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Guideline No. 9: Smoke and Fog | Safety Guidelines for the Film and Television Industry in Ontario

  • ISBN: 978-1-4249-9952-1
  • Issued: November 1990
  • Revised: June 2009
  • Content last reviewed: March 2011

Smoke and Fog

Definitions (provided for convenience)

Both smoke and fog are suspensions of solid particles or liquid droplets in air. Each may be accompanied by one or more gases.

Smoke
For the purposes of this document the term smoke will refer to a suspension that rises, expanding indefinitely.
Fog
For the purposes of this document the term fog will refer to a suspension that falls, being heavier than air. This includes smoke that has been chilled.
MSDS
Supplier Material Safety Data Sheet that provides comprehensive information on a WHMIS controlled product, relating to its handling, storage, use and known health effects.

Regulatory Requirements for Chemicals

Regulation 833, R.R.O. 1990, entitled Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents and Regulation 860, R.R.O. 1990, Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System WHMIS) apply to all the chemicals used for fog and smoke such as glycols, dry ice, liquid nitrogen, etc. Regulation 833 prescribes limits for exposure of workers to biological or chemical agents. Exposure is to be controlled using engineering controls, work practices, hygiene facilities and practices, and in certain situations personal protective equipment. WHMIS is designed to give employers and workers information about hazardous materials used in the workplace. Under WHMIS, there are three ways in which information on hazardous materials is to be provided:

  • labels on the container of hazardous materials (sections 8 – 16);
  • material safety data sheets to supplement the label with detailed hazard and precautionary information (sections 17 – 25); and
  • worker education (sections 6 and 7).

General Guidelines

  1. When creating smoke on any set, the Producer(s) should use the lowest concentration needed to achieve the desired effect.
  2. Only fog/smoke products that have a Supplier Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that meet WHMIS requirements should be used.
  3. Some products use proprietary formulas, concealing the identity and proportion of ingredients. Products whose MSDSs clearly identify the chemical ingredients with precautions in safe handling (subject to requirements of the Regulation) should be preferred.
  4. Fog/smoke products should be used exactly as the manufacturer directs and should not be altered in any way such as by adding dyes, fragrances or additional chemicals. Coloured fog can be achieved with coloured light.
  5. Fog/smoke generating machines should be used and maintained in good condition as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
  6. Fog/smoke generating machines or other sources should be located to minimize exposure to the concentrated smoke or fog as it is created.
  7. Fog/smoke outlets should be located well out of traffic areas. Residue can be tracked well beyond the area of use and may create a slipping hazard (see Regulation 851, Industrial Establishments, section 11(a)).
  8. When smoke is created on an interior set, the stage should be periodically ventilated or exhausted, vertically and laterally. All personnel and animals should be given a break away from the stage at appropriate intervals.
  9. The location’s regular first aid and emergency plan should include procedures for severe reactions to fog and smoke.
  10. Prior to workers' engagement for any production with fog/smoke effects, the workers should be told the type of chemical fog/smoke product that will be used. The MSDS on the fog/smoke shall be available to workers on request prior to engagement and workers shall be given instruction/training on safe handling and use of the chemicals as per Regulation 860 .
  11. High-risk individuals should not be exposed to smoke and fog. This group includes, but is not limited to, children, people with severe lung problems and/or asthma, and pregnant women.
  12. When creating smoke on interior sets, the Producer(s) shall provide, and require the use of respirators, approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), for all exposed workers, when circumstances warrant. Respirators shall be appropriate as to provide protection from all possible contaminants produced (i.e. dusts, mists, gases and vapours). Check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to determine the required type of respirator (as per section 7.2(2) of Regulation 833).
  13. All persons wearing respirators shall be fit tested (to ensure that the respirator forms an effective seal with the face) and receive training to understand how to use the respirator properly.
  14. Persons should not be assigned to tasks requiring use of respirators unless they are physically able to perform the work and use the equipment. Workers required to wear respirators who experience breathing difficulty while using respirators should be referred to a physician for evaluation.
  15. Exposure to fog and smoke during strenuous physical activity should be minimized.
  16. Individuals who experience adverse reactions to fog or smoke exposure should be immediately removed to a well-ventilated area and the location’s first aid or emergency providers should be notified.
  17. If an adverse reaction occurs, the occurrence should be investigated by the departmental supervisor, stage manager and/or shop steward.
  18. A written report of the findings should be made to the Joint Health and Safety Committee or Health and Safety Representative, and appropriate labour and management associations. The individual experiencing the reaction should be given a copy of this report.
  19. Note: Under the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 a person has the right to consent to how personal health information will be collected, used and shared.

  20. When smoke or fog are created and used on any interior set, all non-essential personnel should be removed from the area. All dressing rooms and/or tutoring areas should be located separately or such areas, if nearby, should be vacated.
  21. When utilizing smoke in an interior set or location, the Producer(s) shall provide a means to exhaust, or ventilate the set as required by section 127 of Reg. 851.
  22. When creating a fire on an exterior location, the Producer(s) shall exercise all reasonable precautions (as per 25(2)(h) of OHSA ) to prevent fire and smoke inhalation and should make respirators available upon request. Such respirators shall be appropriate to deal with exterior smoke (as per section 7.2(2) of Regulation 833).
  23. When smoke is scheduled to be created on any set, prior notification as to use and type should be given to all personnel. Whenever possible, the call sheet should state that smoke is to be used and the person responsible for providing respirators shall be designated.
  24. The use of any substances known to be carcinogenic should be banned (i.e. fuller’s earth, benzene smokes, and burning rubber tires).

Substances That Should Not Be Used:

  1. Known human carcinogens, including any particulates of combustion and tobacco smoke (except where such smoke results from the smoking of tobacco by an actor in a scene);
  2. Fumed and hydrolyzed chlorides;
  3. Ethylene glycol, Diethylene glycol, Tripropylene glycol and Triethylene glycol;
  4. Mineral oils;
  5. Aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons including petroleum distillates; and
  6. Hexachloroethane and Cyclohexylamine.

Substances That May Be Used:

  1. Propylene glycol, Butylene glycol and Polyethylene glycol other than Triethylene glycol. Other glycol products should not be used (see above);
  2. Glycerine products [Caution: Glycerine and the listed glycol products should not be heated beyond the minimum temperature necessary to aerosolize the fluid. In no event should glycerine or glycol be heated above their decomposition temperature 290 °C (554 °F)]; and
  3. Cryogenic gases (i.e. carbon dioxide, liquid nitrogen) may be used but care must be exercised to avoid depleting oxygen levels, especially enclosed areas. Use care to avoid adverse effects of cooled air on exposed persons.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are to be acquired and consulted by workers prior to and during the use of these products. All MSDS for any of the above materials are to be available on set, and to the cast and crew, while said products are in use (as per section 7 of Regulation 860).

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