New legislation extending opening hours will increase the risk of hearing loss for more than half a million pub, bar and nightclub staff.
The Trade Union Congress and the Royal National Institute of the Deaf warned that staff are currently exposed to dangerously high levels of music at work, and this excessive noise has already caused hearing problems and deafness.
They argue that longer opening hours will only increase the dangers for the UK's 568,000 bar and nightclub staff. Some are already exposed to music as loud as aircraft taking off at 110dB (A).
"Prolonged exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing loss. Since noise-induced hearing loss is often cumulative and not immediately obvious, its threat is seldom recognised or taken seriously," said Brian Lamb, director of communications at the RNID.
Since their joint report Noise Overload in December 2004, the TUC and RNID have found little improvement in local authority enforcement of the existing Noise at Work Regulations.
"In just over two years the leisure industry will be covered by new legislation which reduces even further noise levels in music venues. How are they going to meet the legal requirements when they cannot even comply with the current regulations?" said Hugh Robertson, senior health and safety officer at the TUC.
"The industry must get its act together quickly before it is hit with a huge wave of compensation claims and enforcement action."
The new regulations, which come into force on April 2008 for the leisure industry, will have to reduce permissible noise levels by 5dB(A) to 80dB(A), and provide hearing protection for anything over this point.
By Angela Frewin
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