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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 October 2005, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
Deafness warning for UK bar staff
Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News website age & disability correspondent

Photo of clubbers dancing and wearing hearing protection
Don't stop the music - but perhaps turn it down is the RNID/TUC message
People working in pubs and clubs risk permanent hearing loss because of extended opening times, according to a leading charity and the TUC.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf people (RNID) says more than half a million workers will be exposed to loud music for longer periods of time.

They say employers should be doing more to protect workers' hearing.

The Health & Safety Executive says it is committed to helping to protect people's hearing while at work.

The RNID and TUC are highlighting the issue as part of European Week for Safety and Health at Work.

It is estimated that excessive noise in the workplace has already caused hearing loss or other ear conditions in more than 500,000 people.

"Noise at work issues are usually associated with industries such as manufacturing and construction," said RNID communications director, Brian Lamb.

"With more licensed premises opening for longer and playing loud, amplified music, staff working in bars, clubs and pubs might not realise their hearing is being put at such high risk."

Hearing protection

The RNID says that the music level in some venues can be as loud as an aircraft taking off.

Mr Lamb says that noise-induced hearing loss is often cumulative and not immediately obvious so the threat is seldom taken seriously.

But the condition is preventable by employers having noise reduction strategies and providing hearing protection for their staff.

In 2008 new legislation covering the leisure industry will impose tighter controls on noise levels.

Let me make it clear that we are not killjoys - we don't want to stop people enjoying themselves but we do want to protect workers' health
Lord Hunt, health and safety minister

"If bar and club owners don't protect their staff from ear-spitting noise they will end up in court," said TUC health and safety officer, Hugh Robertson.

"The industry must get its act together quickly before it's hit with a huge wave of compensation claims and enforcement action."

The RNID and TUC say local authorities and the HSE should be carrying out noise assessments and enforcing the current regulations in pubs, clubs and bars.

The HSE says new guidance on controlling workplace noise levels were published only last week.

And health and safety minister, Lord Hunt, announced the piloting of draft guidance for the music industry.

"Let me make it clear that we are not killjoys - we don't want to stop people enjoying themselves but we do want to protect workers' health," he said.

The pilots will be conducted early next year and will involve a symphony orchestra, a large pop concert, a pub and a club.

Trail blazing

In one of the country's most popular leisure resorts - Blackpool - the local council has been applying the Noise at Work regulations in the town's numerous bars and clubs.

"Blackpool is the UK's most popular holiday resort and home of what's understood to be the biggest nightclub," said local councillor, Fred Jackson.

"We are enforcing the regulations with the full co-operation of club and bar managers.

"There's no reason why other local authorities shouldn't be doing the same."

Under the new regulations - to be introduced in 2008 - workers exposed to noise levels of 80dB must have hearing protection available, while those exposed to levels of 85dB will have to wear hearing protection.

The RNID and the TUC say staff can be protected by:

  • Altering noise levels by improving design and layout
  • Providing information about the dangers of excessive noise
  • Making hearing protection devices available
  • Allowing regular breaks away from loud music
  • Making free hearing tests available

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