Is It Illegal to Play Music in the Warehouse?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about laws regarding listening to music while working:

Me and like 98% of my co-workers have no problem with music being played as long as it’s quiet enough to hear everything else around for obvious safety reasons. Our lead hand, who sort of abuses authority, tells us all the time “no music in the warehouse it’s against the law. So we’re forced to turn them off. I’m in Vancouver Canada B.C. and I’m just wondering if it really is against the law or is he just saying this?
Signed Forced Turned Off

Dear Forced Turned Off:
You are smart to ask “is he just saying this?” because what bosses sometimes say is more convenience than fact. It is good to enjoy music when it doesn’t distract from hearing what is required to do a job and if the noise level doesn’t harm workers’ hearing. Yet the fact is that our hearing is at risk when a noise level is high due to the equipment or in the immediate environment of some jobs such as of those working next to airplanes.

To learn what is legal/illegal will entail some effort of you and possibly your coworkers. You have begun that by sending this question. That was good, but as our site states, we don’t give legal advice. However, we do provide guidelines that relate to communication, such as giving and taking instructions and prevention of hearing loss. In your situation, apparently your lead hand, whom you think is too authoritative, is right to not want music to interfere with the communication on the job and safety. Possibly he’s been told that Canadian law or your company policy forbids music on the job.

First, you need to learn what is the law. Your company’s Human Resources or Legal Department and/or union should have access to that. You will then know if the law flatly forbids any music in your warehouse. Possibly the law only refers to where certain high levels of music would affect safety and hearing loss. If this is the case, you will need to analyze what level of music would put make safety at risk or distract from understanding a boss or coworkers’ communication.

Second, if the law permits a flexible policy, you and your coworkers might form a music committee to prepare a proposal for what should be permitted for individual workers or for general broadcast, such as that of a radio station.

It would be wise not to see this matter as a battle between you coworkers and your lead hand. The odds of achieving a policy to your liking are higher if you seek one that will make working condition both productive and pleasant for your warehouse.

My associate workplace doctor, Tina Lewis Rowe, recommends you search access the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety . And she points out that “They have an inexpensive pamphlet (a few dollars I think) about warehouse safety requirements and a section on noise. I think the focus will be on excessive noise, not noise that might distract from work.”

Also in what follows, I have provide several sources that you will find of relevant:
–>Music Laws – Learn About Music Entertainment Law –‎ Regulation of noise – Environmental Law and Litigation Mar 15, 2009 … While not a “pollutant” in the traditional sense of a “chemical” or … construction work), mobile sources (mainly transport-related, …. types of noise (e.g., operating loud machinery/tools, shouting, loud music, … Vancouver by-law.
–>Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
You may be interested in these related products and services from CCOHS:
Noise Control in Industry: A Basic Guide Format: Print | PDF
Language: English | French
Single book: $15* CAD
Courses: Preventing Hearing Loss From Workplace Noise
Publications: Warehouse Workers Safety Guide
–> The best music for productivity – Business Insider Jul 24, 2015 … Politics · Military & Defense · Law & Order …. The best music to listen to for optimal productivity, according to science … Oftentimes we have innumerable distractions at work competing for our attention. …. the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, found that …
–>“The best music to listen to for optimal productivity, according to science”
Rachel Gillett Jul. 24, 2015. You will find this source is rich in support of listening to music in the workplace. It is so interesting to me and possibly will be for you that I am copying:
Oftentimes we have innumerable distractions at work competing for our attention.
Luckily, music can help put us back on a more productive track.
Studies out of the University of Birmingham, England, show that music is effective in raising efficiency in repetitive work — so if you’re mindlessly checking email or filling out a spreadsheet, adding some tunes will make your task go by that much faster.
But when it comes to tasks that require more brainpower, finding that perfect playlist is not so easy.
Luckily, we have science at our disposal to help.
Based on some of what we know about how music affects productivity, you should try funneling this kind of music through your headphones the next time you’re feeling unproductive:
Songs that include sounds of nature.
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently discovered that adding a natural element could boost moods and focus.
Sounds of nature can mask intelligible speech just as well as white noise while also enhancing cognitive functioning, optimizing the ability to concentrate, and increasing overall worker satisfaction, the researchers found. The mountain stream sound researchers used in their study also possessed enough randomness that it didn’t distract test subjects.
You could try simply listening to recordings of nature sounds, or check out this tranquil background music that incorporates sounds of water:
Songs you enjoy.
Listening to music you like can make you feel better.
Teresa Lesiuk, an assistant professor in the music therapy program at the University of Miami, found that personal choice in music is important, especially in those who are moderately skilled at their jobs. Generally participants in her studies who listened to music they enjoyed completed their tasks more quickly and came up with better ideas than those who didn’t because the music improved their mood.
“When you’re stressed, you might make a decision more hastily; you have a very narrow focus of attention,” she told the New York Times. “When you’re in a positive mood, you’re able to take in more options.”
Songs you don’t really care about.
Different research suggests, however, that music you’re ambivalent about could be best.
Researchers from Fu Jen Catholic University in Xinzhuang City, Taiwan, studied how listener’s fondness for music affected their concentration. They found when workers strongly liked or disliked the music they heard in the background they became more distracted by it.
Songs without lyrics.
Words are distracting.
According to research from Cambridge Sound Management, noise in general isn’t to blame when it comes to lost productivity — it’s how intelligible the words are that forces us to shift focus from our work to figuring out what someone is saying. Speech distracts about 48% of office workers according to Cambridge’s 2008 study.
When masking your neighbor’s conversation with music, it follows then that you not do so with music that has lyrics — your focus would simply shift from the conversation to the words in a song.
This playlist of lyric-less music may provide the productivity boost you need:
Songs with a specific tempo.
Music tempo can have varying affects on your arousal.
One study by Canadian researchers found subjects performed better on IQ tests while listening to up-tempo music. If your work requires you to be more upbeat, you could try listening to music that matches this tempo. Baroque music, for example, is a popular choice for many needing to get work done.
In fact in a small study by researchers at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, Harbor Hospital in Baltimore, and the University of Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia, the radiologists they studied reported an improvement in their work and mood when they listened to baroque music. This playlist offers a nice sampling:
Another study by researchers from BMS College of Engineering in Bangalore, Malaysia, saw subjects report a dramatic reduction in feelings of stress and an increased sense of physical relaxation when they listened to music that played around 60 beats per minute. In classical music terms, you would refer this as “larghetto,” which translates to not very fast or somewhat slowly.
If you prefer to feel more relaxed while you work, you could try one of Focus @ Will’s playlists dedicated to concentration:
Songs played at medium volume.
Noise level matters.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, found that moderate noise levels are just right for creative thinking.
While both high and moderate noise levels have been found to open people’s minds to more abstract thinking, high noise levels decrease the brain’s ability to process information. –The End of her essay.–

Finally, let me add that achieving what you want is to shape working conditions that are the good for all concerned—those closest to the job and those charged with making your workplace safe and productive. No matter what results from you researching this matter, you can still have a song in your heart and sing to yourself. That a matter of attitude. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that is what you want. Please let us know what you learn and what is decided in light of your efforts.

William Gorden