Safety and the Entertainment Industry – Theatrical / Studio / Stage

entertainment industry safetyWorkers in a theatrical / stage / studio environment can be exposed to a number of hazards which can put them at risk of workplace injury or death. Workplace injuries can put the employer at risk of penalties, fines, insurance payouts and lawsuits. With so many moving pieces in a theatrical environment, there are many potential situations that can elevate risk:

  • moving sets, lighting equipment, platforms and risers
  • “the show must go on” attitude, sometimes in spite of associated risks
  • creative risks which can become safety risks
  • changes in production process – design, lighting, sound cues, blocking, scene changes
  • stress caused by time pressure and fatigue
  • lack of consistent safety training
  • lack of budget

As a result of these situations, actors and theatrical crew can be at risk. It is imperative that productions take appropriate measures to mitigate these risks for the benefit of the production as a whole and the cast and crew.

Productions need to put in place heath and safety policies and commit to successfully implement these policies through documentation and training. Health and safety policies are not universal. Theatres and productions need to build their health and safety policies around their specific productions and theatre. According to Safe Stages Best Practices created by the Government of Alberta, some of the steps to building these policies are:

  • Making a list of existing health and safety practices within the theatre company.
  • Identifying what health and safety legislation applies to your theatre/production.
  • Exercising due diligence by knowing what hazards exist.
  • Listing hazards that workers could potentially be exposed to.
  • Reviewing previous workplace injuries and addressing any patterns.
  • Demonstrating to workers that you are committed to health and safety.

Theatrical Stage and Studio Hazards

There are many specific types of hazards in an entertainment environment. The Safe Stages Best Practices guide categorizes these hazards into 4 main areas:

Physical Hazards

  • Lifting and handling loads (e.g. manually moving set pieces)
  • Repetitive motions
  • Slipping and tripping hazards (e.g. poorly maintained floors)
  • Moving parts of machinery
  • Working at heights (e.g. hanging lights)
  • Vehicles (e.g. forklifts, trucks)
  • Fire
  • Electricity (e.g. poor wiring, frayed cords)
  • Excessive noise (e.g. power tools, music, sound effects)
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Extreme temperatures

Chemical Hazards

  • Liquids (e.g. paints, solvents, cleaner, bleach)
  • Dusts (e.g. from grinding, sandblasting)
  • Fumes (e.g. welding)
  • Mists and vapours (e.g. dry ice)
  • Gases (e.g. engine exhaust)

Biological Hazards

  • Viruses, fungi, bacteria, molds
  • Blood and body fluids

Psychosocial Hazards

  • Working conditions
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Workplace violence
  • Working alone

Reduce Risk of Physical Hazards in the Entertainment Industry – Moving Sets

One of the most common and often ignored physical stage hazards is injury caused by pushing and pulling heavy loads like manually moving set pieces. Not only are these sets heavy, but they must be moved frequently and quickly and often over floors with cables. In order to mitigate the risk of injuries to the crew, it is important to consider all aspects of the set construction. Simple solutions like well positioned hand holds and choosing the right casters for the stage environment can help reduce risk of injury. To choose the best casters, you should consider the weight of the load, extreme temperatures, breaking and locking requirements and the floor surface. Thinking about these will help to guide the selection of the right caster in terms of caster material, number of wheels, brake/locks etc.

Choosing the Right Theatre / Studio / Stage Casters

Entertainment industry professionals who work in the theatrical stage environment or a studio environment have to consider many aspects when choosing a caster:

  • Is sound reduction imperative when moving sets so the production is not disrupted?
  • How heavy are the sets/loads being moved?
  • How frequently are the sets/loads being moved?
  • Do the sets need to be swiveled/turned around?
  • Is it important to keep the floors unmarked?
  • Will the sets/loads be moved over bumps or cables?
  • If a caster malfunctions, how long can you manage without replacing it?

workplace ergonomics guide darcorTo find out more about health and safety for the theatrical / studio / stage environment, check out these resources: