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Chapter 13: Occupational health and safety

As a venue operator, you are legally responsible for providing a safe environment for all your employees and clientele, including musicians performing at your venue. This includes eliminating any risks to health and safety and, where this is not feasible, taking action to reduce the risks. This chapter provides background information on health and safety risks that are particularly relevant to the live music industry and resources for gaining further information.

Minimum Requirements

In the Northern Territory, occupational health and safety is governed by a system of laws, regulations and compliance codes that set out the responsibilities of employers and workers to ensure that safety is maintained at work. One of them, the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (National Uniform Legislation) sets out the key principles, duties and rights in relation to the safety of workers. It states that employers/business owners have a duty
of care to workers engaged by them or workers whose activities in carrying out work are influenced or directed by them.

An employer must ensure, as much as reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of a person is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business. This extends to:

  • The provision and maintenance of a work environment without risks to health and safety,
  • The provision and maintenance of safe plants and structures,
  • The provision and maintenance of safe systems of work,
  • The safe handling and storage of substances,
  • The provision of adequate facilities for the welfare at work of workers and ensured access to these facilities,
  • The provision of training, instruction and supervision necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business,
  • That the health of workers and conditions at the workplace are monitored for the purpose of preventing illness and injury or workers arising from the conduct of the business.

There is also a level of compliance required if employees under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. Workers are required to :

  • Take reasonable care for their own health and safety;
  • Take reasonable care that their acts or omissions to not aversely affect the health and safety of other persons;
  • Comply, so far as reasonably able, with any reasonable instruction, to this Act; and
  • Cooperate with any reasonable policy or procedure set out by the employer relating to the health and safety of workers, that they have been informed of.

Failure by either party to adhere to health and safety regulations can result in high penalties.

Sound levels

Repeated or continued exposure to excessively loud sound levels can result in irreversible hearing damage. Sound level exposure must not exceed an average of 85 dB per eight-hour day or a peak sound level of 140 dB. It is your responsibility as a venue operator to ensure that sound levels do not exceed these limits or, if this is not feasible, take action to reduce the risks of hearing damage to people in your venue.

  • For every 3dB increase in level, sound energy is doubled and exposure time should be halved to ensure that the maximum sound exposure level is not
    exceeded. That means for 88dB a maximum exposure of 4 hours, 91 dB a maximum of 2 hours exposure, etc.
  • Average sound levels in live music venues have been recorded as typically being between 90 and 110 dB LAeq. At these loudness levels, it is possible that venue workers, musicians and patrons will be at increased risk of sustaining hearing damage due to exposures beyond the maximum acceptable limit.

Manual Handling

Manual handling means any activity requiring the use of force by a person to lift, lower, push, pull, carry or otherwise move, hold or restrain an object. Manual handling is the most common cause of workplace injury and it is your responsibility to eliminate or reduce the risk of injury from manual handling in your venue. See the best practice section below for further information.

Best Practice


There are several reasons for reducing the sound levels in your venue, including:

  • Avoiding hearing damage amongst staff, performing musicians and clientele;
  • Complying with health and safety legislation;
  • reducing the sound emanating from your venue and disturbance to your neighbours;
  • Providing a more pleasant environment for everyone in the venue; and
  • Helping prevent sound-related fatigue, loss of concentration and stress in your employees. Managing sound levels and applying OHS legislation to music venues is a challenge, as a certain level of  loudness is often desirable for a particular live musical performance. However, this needs to be balanced against the responsibility to protect the hearing of
    employees, musicians and patrons.

Chapter One of these guidelines outlines several measures for reducing sound levels in your venue, including the installation of noise limiters and sound-absorbing materials.

There are other alternative steps you can take such as:

  • Modifying the layout of the band room (where possible) and;
  • Changing speaker positions. You can also consider rotating staff between loud and
    quieter work areas and allowing ‘hearing breaks’ during shifts. If you have implemented all of these measures and
    the average sound level in your venue still exceeds 85 dB per eight-hour day, the Occupational Health and Safety
    Code of Practice relating to management of noise requires that you provide anyone exposed to this sound level for an extended period of time with personal hearing protectors. However, this should be a last resort. The regulations also
    require that you provide regular hearing checks for these staff.

Perhaps most importantly, educating your staff, and talking to sound engineers and musicians about hearing risks and involving them in the creation of a hearing loss prevention policy for your venue can help to engender a positive hearing health culture that everyone at the venue can buy into. If all your stakeholders are on board, the process of monitoring sound levels and implementing protective measures is much more likely to succeed.

Manual handling

The risk of injury from manual handling is particularly high during equipment load-in, set-up, and load-out. The weight of the object being moved is just one of many factors that may cause injury. Other factors include the movements and posture required, dimensions and grip of the load, and layout of the workplace. There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk of injury during manual lifting, including:

  • Storing equipment at waist height and as close to the stage area as possible;
  • Using trolleys to transport equipment where practicable;
  • Designating the route of movement prior to moving an object and make sure you have a clear pathway;
  • Ensuring that staff and musicians performing at your venue are aware of safe lifting techniques; and
  • When executing group lifts, ensuring that one person is in charge and position people for the lift having regard to the size, shape and balance of the load.

For further information on reducing the risk of injury during manual handling, see the resources section of this chapter.

Lighting equipment

Any lighting equipment likely to reach high temperatures should be guarded to prevent overheating. In addition, certain forms of lighting have the potential to adversely affect the health and safety of people in your venue:

  • Strobe lighting can induce epileptic seizures. Flicker rates of four flashes per second or fewer are recommended and all strobes should be synchronised when more than one strobe is used.
  • Exposure to UV light can harm the eyes and the skin, particularly among people taking certain prescription drugs. You should avoid using UV lights wherever possible and if they must be used, take steps to minimise harm, such as enclosing the source of the light or eliminating reflection.
  • Lasers can cause serious harm, particularly to the eyes and skin. Of the five classes of lasers, only Class 1 are considered intrinsically safe and Class 2 are only considered safe in some circumstance. Class 3A, 3B and Class 4 lasers require special precautions and should not be used except under carefully controlled conditions by a trained operator.

Electrical equipment

All electrical equipment in your venue should be well maintained and regularly tested and tagged in accordance with AS/NZS 3760. Also known as ‘Test and Tag’, AS/NZS 3760 is an optional standard that requires that electrical equipment be inspected for damage on a periodic basis and tagged with details of the test date, when the next test is due, and a tracking code.

Best practice is for electrical equipment to be tested and tagged at least:

  • Annually in the case of electrical equipment;
  • Every six months in the case of extension cables;
  • Before and after every hire in the case of hired equipment;
  • Every five years in the case of non-moveable fixed electrical equipment; and
  • Immediately after repair and before use in the case of electrical equipment that has been repaired.

Testing and tagging can be done by anyone deemed competent by training or experience. See the resources section of this chapter for further information.



The WorkSafeNT website has a range of tools, tips and guides to help you address health and safety issues in your venue. Visit

You can also contact the Small Business Safety Program for more information or to book a free workplace consultation. Phone: 1800 019 115 or email:

Work Safe Northern Territory has published a Code of Practice for managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work.

NT Hearing

Audiometric testing should be conducted within three months of a worker commencing, and in any event, at least every two years. NT Hearing can be contacted for hearing

Darwin: (08) 8922 7110 or

Central Australia: (08) 8951 6711 or

Remote outreach: (08) 8985 8023 or


HEARsmart is about helping Australians take charge of their hearing health. Visit

Health and Safety Executive UK

The Health and Safety Executive, UK has developed a comprehensive website specifically aimed at providing practical advice for music
venues. Since the UK and Australian regulations on occupational sound limits are essentially the same, the wealth of information and advice offered at this site is applicable to Australian venues:

Live Performance Australia

The Live Performance Australia has a number of resources covering safety guidelines for the event and entertainment industry. Search Work Health & Safety under their resource tab.