Acoustic shock is on the agenda for the next HSE- chaired Joint Advisory Committee in Entertainment (JACE) meeting which is the event industry’s link with the HSE. This follows the success of a Royal Opera House (ROH) viola player who brought a claim against the ROH for acoustic shock whilst performing a piece from Wagner. The case sets a new precedent since acoustic shock can result from a single exposure in the 82 to 120 dB range rather than the effects of repeated exposure to harmful levels of noise over a long period. Comment by event industry professionals is only just beginning to expose some of the potential ramifications. There will definitively need to be a reassessment of pyrotechnics and other single loud noises. The impact will not just be in the event areas but in workshops and warehouses where there can be exposure to noise. The claimant in the case was not wearing hearing protection but still won his case. This will inevitably lead to a review of the extent to which employers should enforce the wearing of hearing protection.
This was only a civil case so did not consider compliance with the Noise at Work Regulations however it is reasonable to assume that the HSE will conduct a review which could lead to a tightening of the regulations in future. The best approach in the meantime is to ensure compliance with existing law and guidance and review compliance with the wearing of hearing protection where required.