Do You Run A Business? Don’t Disregard the Costs of Noise
All around the world, there is a tug-of-war happening in consumers’ desires. On one side, the pandemic is still happening, and people want to stay at home where it’s calm and quiet to avoid infection — plus, after years of lockdowns, they’re comfortable that way. On the other side, many people are sick of being cooped up and want to go out, be loud, and enjoy the world again. To match that, many businesses (especially entertainment venues and food and drink manufacturers) have ramped up production, with clubs opening later and factories churning harder to meet the demand. From a business standpoint, it’s a time of volatility, with no clear pattern for what to expect from consumers and governments — but ultimately it’s better to meet demand than fall short. But there’s one cost to pushing for that goal that many businesses may not be factoring in: noise. Noise complaints against factories and venues are a leading cause of fines and licensing penalties that can greatly impact a business’s revenue if not mitigated early. So how can you, as a business manager, do that? Let’s look at a few ways.
Diageo is the world’s second-largest alcoholic beverages manufacturer. They own brands like Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Bundaberg Rum, and many more. Distilling, it turns out, can be a noisy business: large shipping trucks transporting heavy glass, cans, and organic materials; boiling liquids and high-pressure gases moving through complex piping structures; large numbers of workers coming and going at all hours; traditionally out-of-date buildings not designed with noise mitigation in mind. At just one of its historic Guinness breweries in St. James’ Gate, Dublin, Diageo invested over €1.4 million (AUD $2.05m) in an effort to lower nighttime noise that had impacted the surrounding community and led to complaints to Dublin’s Environmental Protection Agency. Measurements from EPA inspectors had found the factory’s noise above 54 decibels between the hours of 10pm and 7am — with decibels being measured on a logarithmic scale, that’s twice as loud as the regulation maximum of 45 decibels.
In their efforts to resolve this, Diageo spent €993,000 (AUD $1.5m) on reducing noise pollution from their 260-year-old brewery, including sound dampers, restricting traffic at certain times and switching to electric instead of diesel-powered shutters. The company had also engaged acoustic experts and had apportioned a further €452,000 (AUD $663,000) to continue the efforts to address noise issues at the site. Despite all this, Diageo was still charged €22,000 (AUD $32,000+) after pleading guilty to two counts of noise pollution — for them, that’s a pittance, but had a microbrewery been charged the same way, it’d be everything.
This example shows that modern infrastructure goes a long way toward reducing noise in both manufacturing and other noisy industries. Updating old spaces is much more costly than initially designing them with noise mitigation in mind. But if that’s not a possibility, keeping noise on your radar for future building upgrades such as double-glazed windows is the minimum you should be doing.
If noise complaints are ignored for long enough it can lead to prosecution, which can end with fines over $14,000 here, in Queensland, and can even cause venues to have their liquor and/or gambling licences revoked, effectively removing their highest sources of income. Infrastructure updates are expensive no matter the scale, so for smaller businesses like local entertainment venues, adjusting and updating their processes is the way to go in order to avoid these punishments.
When reviewing processes for events like concerts or large gatherings, it’s important to know your area’s noise regulations. Consult with your local government to learn the precise numbers they allow, as this can change depending on your region and whether you operate within a residential or commercial area. Even before consulting, though, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the effects of your venue’s noise on your neighbours:
Close all doors and windows when it gets loud. This will help muffle sound before it reaches beyond your venue.
Arrange any loudspeakers, motors, or loading zones such that they do not point directly towards neighbours. Remember that human bodies are great for absorbing and deflecting noise, so you can use the audience to your advantage here during events.
Effective security and lighting can socially encourage crowds to maintain a respectful and positive attitude, and to disperse at an acceptable volume once events conclude.
Lower the volume. It seems simple, but many venue managers raise volumes to meet audience demand, and forget about their regulatory needs.
One final course of action a business of any size can take in an effort to monitor and manage their noise pollution levels is to hire monitoring equipment and/or professionals. NoiseNet can be a part of that solution. NoiseNet offers comprehensive and continuous directional noise monitoring that keeps the costs and labour low for the business, individuals and environmental enforcement agencies (if needed) while providing quality data, continuously monitored and driven by AI recognition software. If you’re interested in learning more, head over to https://www.noisenet.com/.