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Stage Combat/Stunts and Weaponry
Safety Guideline for the Live Performance Industry in Ontario
- Issued: August 2005
- Revised: June 25, 2013
- Content last reviewed: June 2013
- See also: Performance Industry
Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.
When stage combat and weaponry are involved in a performance, there is a far greater risk of serious or fatal injury than during normal performance activities. As such, the Health and Safety Advisory Committee for Live Performance strongly advises both employers and workers to follow these guidelines.
For the purpose of this guideline, the term “fight director” shall include “stunt coordinator.”
Note: These definitions are provided for clarity and guidance only and, unless otherwise noted, are not definitions found under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) or its regulations.
- Antique firearms
- Firearms manufactured before 1898 that were not designed or re-designed to discharge rim-fire or centre-fire ammunition.
- Short for blank cartridges used to simulate the sound of a gunshot. They have all the elements of live ammunition except for the projectile.
- Jagged cuts and pieces of metal that bladed weapons may develop when one blade strikes another blade or solid object.
- Dummy round
- A non-firing cartridge used to simulate a live cartridge.
- Edged weapons
- Weapons with blades attached, e.g. sword, knife, daggers, pole arms, etc.
- Fight captain
- A person assigned by the fight director responsible for monitoring and maintaining fights and/or stunts for the duration of the production. The fight captain should be a competent person as defined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
- Fight director
- A person responsible for staging and co-ordinating all fights and/or stunts. The fight director should be a competent person as defined by the OHSA.
- A barrelled weapon capable of firing live or blank ammunition. The Firearms Act governs the possession, transportation, use and storage of firearms in Canada.
- Hang fire
- A delayed fire in which the firing pin strikes the primer but it does not create enough flame to ignite the powder instantly.
- Live ammunition
- Ammunition capable of firing a projectile.
- Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL)
- The licence issued under the Firearms Act, authorizing the possession and registration of a firearm. Replaced the Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC).
- Prohibited weapon
- A weapon prohibited by the Criminal Code and/or the Firearms Act.
- Ensuring that a firearm that has been unloaded or is about to be loaded is free of blank ammunition and any debris that may inadvertently become a projectile.
- A mnemonic for proofing:
- P – Point the firearm in a safe direction.
- R – Remove all ammunition.
- O – Observe that the chamber is empty.
- V – Verify that the feeding path (magazine) is clear.
- E – Examine the bore to ensure it is free of obstruction and debris.
- Replica firearm
- A device designed to look like a real firearm, but incapable of firing a projectile or a blank. According to the RCMP website:
- A replica is considered a prohibited weapon, unless it resembles an antique firearm as defined by the Criminal Code and Criminal Code Regulations;
- You cannot sell or give a replica firearm to an individual or to an unlicensed business; however you may lend a replica firearm to anyone who borrows it specifically to fulfil their duties or employment in a motion picture, television, video, or live performance.
- Retractable weapon
- A weapon with a blade, which is intended to disappear into the weapon’s handle, grip or shaft.
- Staged fight/stage combat
- A co-ordinated series of moves creating the illusion of violent intent, requiring specific timing and skill, involving either unarmed combat or the use of weapons.
- Any activity that is not normally executed by the average person and which performed incorrectly would most likely result in bodily injury.
- The direction of the hot gas that is produced when a blank is fired. A firearm may vent down the barrel, out the top, or the sides.
- Any object used in a staged fight for attack or defence.
- Weapons handler
- A person responsible for the maintenance and security of all weapons during the course of rehearsal and performance. The weapons handler should be a competent person as defined in the OHSA.
- All stage combats and stunts should be choreographed or arranged by a fight director. The fight director should have specific knowledge of the requested type of fight or stunt.
- The fight director should be consulted about the risk assessment, design and possible modification of the relevant physical elements (scenery, props, costumes – including headgear and masks – and weapons) for the production.
- When hiring performers for a part that involves stage combat, the employer should take into account the skill, training and physical limitations of the artists and engage those performers who are capable of the roles’ physical demands.
- The fight director should always take into account the skills, training and physical limitations of the individual artists when staging and coordinating all fights and stunts.
- When a fight director is not engaged for the duration of the production, a fight captain should be assigned to learn the fight staging and maintain it throughout the production.
- Fights and stunts should be given adequate rehearsal time and training for principal performers and understudies, such time requirements to be made in consultation with the fight director and/or fight captain.
- The actual weapons, props, costumes, headgear, masks, make-up (prosthetics), footwear and stunt equipment used in the fight or stunt should be made available to the artists to allow for adequate rehearsal time and for any necessary modifications.
- Rehearsal rooms should be of a size to allow for the safe execution of a stunt or fight.
- The risk of repetitive strain and bruise injuries should be minimized.
- There should be a fight run-through before each performance or run.
- Stunts and fights shall not be performed or rehearsed in an environment that could compromise the safety of the participant (e.g. temperature, weather, illumination, sound levels, etc.) (see sections 21, 129 and 139 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments).
- During fights and stunts, in order to ensure his or her safety, a performer’s vision should not be restricted. This should be considered for performances using masks, headgear, eyeglasses, lighting levels, and effects such as strobe lights.
- The floor surface should allow for safe footing for the performers, taking into account the needs of the production (see section 11 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments).
- Employers should also be aware of the requirements under Regulation 1101 (First Aid Requirements) of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 to provide and maintain First Aid supplies. Cold packs should be available.
- Employers should also be aware of the requirements under Regulation 1101 of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 to have a worker with First Aid training in charge of the first aid station. That worker should be available for all fight rehearsals and performances. Access to a telephone is essential.
Weapons – general
- Employers should ensure a protocol is established for the inspection, maintenance, handling, storage and transportation of weapons.
- Employers should maintain an inventory of the number and nature of weapons in its possession.
- Each weapon that is purchased, constructed, or modified should be photographed and added to an armoury inventory with a full description.
- Holsters, belts, and rigging equipment should be stored separately from the weapons.
- At no time should any weapon be accessible to members of the public.
- Risk assessments, both initial and ongoing, should consider all aspects of weapons in a production, including storage and use.
- Employers should ensure there is a weapons handler in any production where weapons are involved.
- The weapons handler may designate any necessary assistants and should be given adequate time to train them on the procedures they must follow.
- The only workers to handle the weapons should be the fight director, fight captain, or weapons handler or their assistants, and the performers who are to use them.
- Before rehearsals begin, the fight director should be responsible for the choice and safety of all weapons. In the absence of the fight director during the production, the weapons handler should be responsible for maintaining the safety of all weapons.
- Keys to weapons storage should be carried on the weapons handler’s person and should not be kept anywhere accessible, such as a desk drawer or hook on the wall.
- All weapons are dangerous. No one shall engage in horseplay while in possession of, or while using, any weapon (see clauses 28(2)(b) and 28(2)(c) of the OHSA).
- Only weapons specifically made and designed for stage combat or approved by the fight director should be used.
- All weapons should be appropriate for their use, properly maintained, and, if necessary, replaced.
- Additional weapons should be available as backup in case the original weapon malfunctions or breaks during rehearsal or performance. These backup weapons should be the same as the weapons they are replacing.
Weapons – firearms and replica firearms
- All workplace parties must comply with all legal requirements for the possession of firearms and replica firearms.
- Employers should be aware of licensing requirements under the Firearms Act. Please see the Canadian Firearms Program website for information on Possession and Acquisition Licenses (PAL) and Firearms Business Licenses.
- Employers should ensure a protocol is established for the inspection, maintenance, handling, storage and transportation of firearms and replica firearms.
- All firearms and replica firearms shall be secured in locked storage when not in use.
- Firearms should be treated as loaded at all times.
- Live ammunition must NEVER be used.
- The weapons handler should be the only worker responsible for the inspection, and loading and unloading, of the firearms in use.
- The fight director or weapons handler should test fire all firearms to determine the safe working distance.
- The weapons handler should fire firearms in the presence of all workers involved in the production to ensure an awareness of sound levels, safety considerations and potential dangers.
- The sound of gunshots is potentially dangerous to hearing. Section 139 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments requires the employer to take all measures reasonably necessary in the circumstances to protect workers from exposure to hazardous sound levels (see also the Sound Levels Guideline).
- Firearms and replica firearms should be set out separately and clearly marked, so that one cannot be mistaken for the other.
- Workers not involved in the loading process should be kept away from the loading space.
- Once a firearm is loaded, it should be kept under constant supervision.
- Once a loaded firearm is set on a props table, it should be identified in some way to warn users that it is live.
- Firearms should be loaded as close to their "entrance" or firing time as practicable.
- Care should be taken to avoid flying objects such as the ejection of spent cartridges, especially from automatic and semi-automatic firearms. Spent cases can be hot and travel several metres (see sections 80 to 82 and 84 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments which set out the circumstances under which a worker is required to wear personal protective equipment).
- A procedure should be in place, in the event of a misfire, hang fire or jam, to deal with the immediate problem in performance (e.g. a back-up firearm offstage). The firearm and ammunition should then be checked and made safe. If the worker handling the firearm is not sure what is causing the problem, the firearm should be taken out of use until the cause can be determined.
- Never fire a firearm with dirt, sand or any foreign blockage in the barrel, venting or cylinders. Never put a firearm down in such a way that dirt or sand might cause a blockage.
- Open flame or sparks should not be permitted in any area where ammunition or powder is stored, and appropriate signs should be posted.
- Under no circumstances should the vent of a firearm be directed at anyone.
- Safe lanes and directions should be maintained at all times when firing a firearm.
- All workers with the production should be notified that firearms will be fired.
- During rehearsal, all workers in the vicinity should be warned when there is to be a run with live firearms.
- Firearms should be proofed before loading.
- Firearms should be unloaded and proofed before storing.
- Firearms should have a trigger lock in place when in storage.
Weapons – bladed
- All bladed weapons should be secured in locked storage when not in use.
- All bladed weapons should have their points and blades made safe, including the removal of nicks and burrs (see also section 84 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments).
- All handles and grips should provide a secure hold under fight conditions.
- Retractable bladed weapons do not always retract and should not be used. A retractable blade may be an acceptable option where the action is slow, deliberate, and self-directed (and may be easily aborted), or where the target is an inanimate object. In such cases, extra care should be taken.
- Each performer should use the same bladed weapon in all rehearsals, performances and fight run-throughs.
- Performers should check their own bladed weapons prior to the performance in the presence of the weapons handler.
- A back-up plan should be in place in the event of a bladed weapon breaking during performance. If a bladed weapon does break, do not continue the fight with that bladed weapon.
Call 1-877-202-0008 anytime to report critical injuries, fatalities or work refusals. For general inquiries about workplace health and safety and to report potentially unsafe work conditions, call 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. In an emergency, always call 911 immediately.
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