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proteantwang



Joined: 03/09/04
Posts: 96
Loud music in gyms
      #1039101 - 20/03/13 05:10 PM
I've been asked to get some info by my other half who, seeing the care I take with hearing protection at live events, is now really aware of loud music and the damage it can do.

The situation is thus: she attends a gym and has made several complaints about the loud music, only to be met with responses such as "its not too loud", "you're the only person who's made a complaint about this" etc etc.

She's about to sneak my trusty Maplin sound level meter through the door to get some readings, but in the meantime, can anyone advise what the legal safe limits should be for this type of environment? Also, what are the available routes to seek enforcement here?

I already anticipate there will be some advice to "join another gym" but this seems to be a very common problem across the industry.


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Sam Spoons
active member


Joined: 23/01/03
Posts: 1530
Loc: Manchester UK
Re: Loud music in gyms new [Re: proteantwang]
      #1039113 - 20/03/13 06:14 PM
According to the HSE the noise level above which employers must provide ear protection for their employees is 85dB, the implication of this is that long term exposure to noise below this level should not cause hearing damage. Somehow I doubt the music in the gym will be this loud (let us know what Mr Maplin's best tells you, BTW there are several free noise meter apps for iPhone and Android so she doesn't have to smuggle the meter in). Is your wife worried about hearing damage (I.e. does she think the music is loud enought to be damaging) or is it just that she finds the loud music distracting/irritating? If the latter then I'd guess that she needs to vote with her feet if the management won't listen. She could try asking them to turn it down and see if anybody complains that it's too quiet BTW


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


Joined: 25/07/03
Posts: 22436
Loc: Worcestershire
Re: Loud music in gyms new [Re: proteantwang]
      #1039116 - 20/03/13 06:36 PM
In practical terms, the most practical thing she can do is wear hearing protection herself -- or use good moulded earphones that provide a good level of ambient noise reduction, and then she can play her own music at a sensible level!

To answer your first question, though, the law is pretty vague about this. There are very strict and well defined rules about noise exposure to employees (the 2005 Noise at Work act) -- which would definitely apply to any staff working on the premises (and I bet the 'manager' doesn't know about it!) -- but nothing really to protect the public.

The other issue here is that your trusty Maplin SPL meter -- useful as it is in many situations -- won't be much help here. The reason is that you need to measure noise exposure not just peak or short-term averaged SPLs.

The closest I've ever found to regulations for public sound exposure is in the Health & Safety Executive's (HSE) Event Safety Guide, where it suggests a maximum acceptable sound exposure is 107dB LAeq, and a maximum peak SPL is 140dBC. I'm quite certain your gym will be nowhere close to the latter, and it's quite unlikely to reach the former, to be honest.

However, for the employees, the NaW thresholds are all considerably lower. The 'lower action level' value defined in the 2005 NaW legislation is 80dB LAeq — which is the result of continuous exposure to noise of 80dBA for eight hours (or 40 hours across a working week). 80dB LAeq really isn't very loud at all, and it is quite possible that workers at your gym are exposed to this kind of noise level if your other half is finding the music too loud.

Again, your SPL meter won't provide a useful indication from a sound exposure point of view, but if it is showing slow average A-weighted readings of 85dBA-ish then it would be worth investigating further. The problem, of course, is that music is non-continuous, and so the actual exposure will be a lot lower than a slow average SPL reading.

However, let's assume that the music does constitute a noise exposure of or over this 'lower action level' of 80dB LAeq. IN that case, the employer is required by law to do something about it! The legislation actually states that, "The employer shall ensure that risk from the exposure of his employees to noise is either eliminated at source or, where this is not reasonably practicable, reduced to as low a level as is reasonably practicable."

In other words, the employer has either to turn the music down, or provide his employees with hearing protection, or rota them in such a way that their personal exposure is reduced below the 80dB LAeq threshold. And of course, if an employee thinks there is reason the believe that the noise exposure is over 80dB LAeq, the employer is obliged, by law, to have a formal noise assessment performed by someone suitably qualified.

The 'upper exposure action' value is defined as 85dB LAeq, or a peak level of 137dBC for impulsive sounds. If the upper exposure limit is reached, despite efforts to reduce the source noise and the exposure of staff to it, then suitable ear protection must be provided and must be worn by any members of staff likely to be exposed to the noise.

Can't see employees wanting to do that, let alone employers providing wanting to provide the appropriate facilities and everything that goes with it, which includes training, health checks and so on...

I wrote a piece about all this for the old SOS sister-mag, Performing Musician which you can read HERE It goes into it in quite some depth.

I would suggest that a quiet word with the manager, asking what noise exposure assessment has been done for the gym's employees, and drawing his/her attention to the requirements of the NaW act might put the fear of prosecution into him/her and persuade them to be more reasonable. If your better half is friendly with any of the staff, then pointing out the risks to their own hearing and the provisions of the law to protect them might also help to put pressure on the managment...

Good luck.

By the way, the cheapest meter I know of that does proper sound exposure measurements is the NTI Acoustilyser. However, you can hire proper sound exposure meters quite easily and although you need to be properly qualified to make formal measurements, the basic operation is easy enough to grasp for an 'interested party'

H

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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proteantwang



Joined: 03/09/04
Posts: 96
Re: Loud music in gyms new [Re: proteantwang]
      #1039134 - 20/03/13 08:44 PM
The results are in... according to Mr Maplin, the following apply (peak measurements taken):

"Ambient noise" 78-80db (I guess this refers to air con etc)
Exercise class (middle of room) 89db
Exercise class (near the speakers) 106.9db!!

We both use wax or silicone earplugs ("Quies") when we're gigging (depending on what the local chemist is selling). I've always found these to be very comfortable and good at drastically reducing the levels that hit the ear so I'll suggest she starts wearing these as a matter of course.

Sam: you offer a good bargaining chip (seeing if anyone complains the noise is too quiet). I've suggested the ultimate sanction will be to go elsewhere, but from experience she suggests this is a common problem.

Hugh: excellent reply as always. The paragraph about referring to NaW may come in useful but I fear any further complaints will fall upon deaf ears (pun intended).

Failing that... ukelele Tai Chi?


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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor


Joined: 25/07/03
Posts: 22436
Loc: Worcestershire
Re: Loud music in gyms new [Re: proteantwang]
      #1040884 - 02/04/13 10:55 AM
Quote proteantwang:

The results are in...




I came across a ready-reckoner HERE that converts peak SPL to noise exposure. It was intended for the US market where their first action level is 85dB(A)LAeq -- which is the equivalent of our second action level where hearing protection must be worn.

Quote:

"Ambient noise" 78-80db (I guess this refers to air con etc)




You'd have to listen to that for 25.5 hours to reach the second action level for daily exposure... so that's not a problem!

Quote:

Exercise class (middle of room) 89db




You'd have to exercise for about 3.25 hours before reaching the second action threshold. So possibly an issue for the staff, but not for a normal personal workout session.

Quote:

Exercise class (near the speakers) 106.9db!!




Exposure here is obviously serious, and just 3 minutes would put you over the 85dB(A) LAeq second action level... But then we all know that it gets loud in front of speakers

H

--------------------
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound


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Folderol



Joined: 15/11/08
Posts: 3881
Loc: Rochester, UK
Re: Loud music in gyms new [Re: proteantwang]
      #1040944 - 02/04/13 06:41 PM
Just had a thought here.

A while ago due to decorating, our local residents meeting was held in a school gym. It was extremely difficult to work out what people were saying and quite a few people (myself included) later complained of tiredness and headaches. It occurred to me that the problem was simply all the reflections off the walls making us have to work harder to sort out all the sounds, rather than the sound level.

I wonder if your partner is suffering the same effects with the music.

--------------------
It wasn't me!
(Well, actually, it probably was)


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