"I run a restaurant with a small nightclub upstairs and have been told that new noise regulations are coming into force. What do I need to know?"
For music and entertainment sectors, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations come into effect on 6 April this year, with the aim of protecting employees' hearing at work.
Under the new regulations, music and entertainment sectors are defined as all workplaces where either live music is played or recorded music is played in a restaurant, bar, public house, discotheque or nightclub, or alongside live music or a live dramatic or dance performance.
From April, the level at which employers must provide hearing protection will be 85 decibels (many nightclubs reach a level in excess of 100 decibels), but where levels reach 80 decibels, employers must assess the risk to workers' health and provide them with information and training.
There is also an exposure limit value of 87 decibels, above which workers must not be exposed, although you can take into consideration any reduction given by hearing protection.
As an employer, you must carry out a risk assessment, ascertain noise levels and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from noise exposure. Where the risks are low, actions may be simple and inexpensive, but where the risks are high, you should manage them using a noise-control action plan.
As the first quarter of the year is often quieter and favoured for refurbishments, this is a good time to introduce practical solutions to reduce any impact. Try positioning speakers away from bar areas aim speakers towards the dance floor use sound-absorbent materials for walls and floors and install sound-limiting devices.
Discreet earplugs can also be a simple and cost-effective measure. Employees will have a legal duty to wear hearing protection where instructed by their employer.
• David Whitehead, www.ascendconsulting.co.uk