HSE Busts Myth that Concertgoers Need Earplugs

Aug. 17, 2009
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the agency in the U.K. that regulates occupational safety and health, has moved to silence critics claiming HSE requires audiences to wear earplugs when attending noisy concerts and music festivals.

HSE has become increasingly concerned that some commentators are writing “false stories” about audience members having to wear ear protection at concerts. There are laws to safeguard the health of employees working in environments where excessive noise can be problematic, the agency explained, but any that suggestion concert goers must plug their ears is inaccurate.

Staff at nightclubs and concert venues may be at risk of suffering hearing damage because they regularly work in high levels of noise. HSE has guidelines to protect such workers. Employers are obliged to provide protection, but this could be as simple as moving staff away from the noisiest areas or providing suitable earplugs.

The healthy top level of noise human ears can cope with is around 55 decibels, but many employees and musicians in concert venues and clubs are regularly exposed to loud music of 85 decibels and above, HSE added.

The Real Issue

Peter Lennon, head of HSE's Noise and Vibration Policy Unit, said people writing inaccurate ‘elf and safety' stories serve only to confuse the public and detract from real issues such as workers who lose their hearing after repeatedly being exposed to loud environments.

"Excessive noise at work can be a real problem and can lead to serious hearing problems,” he said. "However, the idea HSE would demand people to wear earplugs when seeing their favorite band clearly is summer madness.”

According to Lennon, the overriding message is that hearing loss is preventable and it’s important to protect people so they may enjoy long and successful careers.

“The laws are there to control real risks to workers – not to take the fun out of concerts as some writers would lead readers to believe,” he said.

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