Noise in retail trade

Project No. IFA 4238


completed 01/2020


Workers in the retail trade are exposed to a variety of noise impacts. Although these impacts are not harmful to the inner ear, they may have extra-aural effects. These are mental and physiological effects such as an increased release of stress hormones, impairment of concentration and performance, tension, nervousness and rapid fatiguing.

Little is known about the actual exposure to noise in the retail trade. The project is intended to provide information on the main sector-specific exposure factors, and to create a preliminary body of data from which new methods can be developed for recording and assessing extra-aural noise effects in occupational health and safety.


BGHW member companies were recruited to the joint project by the BGHW. Participation was voluntary and participants first received comprehensive information. The focus lay on the food and textile retail trade.

IFA and BGHW conducted measurements of room acoustics, personal noise exposure, room noise levels and psychoacoustic parameters.

Questionnaires were to be completed by the employees to enable the mental stress and strain to be determined. Standardized and validated questionnaires (BASA II, LEF-K), expanded by the project group to consider the issue of noise, were used for this purpose. Completion of the questionnaires by the employees of the business was voluntary and anonymous. The questionnaires were drawn up, and their results interpreted, by the IAG.

Finally, the results of the measurements and questionnaires were reviewed by the IAG and IFA and possible correlations were analyzed.


Over a total of 100 hours personal noise exposure was recorded for 42 employees in 18 branches, and 40 measurements of room sound pressure levels were taken in the checkout area. Reverberation times and psychoacoustic parameters were also measured. Compliance with the provisions of the body of regulations was not possible; consequently, the measurements performed could not be used to determine the rating level in accordance with ASR A3.7. Noise exposure was comparable across all activities, at around 73 ± 4 dB(A). In comparison, the room sound pressure levels in the checkout area were around 64 dB(A). Despite room acoustics being favourable, the limit values for category II activities according to ASR A3.7 were not met in over 50% of the measured cases in checkout areas.

The results of the employee questionnaire showed that mental stress does not depend upon personal sensitivity to noise. Sensitivity to noise did however have an influence upon the strain experienced by the employees. Noise-specific exposure characteristics necessitating action included, for example, a high level of background noise, beeping sounds in the checkout area, and music and announcements in the store. In general, the results of the questionnaire revealed no correlation with the recorded physical values and acoustic assessment variables.

A comprehensive overview of all results, assessments and possible noise abatement measures, together with practical guidance on performance of the risk assessment, is to be published in the form of a DGUV Report following completion of the project.

Last Update:

21 Apr 2020


Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
  • Berufsgenossenschaft Handel und Warenlogistik (BGHW)
Research institution(s):
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA)
  • Berufsgenossenschaft Handel und Warenlogistik (BGHW)
  • Institut für Arbeit und Gesundheit der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IAG)
  • Institut für Prävention und Arbeitsmedizin der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung - Institut der Ruhr-Universität Bochum (IPA)

retail trade

Type of hazard:

work-related health hazards


noise, working environment (load, hazards, exposure, risks), mental strain/stress

Description, key words:

acoustics, noise, workplace, retail trade, extra-aural noise effects, stress, questionnaires, mental stress, strain, risk assessment, workplaces, workplace


Further information