What Can I Do About A Factory Coworker Who Plays Loud Rock Music All Day?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about loud music in a factory. 

Question: 
I am working in a factory together with other people in same area and one of them plays rock music on his sound system at maximum volume nearly all day. I am the one that works with him and we are the closest ones to sound system all day (1-2 meters). Neither me or anyone else have a problem with music being played, as long as it is on a decent volume.

I have to mention that we work in a factory near an oven that makes noise, but as soon as he starts playing music, I cannot hear that oven (being in the middle between the radio and oven) Is there any law that I can find on a official website so I can print it and “hit my manager over the face” with it so he takes action about this ?

Response:
It may be that you are outside the United States, so perhaps there are workplace health and safety regulations (rather than law violations) that apply. Even when there are health and safety requirements about noise, workplace noise complaints are usually more easily handled by supervisors and managers. The matter is discussed in this article Business Management.   The article doesn’t provide helpful advice, but it reinforces the fact that managers are responsible for reducing conflict at work–and music is a prime source of conflict.

Since you say you want to “hit your manager over the face” with information about a law, I assume you have talked to him about it and he hasn’t done anything, so you are doubly frustrated. Consider some of the following thoughts:

*Do you have an employee union or council that could support you, if you presented a request to them?
*Have you put your complaint in writing to your supervisor or just talked about it to him?
*Have other employees complained also? Would they be willing to write their complaints?
*Have you told your coworker that the loud music is too loud for you to be able to concentrate on work and you would like for him to turn down the volume?
*Have you tried wearing noise reducing ear protection? For example, instead of only blocking out noise, could you play a “white noise” or “pink noise” sound, to add an element of calm to your day?

If you write a complaint to your supervisor or to anyone else, there are some things you will need to include. I’ll mention them here, so you can think about how you want to communicate your concerns.

*Put the focus on how the music has a negative effect on your work and on your emotional and physical well-being. Think about this and be able to put the negative effect in writing as well as verbally.

Do your ears ring after work?
Are you unable to hear announcements or needed work conversations?
Does the music combined with the oven sound create a double negative impact on your hearing?
Has your ability to work with that coworker decreased because of the hostile feelings this situation has caused?
If you have talked to the coworker about it, has his response been courteous or does he act as though he doesn’t care about the results of his actions?

*Consider this: If the music was lower, would the oven noise be just as much of an irritant? Someone may ask you about it, so have a response to that question. I would think the oven noise is more of a constant mechanical roar or whirring sound, while music, although sometimes softer, is much more distracting, especially when it is loud and if there are vocals with it. It’s impossible to shut out all the lyrics.

*Was there ever a time when the only noise was the oven? If so, when the coworker first started playing his music, was the volume at the current loud level right away or has it increased since then?

*Do other people have sound systems and do they play loud music too?

*Big question: How much do you think the employee would have to lower the volume, for it to be tolerable? Does it need to be half its current volume? Suggest an amount, as a way to say that you are not asking that the music be turned off, just turned down.

When you write to your supervisor, ask for action, rather than only bringing the matter to his attention again. For example, “I have complained about this before, but nothing has been done. Now the problem is so severe than I am putting it in writing to emphasize that I want action taken to make work more tolerable for me and others who have to work around loud music.”

You manager is not obligated to take action, but strongly asking for it might at least make him investigate the situation more closely and talk to several people about it. The action might be to have you wear noise reducing ear protection or just to have the employee lower the volume somewhat. Let your supervisor know if the remedy doesn’t stop the problem. You can do that while still being cooperative and courteous.

I wish there was a magic answer for you, so you would not have to deal with this irritating and potentially harmful situation. But perhaps you can get some relief by insisting on it and enlisting the aid of others.

Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, please let us know what happens. It might be very useful for us to share with others.

Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors