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Part I: Occupational Health and Safety Act and Health and Safety Measures

  • Revised: February 5, 2016
  • Content last reviewed: February 2016

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.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) regulates health and safety in workplaces by establishing rights and duties for the various participants in the workplace, such as employers, supervisors, workers, directors and officers, and owners of workplaces. In entertainment industry workplaces, Ministry of Labour inspectors will enforce the requirements of the OHSA and the relevant regulations, such as the Regulations for Industrial Establishments, Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), Construction Projects, and Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training.

Child performers have the same protections and rights under the OHSA and its regulations as any other worker. The employer must fulfill his or her duties with respect to a child performer during the time he or she is in the workplace.

A. Application of OHSA to Child Performers

Three employer responsibilities that are particularly important to child performers are summarized below. A worker’s right to refuse unsafe work is also discussed below.

General Duty

Under clause 25(2)(h) of the OHSA, the employer is required to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. No child performer shall be required to do work activities or to work in an environment where the child’s health or safety may be endangered.

Duty to Provide Supervision to Protect Health or Safety

Under clause 25(2)(a) of the OHSA, the employer must provide supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker. The adult supervision provided to a child performer should be appropriate to the risk level present in the workplace, and to the age(s) and number of child performers.

The job title of the person assigned to supervise a child performer may differ, depending on the type of production. A person who qualifies as a supervisor under the OHSA has legal duties with respect to workers, including child performers.

Duty to Provide Information and Instruction to Protect Health or Safety

Under clause 25(2)(a) of the OHSA, the employer must provide information and instruction to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker. Under clause 25(2)(d) of the OHSA, the employer must acquaint a worker or a person in authority over a worker with any hazard in the work.

Therefore, a child performer (or a person in authority over a child performer) must be acquainted with any hazards associated with the specific activities that he or she will be expected to perform.

In addition, a child performer must be given adequate instruction and rehearsal time (i.e. repeated as necessary) for the specific activities he or she is to perform, to protect his or her health or safety.

Right to Refuse Work

Under subsection 43(3) of the OHSA, a worker has the right to refuse work that he or she believes is likely to endanger himself, herself, or another worker.

The PCPA, in section 24, specifies that if the worker is a child performer who is under 14 years of age, for the purposes of sections 43(3) to 43(10) of the OHSA, “worker” includes a child performer’s parent, guardian, or chaperone.

B. Health and Safety Measures

The measures outlined in this section are intended to assist employers and supervisors in the entertainment industry in complying with their legal duties under the OHSA and its regulations re: information, instruction, and training; and taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect child performers.

Ministry of Labour inspectors are provided with the Child Performers Guideline. Inspectors may look to the measures in this section as reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of child performers, or may require different measures depending on the specific circumstances of a situation.

Information, Instruction, and Supervision

As outlined above, there are requirements in the OHSA to provide information, instruction and supervision to a child performer to protect his or her health or safety and to acquaint a child performer (or a person in authority over the child performer) with any hazard in the work. It is recommended that a child performer’s parent, guardian or chaperone should also be given the same information about hazards to help the parent, guardian or chaperone to protect the child performer.

A child performer must be given information and instruction on the measures and procedures regarding any hazard or to perform any activity safely. This should be given:

  • before the child performer does that work or activity and/or before rehearsing or performing any new or amended scene;
  • when repetition is appropriate to remind a child performer of the measures and procedures; or
  • when there are any additional hazards identified due to changes in the work environment or changes in the specific activities to be performed.

Depending on the circumstances, others charged with the care of a child performer (such as a child performers’ co-ordinator, child attendant, or tutor) should receive the same information and instruction.

The requirements for basic occupational health and safety awareness training under O. Reg. 297/13 (Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training), made under the OHSA, apply to all workers, including child performers. The regulation requires that an employer ensure that the child performer has completed a training program that covers the topics set out in subsection 1(3) of the regulation. The employer must ensure that the awareness training provided to child performers is adequate and appropriate for their age.

The Ministry of Labour has developed basic occupational health and safety awareness training programs that can be used to comply with the awareness training requirements. For more information, please see Health and Safety Awareness Training for Workers and Supervisors. The programs are available as printable workbooks or as online e-learning modules. Employers may also develop their own programs.

It may be helpful to have a parent or other adult available during completion of the training to help ensure that the child performer understands the concepts and content covered by the program.

In addition to the OHSA requirement for information, instruction, and training, the PCPA has additional training and disclosure requirements. Please see Part II of this guideline for additional disclosure and training requirements under the PCPA.

Special Skills Activities

As outlined earlier in this guideline, no child performer shall be required to do work activities or to work in an environment where the child’s health or safety may be endangered.

The PCPA has rules around disclosure of special skills activities to parents or guardians. Please see Part II for more details.

No child performer should undertake a special skills activity unless he/she is qualified to perform the activity, or has been trained in the skills needed to perform the activity safely. A child performer must be given instruction, and should be given sufficient time for walkthrough(s) and/or rehearsal for any special skills activity to be performed.

When a child performer is to carry out a special skill in an environment or in circumstances that heighten the risk levels associated with that special skill, a risk assessment should be carried out and measures developed to protect the child performer, taking into account age, impulsiveness, and skill level.

Hand Props, Costumes, Make-up, Wigs and Hair Products

The age and size of a child performer should be taken into account in all stages of design, purchase, construction and use of hand props, wigs, and costumes. Costumes should be designed to avoid slipping or tripping hazards, or items that might catch or become entangled, such as belts or straps.

The size of hand props to be used by a child performer under the age of three, or an older child who still puts small objects into his or her mouth, should be in accordance with the consumer products safety requirements of Health Canada.

The jewellery used by a child performer should be in accordance with the consumer products safety requirements of Health Canada.

Information on a child performer’s skin sensitivities should be collected before the child performer is provided with or exposed to costumes, jewellery, make-up, wigs, or hair products.

Make-up and hair care products provided to a child performer should be chosen with regard to the age and skin sensitivity of the child.

The person providing a child performer with costumes, jewellery, make-up, wigs, or hair products should check for negative skin reactions, as appropriate.

Vehicles (on public roads, closed roads and private property)

The employer must provide supervision to a child performer to protect his or her health and safety (clause 25(2)(a) of the OHSA), including travelling while at work (e.g. travel between sets or driving scenes). The employer should ensure that drivers hold valid licences appropriate to the vehicle being driven, that they operate the vehicles in accordance with the law, and that the vehicles are safe to operate.

A child performer who travels as part of the workday must be safely seated in the vehicle, and properly secured by a seatbelt or the appropriate child restraint system in accordance with the Regulation for Seat Belt Assemblies (Reg. 613) under the Highway Traffic Act. The same types of seatbelt or child restraint systems should be used when taxis are hired.

A child performer who performs in a moving vehicle must be safely seated in the vehicle. When on public roads, a child performer shall be properly secured by a restraint system in accordance with the Regulation for Seat Belt Assemblies (Reg. 613) under the Highway Traffic Act. Where the performance is taking place on private property or on a road that has been closed for filming, and where it is not possible to secure a child performer in this manner (for example in period cars, wagons, sleighs, etc.), a risk assessment should be carried out and all reasonable precautions taken to protect the safety of the child.

Atmospheric Effects, including Smoke and Fog

A child performer’s exposure to atmospheric effects should be avoided. If atmospheric effects, including smoke or fog, must be used, the child performer’s exposure should be minimized by limiting the time of their exposure, using the lowest concentration possible, and by using the least toxic or irritating product possible.

Infant or child performers with respiratory problems such as asthma or reactive airway disorders should not be exposed to smoke or fog at any time. For general guidance on the use of special effect smoke and fog, please see Smoke Inhalation Guidelines, Safety Guidelines for the Film and Television Industry in Ontario or Fog and Smoke, Safety Guidelines for the Live Performance Industry in Ontario.

Exposure to Tobacco Smoke

The Smoke-Free Ontario Act must be complied with at workplace venues.

At sets or venues where smoking is legally permitted under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, a child performer’s exposure to tobacco smoke should be avoided. If tobacco or a tobacco-substitute must be used, the child performer’s exposure should be minimized by limiting the time of exposure and by using the lowest concentration of smoke possible.

No person may smoke tobacco or hold lighted tobacco in an enclosed workplace, including a motor vehicle if it is part of the workplace (for example, if it is used as a prop or for a driving scene). No person may smoke or have lighted tobacco in a motor vehicle while another person who is less than 16 years old is present in the vehicle, which would include travelling to and from work.

All infant performers and child performers with respiratory problems such as asthma or reactive airway disorders should not be exposed to the smoke of tobacco or of a tobacco substitute at any time.

Open Flames

This section refers to open flames from such sources as candles, torches, campfires, and fireplaces. It does not deal with open flames that are associated with stunts. Alternatives to open flame should be seriously considered whenever there is a child performer present.

Extra care should be taken to protect a child performer from fire. Where open flame is permitted and will be used, a risk assessment should be carried out and measures developed to protect the child performer, taking into account his or her age and impulsiveness. Precautions include having fire extinguishers available (and identified people that are trained to use them), providing additional adult supervision, designing costumes with no trailing or dangling parts, and using materials that are flame resistant or treated with a flame retardant that is suitable for use on children’s clothing. Any trim or decoration applied to the costume after treatment with flame retardant should also be made of flame resistant materials or be treated with fire retardant.

Where open flame is permitted and will be used, a child performer (or any person in authority over the child performer) shall be acquainted with any of the hazards associated with open flame and instructed in the measures and procedures required to work safely. It is recommended that the parent, guardian or chaperone should also be acquainted with any of the hazards, measures and procedures associated with working safely with open flame.

Pyrotechnics, Explosives, and other Special Effects

Alternatives to pyrotechnics, explosives, and other special effects should be seriously considered whenever there is a child performer present.

Extra care should be taken to protect a child performer from pyrotechnics, explosives, and other special effects. Where such special effects are permitted and will be used, a risk assessment should be carried out and measures developed to protect the child performer, taking into account his or her age and impulsiveness.

Where pyrotechnics, explosives, and other special effects are permitted and will be used, a child performer (or a person in authority over the child performer) shall be acquainted with any of the hazards associated with the special effects and instructed in the measures and procedures required to work safely. It is recommended that the parent, guardian or chaperone should also be acquainted with any of the hazards, measures and procedures associated with working safely with pyrotechnics, explosives, and other special effects.

Working around Animals

Where animals are to be used in a production, extra care should be taken to protect child performers. A risk assessment should be carried out and measures developed to protect child performers, taking into account their ages and impulsiveness.

Where animals are at the workplace, a child performer (or a person in authority over the child performer) shall be acquainted with any of the hazards associated with the animals and instructed in the measures and procedures required to work safely. It is recommended that the parent, guardian or chaperone should be acquainted with any of the hazards, measures and procedures associated with working safely around animals. Please see the Safety Guidelines for the Live Performance Industry in Ontario or the Safety Guidelines for the Film and Television Industry in Ontario for more information on working with animals.

Work Outdoors

Child performers should be protected from high heat and humidity. In particular, infants and pre-school children are at risk in conditions of high heat and high humidity. In such conditions, precautions include providing a cool (and if possible, an air conditioned) area for rest periods, adequate hydration, and wearing costumes, headgear, and footwear that take weather conditions into account.

Child performers should be protected from cold. In such conditions, precautions include providing a warm area for rest periods, and using costumes, headgear, and footwear that take weather conditions into account.

Child performers who are working outdoors should avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight. When UV levels are high, precautions include providing shaded areas for rest periods, using sunscreen formulated for children with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, wearing sunglasses, and wearing clothing such as sun hats and tightly-woven clothing that covers as much of the body as is practicable.

Where mosquitoes or other biting insects may be present, a risk assessment should be carried out and measures taken to minimize the exposure of child performers. Precautions include wearing protective clothing (such as light-coloured clothing with long sleeves and legs), eliminating standing water at the workplace, using an effective insect repellent that is recommended for the age of the child by Health Canada, and providing respite areas for rest periods.

For more information on health and safety precautions at outdoor productions, please see Outdoor Venues, Safety Guidelines for the Live Performance Industry in Ontario.

Water Safety

Where performances are to take place on or in the water, or at the water’s edge, extra care must be taken to protect a child performer. A risk assessment should be carried out and measures developed to protect the child performers. Work in fast-flowing currents and transfers between vessels/small craft are particularly hazardous situations.

A child performer shall be adequately instructed in the safety precautions to be taken when working on or in the water, or beside the water. It is recommended that the parent, guardian or chaperone should be acquainted with any of the hazards, measures and procedures associated with working safely around water.

All child performers working on or in the water, or at the water’s edge, should be strong swimmers, or should wear the appropriate water safety devices, such as personal flotation devices. Qualified life-saving personnel and equipment (such as safety boats) should be available for the duration of the production activity.

Costumes should be designed to avoid slipping or tripping hazards, or items that might catch or become entangled, such as belts and straps. The weight of the costume should be taken into account when choosing personal flotation devices.

When working in water, the water temperature should be taken into consideration when considering the length of time to be spent in the water and any protective items needed. Post-immersion washing facilities should be available and used.

If the workplace is an industrial establishment as defined in section 1 of the OHSA, then the employer shall comply with section 86 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments (Regulation 851), made under OHSA. Section 86 sets out requirements where a worker is exposed to the hazard of falling into liquid that is of sufficient depth for a life jacket to be effective as protection from the risk of drowning. In these situations an alarm system and rescue equipment appropriate for the circumstances, are required to ensure the worker’s rescue. In addition the worker must wear a life jacket or the employer must develop written measures and procedures to prevent a worker from drowning and shall implement them.

For further information, please see the Safety Guidelines for the Film and Television Industry in Ontario.

Toys and Playrooms

The size of toys and games used by child performers under the age of three, or older children who are still putting small objects into their mouths, must comply with the consumer products safety requirements of Health Canada.

A separate, childproofed playroom should be provided for child performers aged two to five, where feasible. The equipment and furnishings in the playroom should be maintained in a safe and clean condition and kept in a good state of repair.

Other Precautions

Where a child performer works directly or indirectly with the equipment or in the situations such as those listed below, in addition to complying with any applicable requirements under the OHSA or its regulations, a risk assessment should be carried out and measures developed to protect the child performer, taking into account his or her age, physical size, and impulsiveness.

  • Stage combat and weaponry, including firearms
  • Scenery, equipment or devices that are electrical, mobile or automated
  • Exposure to high levels of sound
  • Working at heights
  • Performer flying in the live performance industry

Additionally, the employer should take any appropriate steps to minimize the exposure of child performers to any contagious illnesses.

Care of Infant Performers

In addition to the health and safety measures in this guideline that apply to child performers, this section outlines additional health and safety measures that should be taken when infant performers are at a workplace.

The PCPA establishes a minimum age of 15 days for the recorded entertainment industry, and two and a half years for the live performance industry.

Trailer holding tanks should not be pumped while the infant is present or immediately prior to the infant performer’s arrival. The trailer should be well ventilated prior to the arrival of the infant.

Hands should be washed before and after handling infants and after changing diapers.

Permission should be obtained from the parent prior to applying any substance to an infant’s skin. When substances are used for altering an infant’s appearance, provisions should be made for bathing the infant. The person providing an infant performer with costumes, jewellery, make-up, wigs, or hair products should check for negative skin reactions, as appropriate.

Substances that commonly cause allergic reactions should not be used to alter the appearance of the infant’s skin, unless their use is specifically pre-approved by a medical doctor. Allergenic substances include, but are not limited to: raspberry or strawberry jams, jellies and preserves, glycerine, lubricating jellies and cosmetics.

Infants under the age of six months should not be exposed to direct sunlight.

Once costumes and hand props have been issued for use on/with an infant, the costume and hand props should not be reissued for another infant before laundering the wardrobe and disinfecting props.

A separate, sanitary, private, and warm room should be provided where the infant performer may play, eat, and rest. If the infant is mobile, the room should be childproofed.

Infant accessories, such as basinets, cribs, changing tables, toys and games must meet the consumer products safety requirements of Health Canada. They should be sanitized at the time of delivery to the workplace and on a regular basis. Infant accessories should not be exchanged from one infant to another without first having been sanitized. Bottles, nipples and pacifiers should never be exchanged among infants.

An infant performer diagnosed with a contagious illness should not be permitted to work until the infant’s doctor gives him or her clearance to work in writing.

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Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.