Sound & Laser

High sound levels and laser radiation at concerts, in clubs, at festivals and events or at the carnival can endanger the health and safety of the audience. Promoters and technicians must therefore observe the legal requirements and limit values to protect their visitors.

Table of contents

Overview

The legal requirements and limit values for events with high sound levels and laser radiation are defined in the Ordinance to the Federal Act on Protection against the Risks associated with Non-Ionising Radiation and with Sound (O-NIRSA). This ordinance has replaced the former Sound Levels and Laser Ordinance (SLO).

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A general limit value of 93dB LAeq,1h (equivalent continuous sound level) applies to all events. If this limit value is exceeded, the promoter must provide free hearing protectors and inform the audience about the risk of hearing damage associated with high sound levels.

Events with electroacoustically amplified sound exceeding 93dB LAeq,1h are also subject to prior registration with the enforcement authority. A maximum of 100dB LAeq,1h is permitted, short-term peaks must never exceed 125dB LAF,max. Sound levels must be monitored at all times and in some cases recorded.

Events with electroacoustically amplified sound aimed exclusively at children and adolescents under 16 years of age must never exceed 93dB LAeq,1h.

Enforcement of the O-NIRSA regulations on high sound levels is taken care of by the local police departments in the cities of Zurich and Winterthur and by the Noise Protection Agency for all other communities in the Canton of Zurich respectively. Registrations of events must be submitted to the responsible enforcement authority at least 14 days prior to the event.

The operation of laser devices of all classes is subject to prior registration with the enforcement authority, except for Class 1 and Class 2 devices, provided that no radiation is emitted into the airspace. For Class 1M, 2M, 3R, 3B and 4 devices, the person responsible for installation and operation must have a level 1 certificate of competence. If laser beams enter the audience zone (audience scanning), a level 2 certificate of competence is required. The maximum permissible exposure limit must be observed at all times. The requirements of the O-NIRSA are based on the SN EN 80625-1:2014 standard. Detailed information on requirements, certificates of competence, training courses and application for recognition of equivalence of training qualifications is available from the Federal Office of Public Health FOPH on its website.

Enforcement of the O-NIRSA regulations on laser radiation at events is taken care of by the FOPH. Registrations of events must be submitted via the official online portal at least 14 days prior to the event.

For Promoters & Sound Engineers

Events with electroacoustically amplified sound exceeding 93dB LAeq,1h must be registered at least 14 days in advance. For event series as well as clubs and venues with their own regular program only one registration form must be submitted per year or per event series respectively.

Noise Protection Agency employees regularly reach out to event promoters and venue owners to inform them about the O-NIRSA regulations on high sound levels.

The registration does not count as an event permit or an operating permit (and vice versa). Permits must be obtained from the municipal authorities.

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Not subject to registration:

  • Events with sound without electroacoustical amplification
  • Category A: electroacoustically amplified sound up to 93dB LAeq,1h
  • Class 1 and 2 laser devices, provided that no radiation is emitted into the airspace
     

Subject to registration:

  • Category B: electroacoustically amplified sound up to 96dB LAeq,1h
  • Category C: electroacoustically amplified sound up to 100dB LAeq,1h with a duration of max. 3 hours
  • Category D: electroacoustically amplified sound up to 100dB LAeq,1h
  • Class 1 and 2 laser devices, if radiation is emitted into the airspace
  • Class 1M, 2M, 3R, 3B and 4 laser devices
     

If sound levels exceed 93dB LAeq,1h, the event promoter must provide hearing protectors free of charge – regardless of whether or not electroacoustical amplification is used. Hearing protectors must comply with the SN EN 352-2:2002 standard.

The perception of volume is very individual. Some people wish to wear hearing protectors even when sound levels are still far below the 93dB LAeq,1h threshold. Short-term peak levels of up to 125dB LAF,max are permitted even at events not subject to compulsory registration. The Noise Protection Agency therefore recommends that event promoters always offer hearing protectors.

If sound levels exceed 93dB LAeq,1h, the audience must be informed about the possible risk of hearing damage due to high sound levels - regardless of whether or not electroacoustical amplification is used. According to the O-NIRSA regulations, the audience information must be clearly visible in the entrance area of the event. Information posters are available free of charge and can be ordered online.

The Noise Protection Agency also recommends that promoters inform their audience in a suitable manner about where hearing protectors can be obtained (e.g. at the bar or at the entrance).

At events with electroacoustically amplified sound exceeding 93dB LAeq,1h, sound levels must be monitored with a measuring device. According to the O-NIRSA regulations, promoters must use sound level measuring devices that are capable of at least the following:

  • Frequency weighting A
  • Time weighting F (fast, time constant 125ms)
  • Measurement of the instantaneous sound level LAF
  • determination of the equivalent continuous sound level LAeq (direct oder indirect)

The enforcement authorities must use calibrated and verified measuring devices of at least Class 2. A high-quality, regularly calibrated measuring device is also recommended for event promoters. The better the measuring device used, the lower the device-related measurement uncertainty, thus allowing for the best possible utilization of the permissible sound level limit. The event industry recommends measuring devices of at least Class 2. Measurements with smartphone apps are usually suitable for orientation purposes at best and should not be relied upon.

The applicable sound level limit according to the O-NIRSA regulations (93, 96 oder 100dB LAeq,1h) must be observed at the loudest place in the audience area. Measuring sound levels at that location is often not possible during the event, so another suitable measurement location can also be chosen (e.g. at the FOH desk). However, the sound level difference between the measurement location and the loudest location in the audience area must be determined and documented before the event using a broadband signal (usually Pink Noise).

For Category D events (up to 100dB LAeq,1h and over 3 hours), the sound level must also be recorded electronically, i.e. the LAeq,5min at least every five minutes. The data must be kept for six months and submitted to the responsible enforcement authority upon request.

For Category D events (up to 100dB LAeq,1h and over three hours), at least one quiet compensation zone must be made available to the audience. The compensation zone (chill-out zone) must comprise at least ten percent of the area available to the public and have a sufficiently large smoke-free area. The sound level in chill-out zones must not exceed 85dB LAeq,1h.

For Communities & Neighbourhoods

Events with high sound levels can be a great challenge for communities and the affected neighbourhood. However, consideration and understanding are not only required from residents, but also from those responsible for the event.

Municipal authorities on their part must correctly apply the respective regulations in their event permits: A clear distinction must be made between audience protection and neighbourhood protection - music and noise are not the same thing and must therefore be dealt with separately. The O-NIRSA sound level limits are intended for audience protection only and cannot be used to limit the outside noise of an event. The Noise Protection Agency can provide more information for municipal authorities and affected neighbourhoods on how to deal with noise issues related to events with high sound levels.

Contact

Tiefbauamt - Fachstelle Lärmschutz, Schall & Laser

Address

Walcheplatz 2
8090 Zürich
Route (Google)

Phone

+41 43 259 55 63

David Gurtner

+41 43 259 55 19

Irène Schlachter

Email

david.gurtner@bd.zh.ch


irene.schlachter@bd.zh.ch