting the personal suffering for the individual.

Finally, the rules referred to are not new. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations were adopted in 2005. They were not made in Europe, but in the UK. The EU legislation which they are designed to implement was agreed by national ministers and the European Parliament back in 2003 and updated a previous law from 1986 – which also applied to the music sector.

But rules to protect workers from the auditory effects of excessive noise have been around a lot longer – the first regulations date back to the Industrial Revolution.

Army’s gun salute banned for being too noisy

Sunday, March 5th, 2006

Your 21-gun salutes are just too loud, Brussels tells the Royal Artillery (Mail on Sunday 5 March 2006)
The Royal Artillery is being forced to test ‘quieter’ cannon rounds in case its 21-gun salutes breach EU noise regulations. […] They have been warned that they might risk breaching the European Union’s ‘Physical Agents Directive’, which has reduced the maximum legal limit.

The background to this story is an EU directive from 1986 that aims to protect workers from exposure to harmful levels of noise they have to bear with in their jobs. The directive was later revised and the new ruling became law in all EU member states on 15 February. The Mail on Sunday seems to refer to this revision. However, the limit level for sudden noise, i.e. something like cannons, is not changed in the new rules (it was slightly reduced for continuous noise). The limit level for the 21- gun salutes has been the same for 20 years, since 1986.

The Commission believes that employees are entitled to sufficient protection from dangerously high noise levels. As long as this is the case with the 21- gun salutes there is absolutely no problem. The salutes can go on as usual.

EU to enforce earmuff ruling

Friday, January 11th, 2002

Barmy EU plans pub noise ban (The Sun, 11 January 2002, page 7)
Potty EU bureaucrats want to ban music and loud chatter from pubs and clubs – by bringing in a strict noise ban.

Work behind a bar? You have to wear earmuffs (Daily Mail, 24 January 2002, page 23)
Bar staff should wear earmuffs, according to an extraordinary proposal by a Euro-MP.

Beethoven’s 9th off limits in EU noise plan (The Times, 12 February 2002, page 9)
Musicians are fighting to be exempted from a European Union directive to reduce workplace noise levels which will require hundreds of pieces of classical music to be played more quietly or not at all.

Brussels clobbers clubbers (News of the World, 3 March 2002, page 41)
Barmy Eurocrats are bringing in new laws which mean night-clubbers will have to wear earplugs – to protect them against dance music! Bouncers and bar staff will have to be ready to hand out protectors and tell punters to put them in if DJs spin noisy tracks.

Speak up ref, I’ve got ear plugs on me head – Euro MP in barmy bid to protect footballers from crowd noise (Daily Express, 13 March 2002, page 20)
Football players could soon be ordered to wear ear plugs to protect them from the roar of the crowd. And guess who is considering this momentous decision? Why those lovers of straight bananas, the European Parliament, of course. The idea raises the prospect of David Beckham and team-mates playing marathon matches due to not hearing the final whistle. And cries like “On me head son” will go unheard. … Noise at big football games can top 110 [decibels].

This is another example of the press trivialising an important area of EU legislation – this time relating to health and safety. The directive in question is designed to reduce exposure to noise at work in places such as factories and airports where employees already have to wear ear protection. Deafness is the most common occupational disease in the EU.

The directive sets certain limits on the amount of noise that workers would have to put up with in their place of work (basically 87 decibels for 8 hours). In bottling plants, for example, the noise level can easily reach and stay at over 100 decibels.

These rules only apply to workers, not people enjoying themselves in pubs, clubs or at football matches. It is purely for those who have no choice but to work in noisy conditions. Staff have to be given the option of ear protection by their employers and it is proposed that the employer shall be responsible for enforcing the wearing of hearing protectors and checking their effectiveness.

As for musicians, the European Parliament has proposed that the directive should only apply to the music and entertainment industry five years after it comes into force, with the Commission analysing the implications of the legislation for these sectors within two years of its implementation. On the basis of this report, the Commission would be requested to present a proposal, the aim of which may be either to exclude the music and entertainment activities from the scope of this directive or to regulate those activities by different means.

EC in the UK

Check the EC Representation in the UK website

Please note that all statements in all entries were correct on the date of publication given. However, older archived posts are not systematically updated in the light of later developments, for example changes to EU law.

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