HEALTH AND SAFETY IN A DRAMA SETTING
- Conduct a risk assessment to identify any potential hazards in your drama studio or theatre. An inspection should be carried out by a nominated, competent member of staff to ensure the suitability of the drama areas. The inspection should include items such as:
- the suitability of staging
- floor surfaces
- portable appliances
- lighting, props and storage of items
- suitability of areas for special effects, particularly pyrotechnics or smoke machines
- assessment of any accessibility issues
- Identify a suitable person (or persons) to act as a drama safety co-ordinator to ensure that risks are managed effectively.
- Develop and implement procedures for staff and students to follow whilst working in your drama studio, or theatre, and ensure that these are documented.
- Make sure that appropriate training and instruction is provided to both staff and students working in drama.
- Ensure that arrangements are reviewed regularly and any training, instructions, or actions are recorded.
- Any incidents or near misses must be reported and recorded by relevant staff members.
Code of Conduct
- All staff and students must be familiar with the code of conduct prior to undertaking any drama activities. The code of conduct should be displayed prominently within the drama areas and its contents reinforced regularly. Arts On The Move has provided a drama Code of Conduct in this section.
- Ensure that all students and members of staff are wearing suitable footwear and clothing.
- At the end of a lesson or rehearsal, a nominated staff member must ensure that all equipment has been rendered safe, any appliances, props, or other items have been stored safely, and all electrical equipment used has been switched off.
- Back stage areas must be kept clear of obstructions. Where this is unavoidable they should be clearly marked and brought to the attention of the staff and students.
- Ensure that all items are put away or returned to the props table after use.
- Provide safe storage for costumes, make-up and similar items.
- Restrict access to the back stage areas at all times – especially when the stage is set for a production – and dissuade other students and family members from crowding in.
- All electrical and mechanical equipment should be operated by a qualified and/or experienced operative.
- Electrical equipment should be checked regularly and checks should be recorded.
- Any portable equipment should be given a visual check by the user before use.
- All fixed and permanently-wired installations should be inspected and tested regularly, as part of the electrical installation check.
- Cables should be kept tidy, securely tied, and properly routed.
- Extension cable should be fully unwound from any reels to avoid overheating.
- Never work on any equipment whilst it is ‘live’, always switch off and disconnect before any work begins.
- Stage lighting must be inspected regularly and must meet the conditions set out in the current regulations.
- Any electrical work must be carried out by a qualified electrician.
- Stage lights should only be changed or moved by a competent person, and never by a student.
There are some great theatre lighting specialists in our Directory.
- Make sure that staff, students and the audience are aware of emergency evacuation procedures. This is particularly relevant to all Front of House staff.
- All exit routes must be clearly signed, and any emergency lighting should be operative.
- Any stage curtaining must be flame resistant, or treated with flame proofing solution.
- A competent person should review the fire risk assessment for rehearsals and every performance.
For further information on fire safety contact your local Fire Station or the Buildings Unit at your local council offices.
- Carry out a risk assessment for any special effects such as, for example, lasers, smoke machines and dry ice. Make sure that any special effects are handled under the strict supervision of a suitably trained competent person.
- Risk assessment should also ensure that the environment, size of stage or room and proximity to audience is taken into consideration when planning any special effects.
- Purchase or hire any pyrotechnics or special effects from reputable suppliers and always use these in full accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.
- Make one person responsible for setting and executing any special effects. Ensure that students know who to report any issues to, and keep them away from equipment at all times.
- Make sure that your performers know about any special effects in advance of using them, and that they are aware of where to stand to keep themselves safe.
- Ensure that you have appropriate insurance cover in place for any specialist equipment. It’s very costly to replace if it gets broken or damaged!
- Make sure that assessment is made of what could go wrong and that contingency plans and procedures are in place. Ensure that these are known and understood by all staff and students.
- Check whether any smoke generated on stage will cause fire alarms to activate automatically where smoke detectors are fitted in the building.
Will strobes or lasers affect any member of your audience who may be sensitive to such effects?
Strobe lighting can cause epileptic fits in certain people so make sure that staff members are aware of any audience members who may be sensitive to strobe or laser effects. The British Epilepsy Association recommend that the strobe frequency should not exceed five flashes per second. Post warnings about your use of strobe or laser lights on all publicity and make sure that performers and audience are fully aware prior to attending a performance or rehearsal.
It’s essential that staff and students have information on the medical conditions, especially allergies, of those involved with drama and theatre productions. Considerations and emergency procedures should include students who may react negatively to make up, paints and other substances such as smoke machines, dry ice and also laser and strobe lights.
Stage Platforms and Rostra
- Ensure that any stage platforms or rostra are clipped or fastened together securely. Ensure that the stage platform and rostra are inspected before each use by a member of staff.
- Make sure that all scenery, including flats, movable scenery, platforms and free-standing scenery is stable and secure at all times. Check this between each rehearsal and performance.
Working at Height
- Any activity that involves working at height must be assessed carefully and should only be undertaken by a responsible student or a member of staff.
- Anyone working at height should use appropriate equipment, positioned safely and correctly, and should be aware of people below – possibly by creating an exclusion zone beneath any work taking place.
For further advice and guidance on health and safety in schools, refer to the Department for Education guidance Health and safety: responsibilities and duties for schools
Or contact The Association of Theatre Technicians