Musicians' Union resources

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Mark from Rhythmically Speaking is a professional musician and educator and has first-hand experience in creating sustainable musical schools.

The graphic below shows his framework for achieving successful and sustainable musical schools.

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Noise exposures in the classroom

The size of the teaching room is important as it is likely that working in a small room will result in exposure to higher sound levels than when teaching in a larger auditorium. It is therefore advisable to raise awareness amongst students regarding the dangers of over-exposure to excessive sound levels and the need to wear hearing protection.

Loud sounds, whatever their source, can damage hearing. Hearing damage is permanent, irreversible and causes deafness. The Sound Advice Guidance Document ( is a practical guide that details how to protect the hearing of teachers and students during music lessons.

The MU also recommends members to keep a record of daily/weekly noise exposure. A noise calculator can be downloaded from the website of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE):

The following information sets out practical advice for music professionals on how to protect hearing and the legal status with regard to claims for deafness.

Your hearing — advice for musicians

The Control Of Noise At Work Regulations 2005 (CNWR) and a specially-written guidance document entitled Sound Advice came into force across the music and entertainment sectors in April 2008. Local Authority enforcement officers will now ensure that all premises comply with the CNWR and have powers to serve a Health & Safety Improvement Notice if employers/ premises are found to be in breach of the regulations.

Enforcement officers may prosecute if they determine that the situation is serious enough. The new regulations feature a set of Decibel (dB) Action Values which require employers and premises to take steps to protect the hearing of workers, including the provision of suitable protection equipment, maintenance of same and training as to its proper use. Noise is measured in decibels (dB). An ‘A weighting’, which is sometimes written as ‘dB(A)’,  is used to measure average noise levels. A ‘C weighting’, or ‘dB(C)’, is used to measure peak, impact or explosive noises.

The CNWR includes a set of ‘action values’ which dictate the level of protection that must be supplied or used at different dB exposure levels:

  • First Action Values require that  suitable hearing protection must be made available for workers when there’s a daily or weekly exposure above 80dB(A) or a peak sound pressure of 135dB(C)
  • Second Action Values require that  suitable hearing protection must be used when the daily or weekly exposure exceeds 85dB(A) or a peak sound pressure of 137dB(C)
  • Exposure Limit Values, which must not be exceeded, are a daily or weekly level of 87dB(A) or a peak sound pressure of 140dB(C). These limit values take account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection

Please note that the typical dB(A) levels reached by a rock band can be up to 125dB(A) and, for a symphony orchestra, 94dB(A).

For further information, please see Note 9 of the Sound Advice guidance document which is available online at

If a noise hazard exists in the workplace, the CNWR requires the employer to carry out a noise assessment which involves measuring noise levels with specialist equipment, assessing the exposure and developing an action plan and ongoing monitoring. For further information, refer to Note 5 of the Sound Advice guidance document, available from

Causes of deafness

Hearing loss can be caused by many things including the natural ageing process, hereditary causes, health problems, head injuries and ear infections. Some drugs for illnesses can have the side effect of causing deafness. Noise-induced hearing loss has distinguishing characteristic features which are detectable on an audiogram after a hearing test. There is a range of hearing which is described by doctors as ‘within normal limits’. The fact that you may have worked in noise does not necessarily mean that you have any hearing problems or that those problems have been caused by work.

Excessive noise

If you have worked in loud noise, you may not have worked in excessive noise so as to break the rules laid down by law. In order to break the rules laid down by law, you would have to prove that your noise exposure exceeded 90dB when averaged over eight hours. Some people can still suffer hearing damage even when their exposure is within the legal limits. As a rough guide, if people next to you have to shout for you to understand them, then there may be a hazard.

Date of guilty knowledge

This legal term describes the date by which an employer must have realised that noise could cause damage to the hearing of its staff. It is only from this date that the courts will say that an employer is guilty. The courts have decided that the date of guilty knowledge for most major employers is 1963, although some may have earlier or later dates.

Any damage done to your hearing by employment prior to the guilty knowledge date cannot receive compensation and in any successful case a reduction may have to be made to allow for this earlier exposure.

(Musicians’ Union members who wish to pursue a deafness claim should contact their regional office.)

This section was reproduced with the kind permission of Thompsons Solicitors.

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A Risk Assessment looks at the risks to the health and safety of employee(s) in the workplace. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, Regulation 3 (MHSWR), requires all employers to carry out comprehensive Risk Assessments, to include workplaces and facilities. It is important that all aspects of the working environment are taken into account when Risk Assessments are carried out as many risks and hazards interact.

Where employees of several employers share the same workplace, Regulation 9 and the Code Of Practice says that they may have to co-operate to produce an overall assessment for the workplace. Self-employed workers have a duty to assess the risks to their own health and safety that they are exposed to while at work. Risk Assessments are the responsibility of the employer and should be carried out by a competent person where five or more people are employed and recorded in writing.

A Risk Assessment must be reviewed regularly, usually annually or when there is a significant change in the work or work environment or in the light of subsequent experience. There are no fixed rules about how Risk Assessments should be undertaken.

Steps to risk assessment

  1. Look for hazards
  2. Decide who might be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risk arising from the hazard(s) and decide whether existing precautions are adequate or more should be done. If you find that something needs to be done, be sure to ask:
    Can I eliminate the hazard altogether?
    If not, how can I control the risk so that harm is unlikely?
  4. Record your findings in a thorough but easy to understand way
  5. Review your assessment from time to time and revise if necessary.

Details of risk assessment

The subjects of Risk Assessments include such basic information as job title, work area, working environment and emergency procedures plus non-routine jobs and tasks.
  • Description of subject
  • Frequency of task
  • Hazards: Actual & Potential
  • Consequences of the risk (minor, medium, severe)
  • Workers particularly at risk
  • Other persons who are affected (public, contractors)
  • The legal standards that apply
  • Emergency procedures
  • Training
  • Monitoring: Control measures & Health surveillance
  • Recommended improvements (corrective action)
  • A review date
  • Signature of competent person
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Changes to Fire Safety were introduced in October 2006. The following aims to give a basic understanding of Fire Safety and Fire Risk Assessments under current law and help when dealing with Fire Safety in the workplace.

Health & Safety Representatives can make valuable contributions to the Fire Risk Assessment process by helping employers to identify key issues and making practical suggestions for improvements.

(For Musicians’ Union members, MU Health & Safety Representatives should ensure that employers and workplaces are compliant under the Fire Safety Order and that Fire Risk assessments have been carried out. Members should always make sure they are given information about fire evacuation and check that signage makes it clear how to get out of a building in an emergency.)

The law and responsibility

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, known as the FSO (Fire Safety Order), has now replaced the Fire Safety provisions contained in numerous sets of regulations. Building occupiers or responsible person(s) must now carry out a Risk Assessment on the Fire Safety of the premises, a task previously carried out by the Fire Service, who would then issue a Fire Certificate.

Guidance documents

There are separate sets of guidance documents available, covering a number of different types of premises including offices and shops, sleeping accommodation, theatres, and cinemas. These guidance documents give details of how to comply with the new legislation. Each guidance document comprises a general guide plus any requirements specific to the sector in question. These guidance documents can be downloaded from

Five steps to fire risk assessment

1. Hazards

Identify potential fire hazards in the workplace.

2. Identify those at risk

Decide who (employees, visitors, etc) might be in danger in the event of a fire in the workplace or while trying to escape from it and be sure to note their location.

3. Evaluate, remove, reduce, protect from risk

Evaluate the risks arising from the hazards and decide whether your existing fire precautions are adequate or if more should be done to get rid of the hazard or to control the risks (for example, by improving the fire precautions).

4. Record, plan, inform, instruct, train

Record your findings and the details of the action you took as a result. Then inform your employees of the findings.

5. Review

Keep the assessment under review and revise it when necessary.

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Thermal comfort and ventilation in the workplace


All workplaces are covered by the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act), which sets out the general duties that an employer has towards employees and members of the public and those responsibilities which employees have to themselves and to each other. Although the HSW Act does not mention temperature specifically, employers should ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare at work of employees. This includes providing a working environment that is both safe and without risk to health under Regulation 7 of the HSW Act.


The Approved Code of Practice states that ‘all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a comfortable temperature’. It also states that thermometers should be provided by the employer in each workplace/room. If the temperature in a workplace is uncomfortable, insist that it is measured.

The temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16˚C (60˚F), unless much of the work involves severe physical effort, in which case it should be at least 13˚C (55˚F). However, these temperatures may not ensure reasonable comfort, depending on other such factors as air movement and relative humidity.

Where a reasonably comfortable temperature cannot be achieved throughout a workplace, local heating or cooling (as appropriate) should be provided. In extremely hot weather, fans and increased ventilation may be used for this purpose, instead of local cooling.

In parts of the workplace other than where work is carried out, such as sanitary facilities or rest facilities, the temperature should be reasonable in all circumstances. Changing rooms and shower rooms should not be cold.

Thermal comfort check-list

  1. Identify the problem by talking to your members or work colleagues and carrying out a survey
  2. Look at the temperatures and heating or cooling systems
  3. Draw up a list of the main problems
  4. Prepare a report for management or representatives of the venue suggesting remedial action. In some places the positioning of modern electrical and computer equipment that runs hot may be something to bear in mind, as well as the use of lighting that generates high levels of heat


Working in unsatisfactory thermal conditions without adequate supplies of fresh air can pose problems. Regulation 6 decrees enclosed workplaces should be sufficiently well ventilated so that stale air is replaced at a reasonable rate. Air which is taken from the outside can normally be considered as ‘fresh’ and, in many cases, windows or other openings will provide sufficient ventilation in some or all parts of the workplace. Workers should not be subject to uncomfortable draughts. Mechanical ventilation systems (including air-conditioning) should be regularly and properly cleaned, tested and maintained to ensure that they are kept clean and free from anything which may contaminate the air. Special care and attention should be taken where there is an exposure to any chemical hazards — for instance, dry ice, oil mist, glycol or mineral oil smoke or pyrotechnic smoke effects.

For more details, visit the HSE website at

Lighting levels in the workplace

The Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act) obliges employers to provide adequate lighting in the workplace, to ensure that work can be done safely and employees’ health or eyesight is not jeopardised. These provisions are contained in the Management of Health Safety at Work Regulations including Regulation 8 which states that the employer must ensure that:

  • Every workplace has suitable and sufficient lighting
  • This should be natural light, so far as is reasonably practicable
  • Suitable and sufficient emergency lighting shall be provided where needed

No detailed legal standards for illumination exist. Therefore, the Illuminating Engineering Society’s (IES) recommendations are generally adopted. The amount of light required depends on the type of work that is being undertaken.

The typical lighting problems that could be experienced include:

  • Dark, shadowy or unlit areas
  • A lack of natural light
  • Glare from badly positioned lights, windows or reflecting surfaces
  • Eyestrain or fatigue from bad posture caused by poor lighting
  • Dirty or poorly maintained lighting
  • Unsuitable decor, leading to lower light levels, excessive contrasts or too much glare
  • Unsuitable coloured light effects

For further details and guidance, please refer to the Regulations quoted in this section or call the HSE information line on 0845 345 0055

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Electrical safety of portable electrical equipment & portable appliance test (PAT)

The particular legal requirements relating to the use and maintenance of electrical equipment are contained in the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EWR). These apply to all work activities and place requirements on employers, self-employed and employees (duty holders). The EWR are enforced either by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) or by Local Authority environmental health officers, depending on what usually goes on at the premises. Almost all places of entertainment need a licence from the Local Authority. There will usually be requirements for fire precautions and these can also include conditions relating to electrical safety.

The EWR require that certain safety objectives be achieved and do not prescribe the measures to be taken. This allows the duty holder to select precautions appropriate to the risk, rather than having those imposed which may not be relevant to a particular work activity. Everybody working with or on electrical equipment (even if they are self-employed) comes within the scope of the EWR. Please note that the testing of electrical equipment should always be carried out by a ‘competent person’.

Portable or fixed equipment

The term ‘portable’ appliance is not defined in the EWR but may be regarded as covering equipment designed to be carried from place to place and connected to a fixed power supply by a flexible lead and plug – for example, an amplifier.

The reason for distinguishing between portable and fixed equipment is that the electrical connections to portable equipment – for example, the mains plug, flexible cable, and terminals – are likely to be subject to more wear and tear than those on the equipment which forms part of the fixed installation.

Inspection and portable appliance testing (PAT)

Maintenance is a general term which, in practice, can include visual inspection, testing, repair, and replacement. Maintenance will determine whether (a) the equipment is fully serviceable or (b) remedial action is necessary. There are no absolute rules regarding the frequency of PAT testing.

The Health & Safety Executive’s guidance notes advise ‘regular testing’ and this is generally interpreted to mean annual testing by a ‘competent person’. However, conditions of use will vary and more frequent testing may be necessary. This will depend on the type of use, the nature of the working environment and how much wear and tear the equipment receives. If there are any signs of damage or poor electrical standards, the equipment should not be used until it is made safe.

Any MU member who does not feel that he or she is competent to carry out a Portable Appliance Test (PAT) should enlist the services of a competent electrician. To prove you have complied with the EWR, keep full and accurate records of test results and equipment details.

If a number of pieces of equipment or extension leads are involved, then a register of all equipment should be created to include the following details:

  • Identification number
  • Description of the appliance
  • Serial number
  • Period between tests

Any certification of equipment should show the tests undertaken and the results obtained. For further guidance, visit the HSE website at

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There is no specific piece of law that deals with stress at work. However, this does not mean that employers need not act in circumstances where it is clear that employees are being subject to excessive stress and its ill effects. In many ways, stress is viewed as a Health & Safety issue.

The law and standards

All workers have the right to expect a healthy and safe working environment and it is the employer’s duty in law to provide such. If an employee is being put under excess pressure and suffering stress as a result, it may be that Health & Safety law can be used to challenge the employer. This is covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Similarly, workers have the right not to be bullied or treated in a manner which can be defined as discriminated against at work. Someone who feels they are being bullied or discriminated against at work is likely to feel stressed as a result of such treatment. If this is the case, an employer’s failure to prevent and deal with discrimination is covered under the Sex Discrimination, Race Relations, and Disability Discrimination Acts.

HSE guidance on workplace stress

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has issued guidance on preventing workplace stress:

‘Ill health resulting from stress caused at work has to be treated the same as ill health due to other physical causes present in the workplace. This means that employers do have a legal duty to take reasonable care to ensure that health is not placed at risk through excessive and sustained levels of stress arising from the way work is organised, the way people deal with each other at their work or from the day-to-day demands placed on their workforce.’

Union Safety Representatives can use their extensive rights, under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations (SRSCR) 1977, to investigate and take up problems of work-related stress in the same way they investigate any other workplace hazard. Under these Regulations, Union Safety Representatives are also entitled to be consulted on health and safety matters and the introduction of changes to the workplace which may have an impact on their members’ health, safety, and welfare.

Stress and risk assessment

Creating safe systems of work and preventing accidents and ill health are the cornerstones of Health & Safety law in the UK. It is the employer’s legal duty to ensure that employees are not subject to conditions at work which have a detrimental impact on their health and well-being. This includes work-related stress. The requirement to carry out a Risk Assessment and repeat the process in the event of any workplace changes has been in force since 1993.

Useful tips for coping with stress

  • Working off stress with physical activity enables you to vent pent-up feelings
  • Discuss your problem with others as confiding in another person gives some relief and puts the problem in perspective
  • Learn to accept what you are unable to change
  • Do not drown your sorrows with alcohol or other drugs
  • Make sure that you always get enough rest/sleep — do not let the rest of your work/home life suffer
  • Ensure that you allow yourself leisure activities
  • Do something positive for someone else. This is an effective method of taking your thoughts off yourself and your problems
  • Do not overwhelm yourself. Establish your priorities and take one step at a time
  • Try to agree with someone. Get away from battles and hostility
  • Manage your time more effectively by working out a system
  • Plan ahead when you know that a stressful time is approaching
  • If you are sick, seek appropriate attention and make sure that you rest until you really are better
  • Develop new interests. It is healthy to have a different focus for your attention
  • Believe that the answer lies in yourself
  • Eat sensibly and exercise to promote good health
  • Accept when you are tired and, at that point, stop work
  • Do not put off relaxing, make it a priority
  • Do not take too much on. Never be afraid to say no
  • Delegate responsibility.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help. Be realistic about perfection.
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Since 1996, the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (DDA) has required employers not to discriminate against employees or job applicants with disabilities and to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to allow them to carry on working or take up new posts. The EA 2010 came into force in October of that year. It replaced most of the DDA. However, the Disability Equality Duty in the DDA continues to apply. Like the DDA 2005, the Equality Act 2010 (EA) covers forms of disability that are not ‘clinically well-recognised’, including cancer, HIV and more forms of mental impairment.

Employers must now take account of conditions ranging from stress-related illness to less well-known mental health conditions (such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and extreme phobia) plus more commonly recognised illnesses including bipolar disorder and such psychoses as schizophrenia. Employees’ or applicants’ mental impairments need to be long-term, lasting or likely to last more than 12 months and must affect the individual’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

(This information has been prepared to assist MU Safety Reps when dealing with specific illnesses in the workplace covered under the EA as it applies to the DDA.)

The equality act in practice

The EA defines a disabled person as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his/her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, although there are some special rules that cover recurring or fluctuating conditions.

Anyone who is certified blind or partially sighted; suffering from cancer; HIV infection or multiple sclerosis does not have to show that they have an impairment that has or is likely to result in a substantial adverse, long-term effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. A disability can arise from a wide range of impairments, such as:

  • Sensory impairments e.g. those affecting sight or hearing
  • Impairments with fluctuating or recurring effects such as rheumatoid arthritis, myalgic encephalitis (ME)/chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, depression, and epilepsy
  • Organ-specific impairments including such respiratory conditions as asthma through to cardiovascular diseases including thrombosis, stroke and heart conditions
  • Mental health conditions and mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, bipolar affective disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders plus personality disorders and some self-harming behaviour.

The EA also recognises that environmental conditions may exacerbate the effect of impairment. Such factors as the temperature, humidity, lighting, the time of day or night, how tired a person is or how much stress he/she is under could have an impact.

Useful resources

MIND (National Association for Mental Health):
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP):
TUC Know Your Rights Line: 08700 600 4882
ACAS Helpline: 08457 474747
Equality and Human Rights Commission:
Employers’ Forum on Disability:

Over/misuse injuries (RSI)

About RSI

The term Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is not, in itself, a medical diagnosis. The term RSI is used to incorrectly describe a number of named musculoskeletal conditions including tenosynovitis, cramp of the hand and tendonitis. In addition, the term ‘diffuse RSI’ is also in common usage but is more difficult to define.

Whether described as RSI or ‘diffuse RSI’, these conditions and injuries may be occupational in origin. Therefore, Repetitive Strain Injury is a term similar to that of ‘sports injury’ in that it tells more about how the injury was sustained that describes what it actually is. RSI conditions occur in upper or lower limbs and affect various areas of the spine which, in turn, can cause referred pain in the limbs, making diagnosis difficult. Symptoms of numbness, tingling, sharp pain, dull ache, weakness, loss of grip and restricted movement of limbs can render people incapable of carrying out the simplest of tasks, whether at home or in the workplace. Unsurprisingly, the lack of accurate diagnosis and access to appropriate treatment often further exacerbates the condition.

Risk factors

  • Repetition: The use of fast, frequent movements for prolonged periods. Repetition for prolonged periods may not allow sufficient time for recovery and can cause muscle fatigue, owing to the depletion of energy and a build-up of metabolic waste. The repeated loading of joints and soft tissues may be associated with inflammation.
  • Working posture: Poor postures can increase the risk of injury when they are awkward and/or held for prolonged periods in a static or fixed position.
  • Awkward postures: These occur when a body part is used well beyond its neutral position (for example, where the wrist is held in a reasonably straight position). When awkward postures are adopted, additional muscular effort is needed to maintain body positions as muscles are less efficient at the extremes of the joint range. The resulting friction and compression of soft tissues structures can also lead to injury.
  • Static postures: These occur when a part of the body is held in a particular position for extended periods without the soft tissues being allowed to relax. For example, when holding an instrument it is likely that the hands and arms are in a static posture. Muscles held in static postures quickly develop fatigue.
  • Duration of exposure: The length of time that any task is performed for. It is presumed that the majority of musculoskeletal disorders are cumulative in nature and that the risk of injury increases with lengthier exposure times. This is because when parts of the body undertake work for periods without rest, there may be insufficient time for recovery. Planning work-rest cycles is important for all musicians.


The first stage is knowing when and where you are in danger

  • Each instrument has its own risk set; be sure you know yours
  • Establish a set of proper performance habits
  • Maintain correct posture
  • Examine and adjust your technique
  • Develop warm-up and stretching routines in order to increase your muscle stamina

Health maintenance: You can go a long way towards preventing injury by taking a proactive role in your health. Even the safest musicians will feel the strain of a busy schedule clawing them into a state of near exhaustion and may try medications that are largely ineffective and may be unsafe. A balanced diet will improve your body’s natural ability to generate energy and function at peak performance levels. By making a few changes in your diet, you can safeguard against injury and fatigue.

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Studies have shown that the use of illegal drugs is on the increase, that the consumption of alcohol among women is rising and that men are drinking at the same high levels they have for the past few years. All of these situations are arising despite numerous national initiatives to reduce alcohol consumption.

There are almost as many health problems caused by alcohol as there are associated with drug use. The main difference is that alcohol is legal and freely available and the vast majority of the population takes advantage of its availability.


Alcohol depresses certain brain functions – those affecting judgement, self-control and coordination – and so has an impact on a person’s ability to drive or operate machinery.

The liver can only burn up one unit of alcohol per hour. If it has to deal with too much alcohol over a number of years, it suffers damage, becoming inflamed (hepatitis) or permanently scarred (cirrhosis).

Alcohol misuse can also lead to a number of other physical and mental problems including stomach disorders, depression, high blood pressure and even cancer.


Dependence on drugs – whether they are illegal, prescribed or over-the-counter – does not always cause difficulties for the user, although regular abuse can lead to other problems such as health, relationship and financial issues.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 makes extensive provision for the control of certain drugs in order to prevent their misuse and deal with the connected social problems.

Alcohol & drugs and the law


In addition to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, other pieces of legislation make direct reference to alcohol and/or drugs such as the Transport and Works Act 1992, the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974. It is possible that, in certain circumstances, charges may be brought against the employer or an employee under either or both the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974.

It would be up to the courts to decide on the circumstances of each case. Employers have a duty of care to their employees under both employment and health and safety law. Investing in employees’ health and welfare helps to ensure an effective and efficient workforce.

Issues surrounding substance misuse

  • Substance misusers can be a hazard to themselves and others
  • The lifestyle imposed by a person’s job may increase the risk of alcohol or drug abuse
  • Stress may be a contributory factor
  • If the problem is ignored, the person’s job will eventually be at risk

The benefits of workplace policy

Many of the issues involved are common to both drug and alcohol misuse and a workplace policy can combine the two. It must be noted that the consumption of alcohol is legal in our society but the use of certain drugs is illegal. Health education should be at the core of workplace policy which should enable employees and employers to:

  • Recognise alcohol and drug misuse as a health problem
  • Prevent drug/alcohol misuse through awareness programmes
  • Identify employees/employers with a problem at an early stage
  • Provide assistance to employees/employers with drug and/or alcohol-related problems

Possible signs of alcohol and drug misuse

Reduced work performance characteristics

  • Confusion
  • Lack of judgment
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty in concentrating on work
  • Periods of high and low productivity

Absenteeism and time keeping

  • Poor time-keeping
  • Increased absence
  • Peculiar and improbable excuses

Personality changes

  • Sudden mood swings
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Overreaction to criticism
  • Friction with colleagues

Physical signs

  • Smelling of alcohol
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Lack of hygiene

Feeding addiction

  • Attempting to borrow money
  • Dishonesty

Help and information


  • Information about dealing with drugs and alcohol in the workplace, guidance on developing a workplace policy and a database of services in England and Wales
  • Call 020 7928 1211 or visit

National Drugs Helpline

  • A free, confidential, 24-hour service: 0800 776600

Alcoholics Anonymous

  • Head office: 0904 644026
  • London: 020 7352 3001
  • Wales: 0222 373939
  • Northern Ireland: 0232 681084
  • Scotland: 0141 221 9027

Alcohol Concern

  • London: 020 7928 7377
  • Wales: 029 2022 6746

Al-Anon Family Groups

  • For the family and friends of problem drinkers: 020 7403 0888
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The Musicians’ Union is fully committed to ensuring that the health, safety, and welfare of its members are maintained.

The Union provides members with a range of services designed to achieve this, in partnership with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine and Musicians’ Hearing Service.

British Association for Performing Arts Medicine

The Musicians’ Union aims to ensure that performers receive expert medical assessments and advice. Working in partnership with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM), the Union provides members with access to health care expressly designed for performing artists. The nationwide services available through BAPAM include access to free confidential clinics, providing in-depth medical assessments by specialist practitioners and a dedicated helpline that supplies advice and information on medical issues for performing artists.

In addition to its central London provision, BAPAM now has clinics in Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Dublin, Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle/Gateshead, Manchester, and Portsmouth.

  • For an appointment, please phone 0845 602 0235 (landlines), 020 7404 8444 (mobiles) or 004420 7404 8444 (from the Republic of Ireland) between 9AM and 5PM, Monday to Friday.
  • For more information, a list of complementary and mainstream practitioners, and guidance on staying fit and healthy, please visit

Musicians’ Hearing Services

Musicians’ Hearing Services (MHS) operates the MU’s Hearing Passport scheme, the Basic Hearing Test Scheme and also offers a nationwide service to freelance MU members. MHS specialises in the specific needs of musicians and the entertainment industry, offering hearing health surveillance to freelance musicians. It provides noise level measurements, on-site if required, and can advise on appropriate custom-made ear plugs, designed specifically for those operating in the music industry. MU members are entitled to access these schemes and obtain custom-made ear plugs at discounted prices.

Musician’s hearing passport scheme

Taking account of the freelance status of many MU members, the Union has developed the Musicians’ Hearing Passport scheme, in partnership with BAPAM and MHS, which offers hearing health surveillance for freelance MU members at a reduced cost of £40.

The Musicians’ Hearing Passport scheme includes:

  • An in-depth examination by qualified audiologists with a full written results report
  • A written report for health professionals/employers (upon request)
  • Advice on hearing protection and conservation (including noise levels and the management of tinnitus)
  • A discount on custom-made, noise-attenuating earplugs
  • Regular check-up call-backs

Once all of the procedures are carried out, you will be issued with your own Musicians’ Hearing Passport, a wallet-sized card featuring your name, date of enrolment and the official MHS stamp. This card will show that you have received all of the necessary training, advice, and information required under the CNWR’s Hearing Health Surveillance requirements.

To register, find out more about the services MHS provides or to make an appointment, MU members can contact Musicians’ Hearing Services on 020 7486 1053 or email info [@]

MU safety representatives

The MU has a network of Safety Representatives who are concerned with ensuring the health and safety of musicians in the workplace. However, the Union recognises that its freelance members can be unable to raise these issues in the workplace. To resolve this difficulty, the MU has set up a team of roving Safety Reps who are available to assist members when such problems occur.

Health and safety courses

The MU also runs in-house Health & Safety courses, all of which place a particular emphasis on the entertainment industry. They are designed to assist new and experienced Safety Representatives alike.

These courses are very informal — there are no exams and very little written work is involved. It is important for all Safety Representatives to attend one of these courses in order to gain confidence in and full knowledge of musicians’ rights and how to apply them in the workplace.

(To find out when the next Safety Reps’ course is being held, Musicians’ Union members should contact their Regional Office.)

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‘The bassoon looked so cool, I can’t explain it but I just wanted to get my hands on it and play it, and make that amazing low rumbling sound!’.

Jake is 13 years old and has been playing the Bassoon since he was 8, taking his lessons on a Wednesday night at the local Music Centre.

His school has lots of musical activities which he enjoys taking part in; he loves the school choir and also the after-school improvisers’ ensemble run by the local professional jazz trio. Jake is showing exceptional talent, and on such a rare instrument, so his teacher wants him to apply to attend the local Conservatoire Junior School – but his parents don’t have the financial means to send him or buy him the new instrument he really needs.

His teacher encourages him to apply and, following a first-class audition, he is awarded a scholarship from the Junior School, supported by the Music and Dance Scheme. With the help of his teachers, Jake then applies for funding for a new instrument which he gets from Arts Council England’s Take it Away scheme.

As well as traveling to the Conservatoire Junior School, he still plays with his school and the local Hub ensembles bring his experiences and new-found skills back to his local area.

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Jessica is 14 and loves to sing; she has had the chance to sing in school since the age of 5, developing her broader musical skills through the National Curriculum.

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Although she had the chance to play a musical instrument, it wasn’t for her. Through her local Hub, Jessica has been able to really explore vocal styles, taking part in formal and informal workshops in Classical, Musical Theatre, Folk, Jazz and Blues and Pop and Rock.

In the last year, Jessica has been really drawn to Musical Theatre and has had the opportunity to travel to see live performances and take part in workshops and masterclasses with professionally trained musical theatre singers. This year, she will sing the lead in The Phantom of the Opera with the local Theatre School where she has the chance to also develop her acting and dance skills. If your child is also interested in dance lessons, look into take lessons courses.

‘I love acting and dancing now but if it wasn’t for the opportunity to sing through the Hub, I wouldn’t be doing this show.’

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Dan is the lead guitarist in his band, As Loud As You Can. They have been together for three years; all five of them are 16. They started playing together at school through a full class orchestra programme.

The violin, viola or cello just wasn’t for them, although Scott (their bass guitarist) was so glad to have got the mini-bass (and still enjoys sneaking off once a week to play in the Hub Symphony Orchestra).

They all learned valuable skills that year and although the instruments were wrong they knew they loved playing and performing music together.

Seeing their potential, their Primary teacher gave them information about activities provided by their local Hub. They were excited to find rock and pop lessons on Tuesday evenings, giving them the chance to develop and put together the skills they needed to form their band.

As well as learning the necessary techniques and developing exceptional aural skills, they had the chance to develop a good academic knowledge through the formal music curriculum in school. As Loud As You Can enjoy performing and do as many gigs as they can but have enjoyed recording the most. Dan has a real interest in recording engineering and is looking forward to pursuing a career in the music industry, following a couple of weeks’ work experience in a local professional recording studio. He is going to make sure he continues to play guitar as well as keeping As Loud As You Can performing and recording together.

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Paul is a 17-year-old violin player. He started at the age of 10 in his full class string orchestra, having already developed a solid ear through the Sing Up young voices development project.

Due to receiving free school meals, he was provided with support to progress to small group lessons after his first year. He has developed well, becoming comfortable with the instrument, and has now achieved Grade 6. He plays in his school String Orchestra and hopes to get a place in his local Hub’s Symphony Orchestra next year.

Paul enjoys performing and receives many opportunities to do so. He still loves to sing and enjoys taking part in his local Amateur Music Theatre Society where he always sings in the chorus.

‘I’m not a soloist but love being on the stage and part of the community and, of course, the action.’

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Sam was a quiet but curious young lad. He had his first musical experience at the age of 6 when his school hosted a term-long creative music making project. The project focussed on bringing together Early Years singing, rhythm work (through untuned percussion) and composition.

Sam showed an aptitude for all the activities and began to develop a good ear. His class teacher was also enthused by the project and requested in-service support through Sing Up, ultimately using her training to make sure that her class continued to sing almost every day alongside the delivery of the National Curriculum.

When Sam was nine, his class attended a workshop all about woodwind and brass instruments where they got to hear all the different instruments. The workshop was led by players from the local professional orchestra. Sam was immediately drawn to the saxophone. At the end of the workshop, the class found out that they were going to be taking part in a year-long full class band project. This project, alongside the delivery of the National Curriculum, ensured that Sam developed a broad contextual understanding of music and turned him into an enthusiastic performer and attentive listener.

Having chosen the saxophone, Sam concentrated well in class, although he found it hard to practise on his own at home. ‘I like to play with my friends; it’s kind of boring on your own.’ The highlight of the year was going to see the players from their introductory workshop perform a young person’s concert in the local Town Hall: ‘It was amazing to hear them all play together – all the different sounds were amazing.’

In his first year of playing, Sam developed good technical and musical skills. Many of the skills he learned in music helped him to improve his academic studies too and he found it easier to focus and apply himself to tasks. Seeing this improvement, his parents hired him a saxophone and paid for him to continue his tuition at school in small groups.

At age 13, Sam was doing well and he entered for his Grade 4 saxophone and attended the local Hub Saturday Music Centre where he got the chance to play in a band with other young people. He also began to play in the Junior Symphony Orchestra. The National Curriculum in School at Key Stage 3 provided him with a broader awareness of music, its genres, and cultures.

Although Sam has decided that he doesn’t want to pursue music as a career, he is keen to have it in his life. Developing his skills has allowed him to take part in the local Jazz Band and Big Band as well as the Hub Symphony Orchestra.

At 17, he took the opportunity to participate in a series of Jazz improvisation and composition workshops offered on weeknights and this continued to broaden his skills and expertise in music. The workshops concluded with a gala performance where participants performed alongside their professional tutors and mentors. Sam also submitted his university applications aspiring to a career in science.

‘Now that I am at university, I look back at my early years and appreciate how my involvement in music not only enriched my creative but academic developmen; I am so glad that music gave me a focus and taught me the discipline that I needed to succeed in any area of my life. Music has also enhanced my social life giving me opportunities to meet and work confidently with new people; I have made many friends that I hope I will know for the rest of my life.

‘I still play in the university Big Band and now and then with the symphony orchestra, although I enjoy most of all gigging with my blues quartet at dinner dances and events in the town; it’s far better than working in a supermarket to put some extra money in my pocket. Music will always be a central part of my life.’

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Mark and Sinae have a nine-month-old daughter, Geneviene. Mark and Sinae enjoy listening to music and going to concerts but were both put off pursuing music education due to limited music experiences when they were young.

They strongly believe in the power of music to enhance learning and want to make sure that their daughter takes part in as much quality music making as possible. A quick internet search took them straight to their local Hub website where they were excited to find a range of Early Years classes for their daughter.

Mark says:

‘We now take Geneviene to creative sing and play classes three times a week. This inspired me to learn the piano, something I had always wished I’d done. I found a local piano teacher on I’m now taking regular piano lessons and I enjoy playing music with my daughter.’

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Julie is an experienced Primary school teacher but she had always found it daunting to deliver the music element of the National Curriculum in Key Stages 1 and 2. Since the implementation of the National Music Plan for Music, Julie has found that the personal support and resources available to her have increased dramatically.

The most significant development was that all her class had the opportunity to learn an instrument for the whole year with two specialist music teachers arranged through the local Hub. Julie’s Head teacher encouraged her to get involved with the teachers and time was set aside for her to meet and plan how they would work together. Julie was able to tell the teachers useful things about the children in her class – for example, those who lacked confidence but enjoyed working in a group. Once the sessions began, Julie was amazed to see how quickly the children learned.

‘The specialist music teachers told me about a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme run by Music for Youth, the MU and the National Union of Teachers (NUT). The programme showed me so many ways to work with my class in a fun and easy way. There are some great online resources and my confidence has grown so much.

‘I was amazed at how the music teaching helped the children in other areas of their learning. I am now the Music Co-ordinator in our school and the whole school is now getting involved in music making.’

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Anton is an 11-year-old drummer. He started just over two years ago after his school hosted a one day Samba workshop that was arranged through the local Hub. After the workshop, he started playing percussion in his full class band. He was so happy to get a drum kit for Christmas as he can now practise all the time.

‘I can play so many different types of music and in class we still learn the theory stuff so I can also read the notes, but I can also listen and repeat or respond to the music.’

Outside school, Anton plays with some of his older friends in his local youth club pop band; next month, they are going to play at the Youth Club Disco and in July, they will be performing in the Music For Youth National Festival in Birmingham.

When he is older, he hopes to play in a band in pubs and restaurants and make some money. As a student, he will be able to join the MU for £20 and as a member he will benefit from £10 million Public Liability Insurance cover and access to legal and contract advice.

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Josip is a peripatetic brass teacher. He has recently graduated from university and has been thrown in at the deep end having received very little training in instrumental teaching whilst studying. He is teaching a broad mix of students in one-to-one, small group and full classroom settings across all brass instruments as well as helping out with the school band.

His local hub has an extensive partnership base drawing together a broad range of formal and informal music education providers and with strong links to both primary and secondary schools in the area.

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Regular CPD programmes are arranged through the local Hub, focussing on many aspects of educational and instrumental pedagogy and music education theory drawing on all the available expertise.

An effective mentoring/buddying programme has also been arranged through the Hub, which matched Josip with an experienced teacher for his first year, providing solid academic and practical advice.

His joint Musicians’ Union (MU) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) membership helped him access advice and guidance from both organisations.

‘The new Hub has allowed me to engage with exceptional professional development and mentoring at the highest level, providing me with the opportunity to develop my skills to become a more effective teacher and learner. I look forward to the introduction of the new Music Educator Qualification being developed by Creative and Cultural Skills and Arts Council England.’

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There is no specific legislation covering this particular issue so no legal definition exists as to exactly what types of behaviour can be constituted as bullying.

However, the accepted definition, as adopted by the TUC, is: ‘persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress.’ Despite the absence of specific legislation, there are laws which may be applicable depending on the circumstances of the individual making a complaint:

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 section 2(1)

This places a responsibility upon every employer to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all their employees.

Section three of the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1992

Every employer has a legal responsibility to make a suitable sufficient assessment of the risk to the health, safety, and welfare of employees in order that preventative and protective measures can be taken.

Safety representatives

In Regulation 4A of the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977, employers have a legal duty to consult with Union Safety Representatives concerning Health & Safety matters.

Employment law

Duty to prevent unlawful discrimination. This covers bullying, which may be defined as discrimination where it is based on gender, race or disability.

Constructive dismissal

Employers have a general duty of care under civil law. If bullying leads to a fundamental breach of the employment contract, an employee may be able to pursue a claim of constructive dismissal under the Employment Rights Act 1996, provided that they have worked with the same employer for at least one year.

Workplace policy on bullying

This should include:

  • A statement that bullying will not be tolerated and will be treated as a disciplinary offence
  • A commitment that complaints of bullying will be taken seriously and dealt with quickly
  • All elements of the procedure to be conducted in confidence
  • A timetabled complaints procedure
  • Provision of confidential counseling for both the bullied and the bully
  • The policy should include regular monitoring to assess whether it is actually achieving its intended aims and objectives. Training for management and Health & Safety Representatives

More information can be found at