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Outdoor Venues
Safety Guideline for the Live Performance Industry in Ontario

  • Issued: August 2005
  • Revised: November 2016
  • Content last reviewed: November 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.

Introduction

Although weather and environmental conditions present challenges to performances taking place outdoors, outdoor sites are workplaces and must abide by the health and safety requirements set out in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the applicable regulations.

Definitions: general

These definitions are provided for clarity and guidance only and, unless otherwise noted, are not definitions found under the OHSA or its regulations.

Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)
An organization, office, or person responsible for enforcing legislation, the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure. This includes the local fire department and the Technical Standards & Safety Authority (TSSA); see definitions below.
Competent Person
As defined in the Subsection 1(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act: “A person who, (a) is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance, (b) is familiar with this Act and the regulations that apply to the work, and (c) has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace.”
Weather Watch
An alert that meteorological conditions may result in the development of severe weather.
Weather Advisory
An alert that actual or expected weather conditions may cause general inconvenience or concern, but do not pose a serious enough threat to warrant a weather warning.
Weather Warning
An alert that severe weather is occurring or that hazardous weather is highly probable.
Wind Speed
  1. Light (20 km/h or less)
  2. Moderate (21-35 km/h)
  3. Strong/windy (36-61 km/h)
  4. Very strong/gales (62-87 km/h)
  5. Very strong/storm force (88-117 km/h)
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada - Weather and Meteorology - Glossary

Definitions: working in hot conditions

Acclimatization
The physiological changes which occur in response to several days of heat exposure and make the body accustomed to a hot environment.
Heat Exhaustion
A condition caused by heat stress. Symptoms include weakness, lassitude, visual disturbance, feeling of intense thirst and heat, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, tingling and numbness of extremities.
Heat Strain
The body’s physiological response to heat stress.
Heat Stress
The load that heat puts on the body through the environment and activity.
Heat Stroke
It is the most serious condition of heat stress and requires immediate medical attention. The body temperature becomes very high (even exceeding 41 degrees Celsius). Sweating is not a good indicator of heat stress as there are two types of heat stroke – “classical” where there is little or no sweating and “extertional” where body temperature rises because of strenuous work and sweating is usually present.
Humidex
Humidex is used as a measure of perceived heat that results from the combined effect of excessive humidity and high temperature. It provides a number that describes how hot people feel, much in the same way that “wind chill factor” describes how cold people feel.
Humidex Advisory
In southern Ontario a Humidex Advisory is issued when two consecutive days of daytime maximum temperatures are expected to reach 31°C or more and nighttime minimum temperatures are expected to fall to 20°C or more.

Or, when two consecutive days of humidex values are expected to reach 40 or more. The criteria varies slightly for the northern and extreme south west areas of the province. Region specific information can be accessed at Environment and Climate Change Canada - Public Alerting Criteria.

Additional information:
Humidex Table
Environment and Climate Change Canada publishes a humidex table providing humidex comfort level readings for relative humidity at various temperatures.

Definitions: working in cold conditions

Acclimatization
The development of resistance to, or tolerance for, an environmental change. With few exceptions, such as fishermen, people do not acclimatize well to cold.
Chilblains
A mild cold injury caused by prolonged and repeated exposure for several hours to air temperatures from freezing to as high as 16°C. The affected skin area will have redness, swelling, tingling and pain.
Freezing Injuries
Injuries caused by exposure to temperatures below 0°C. The lower the temperature, the shorter the exposure time necessary to cause injury.
Frost Bite
Injury caused by exposure to extreme cold or by contact with extremely cold objects. It occurs when tissue temperature falls below the freezing point or when blood flow is obstructed. In mild cases symptoms include inflammation of the skin in patches accompanied by slight pain. In severe cases there could be tissue damage without pain, or there could be burning or prickling sensations resulting in blisters.
Hypothermia
The most severe cold injury, which occurs from excessive loss of body heat and the consequent lowering of the inner core temperature, usually to below 33ºC. Symptoms include a sensation of cold followed by pain in exposed parts of the body, followed by a diminishing of pain because of increasing numbness. Next, muscular weakness and drowsiness occur. Additional symptoms of hypothermia include interruption of shivering, diminished consciousness and dilated pupils.
Wind Chill Temperature
The combined effect of cold air and wind speed is expressed as “wind chill” temperature in degrees Celsius. It is essentially the air temperature that would feel the same on exposed human flesh as the given combination of air temperature and wind speed. See the wind chill chart from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Additional information:

Preparation and planning

  1. In the early stages of planning and design, tactics for dealing with different weather conditions should be considered and tested. Such measures might include layering or adding protective clothing against the cold, wearing hot-weather costumes, amending fight choreography for hot weather or wet playing surfaces, protecting musical instruments, changing performance times, performing a staged reading, eliminating repertoire, or using a different venue (OHSA clause 25 (2)(h)).
  2. In the early stages of planning and design, ensure that all equipment, including back-up lighting, fans, heaters and shelter, is appropriate for use in extreme weather conditions and power failure (OHSA clause 25 (1)(b)).
  3. When planning the stage and audience locations, consider prevailing wind direction and sun position for both rehearsal and performance.
  4. Adequate lighting should be available for the workers’ safety and needs while performing the various activities in the workplace, keeping in mind changing light conditions throughout the day.
  5. Many environmental factors affect all outdoor workers and should be part of the daily checklist and the cancellation policy. These include not only temperature, wind and humidity but also radiant heat (sun, lights) and the nature of the worker's activity.
  6. The employer should create a policy for cancelling rehearsals and performances, including specific criteria, and for implementing one of the planned contingency measures. The policy should outline, but should not be limited to:
    • the circumstances under which a performance would be cancelled (lightning, rain, heat, cold, humidity, radiant heat, wind, air quality, weather watch, weather warning, weather alert, etc.);
    • who in management has the authority to make such a decision;
    • when to suspend the activity in severe weather;
    • how long to suspend the activity;
    • a notification process of audience and performers for cancellation of performance.
  7. The cancellation policy should be posted in a designated area available to all workers.
  8. If possible, a member of management with the authority to cancel should be present at every performance; otherwise, emergency phone numbers should be provided to the supervisor on site so that a member of the management can be contacted.
  9. The employer should assign at least one on-site health and safety officer or designate, who will be provided with a clearly defined set of responsibilities and authority for implementing any of the contingency measures (see paragraphs 6, 7 and 8 under the heading “Backstage”).
  10. There must be trained first aid personnel on site at all times, in accordance with Regulation 1101, First Aid Requirements, under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997.
  11. The employer should put in place emergency procedures for environment-related illnesses: heat exhaustion, heat stroke, frost bite, hypothermia, insect or animal bites, etc. These procedures should be discussed, and posted in the designated area.
  12. The employer should put in place a system to contact emergency personnel (fire, ambulance, police, etc.).
  13. If the employer has arrangements to keep emergency health and contact information, it should be kept in a confidential file on site so that it is quickly accessible to emergency personnel. Confidential medical information should be collected and maintained in a manner consistent with the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004.
  14. Check with the appropriate authority for information on grounds-keeping, evacuation procedures and venue lighting.

Prevention of heat stress

(adapted from Ministry of Labour’s Guideline on Heat Stress).

The legal requirements: “Employers have a duty under clause 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. This may include developing policies and procedures to protect workers in hot environments due to hot weather. In addition, to help facilitate compliance with the Act, the Ministry of Labour also recommends reference to the current edition of Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for Heat Stress and Heat Strain published by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) as a source of further information. These values are based on preventing unacclimatized workers' core temperatures from rising above 38°C.”

When there is a potential for exposure to heat stress, control measures must be taken to prevent heat exposure in the workplace. These include engineering controls, administrative controls and protective clothing. Selection of appropriate workplace controls will vary, depending on the type of workplace and other factors. Some measures may include:

  • Increase the frequency and length of rest breaks.
  • Provide cool drinking water near workers and remind them to drink a cup every twenty minutes or so.
  • Train workers to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stress and start a “buddy system”, since people are not likely to recognize their own symptoms.
  • Provide a cool (if possible, an air conditioned) area for rest periods.
  • Where hot weather conditions warrant, workers should be permitted to acclimatize themselves through progressively increased exposure to the heat. Heavy costumes can compound the risk of heat stress, and this should be taken into account when planning an acclimatization schedule.

    Alternatively, instead of reducing the exposure times to the hot job, allow workers to become acclimatized by reducing the physical demands of the job for a week or two.

Prevention of cold stress

The employer should implement a cold stress prevention program including the following:

  1. Train workers to recognize the signs and symptoms of non-freezing and freezing injuries, up to and including hypothermia, and start a “buddy system”, since people are not likely to recognize their own symptoms.
  2. Establish a monitoring method (e.g. acting on wind chill warnings or cold alert notices by Environment and Climate Change Canada). Length of time outdoors should be governed by temperature, humidity and wind. Breaks should be longer and more frequent when rehearsals are held outdoors. Rehearsals should alternate between indoors (e.g. discussion, character development) and outdoors (e.g. run-throughs, physical activities).
  3. Establish a warm-up schedule, provide warm shelter and institute a pace of work that avoids sitting or low activity.
  4. Provide warm sweet drinks and other liquids, such as soups, to increase caloric intake and prevent dehydration, which may increase the risk of cold injury.
  5. Avoid the use of hot-pack hand warmers, which can persuade workers they are warmer than their core temperature indicates.
  6. Care should be taken when handling metal objects. Avoid touching metal objects with damp skin.

Environment

  1. The health and safety officer appointed by the employer should have a daily checklist for weather conditions. The checklist should include temperature and relative humidity readings to determine humidex [1], temperature and wind readings to determine wind chill, radiant heat (sun, lights), work activities, and weather conditions. This checklist will be the basis on which decisions will be made for any changes to the day’s performance (see Preparation and Planning, #1).
  2. Workers should be advised of the presence of potential environmental allergens at the workplace, e.g. poison ivy, bees etc.
  3. Workers should inform the company as soon as possible about any environment-related allergies. Epi-pens, inhalers and similar medical equipment are the responsibility of the individual workers but should be kept easily accessible for their use. First aid personnel on site should be made aware of workers’ allergies and be familiar with the appropriate emergency response in the event of an incident or development of symptoms.
  4. Workers should be advised to bring any of the following, if necessary, to the outdoor venue: extra socks, scarves, gloves, mittens, warm hats, parkas, sun hats, insect repellent, sunscreen.
  5. Cleaning and maintenance of costumes, footwear and props should include inspection of items for outdoor hazards: for dead (or live) insects, bird droppings, etc.
  6. Costume and footwear designed for ease of movement should consider the actual non-traditional playing area, such as uneven terrain, grass, ice or snow.
  7. The weight of costume fabric should take into consideration the need for warmth or coolness.
  8. Costumes, including footwear, should be able to be modified for extreme weather conditions: layering in the cold; removing layers in the heat or humidity.
  9. Cold-weather costumes should constitute the top layer of clothing and should have adequate room for additional garments underneath. A second, dry, set of under garments should be available. Hats and gloves or mitts should always be part of the design.
  10. Costumes, including headgear, should be designed to allow the body the ability to cool or keep warm when necessary.
  11. Costumes should be stored to keep dry.
  12. The backstage, performance, and audience areas should be kept as clear as possible of animals. All droppings, animal hair and debris should be removed before rehearsals and performances.
  13. Bird droppings should be cleared from all walkways, performance areas, scaffolding and grid as soon as possible. Appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn by those doing the cleaning.
  14. In warm weather, grass should be mowed and raked to cut down on insects, and to help with absorption and evaporation. Mowing and raking should be done as early in the day as possible, as cut grass can trigger allergies.
  15. In cold weather, ensure walkways are free from ice and snow.
  16. Standing water should be drained.
  17. Any streams in the area should be checked for blockage to ensure a free flow. Contact the local AHJ for policy.
  18. The strength and direction of the wind should be taken into consideration when flame effects or pyrotechnics are used. The AHJ should be consulted for a fire safety plan for workers and audience members.

[1] Thermometers that measure both temperature and relative humidity are available at science stores.

Performance space

Please refer also to the guidelines for Temporary Performance/Event Structures and Electrical Safety, which were prepared to help workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the OHSA and its regulations related to the design, erection, use, dismantling and maintenance of temporary performance/event structures that are used outdoors and electrical issues that involve either the temporary elements of a show moving into a permanent facility, or the setup of a temporary performance venue respectively.

  1. Cables and wiring should be routed safely away from public areas. If this is not possible, the cables and wiring must be appropriately marked and protected to avoid damage and tripping hazards. In the event of rain or high humidity, all non-weatherproofed electrical and electronic equipment must be covered to prevent rain or moisture from entering the unit and ballast.
  2. Entrance and exit routes must be clearly identified, adequately illuminated and kept clear of obstructions. Where exit routes are located on uneven ground, temporary flooring or ramps, additional care should be taken to mark and illuminate the routes.
  3. All walkways - including performance areas, ramps, exit and entrance areas, paths to dressing rooms and washrooms - should be kept as dry as possible. Open walkways should be covered with material that will allow water to drain away and afford a non-slip surface. All ramps should be covered with a non-skid surface.
  4. The playing surface, including rakes, platforms and trapdoors, should be rendered safe for performances in wet, snowy or icy weather.
  5. In the case of deteriorating weather conditions (potential rain/wind storms, unexpected temperature change), all possible equipment, including heaters, fans, back-up lighting, and shelters, should be available for the comfort, health and safety of workers.
  6. Wing space should be wide enough, and kept dry and sheltered, for dancers to change into their dance shoes.

Backstage

  1. In all temperatures, cool drinking water should be provided. In cold temperatures, workers should be encouraged to snack frequently.
  2. In hot weather, the dressing rooms should be air-conditioned. If air conditioning is not possible, dressing rooms should have extractor fans to reduce humidity.
  3. In cold weather the dressing rooms should be heated and include toilet facilities. If toilet facilities are separate, they should be as close as possible to the dressing rooms.
  4. The distance from the dressing rooms to the playing area should be kept to a minimum.
  5. The total number of washrooms should be at least that specified by the current edition of the Ontario Building Code. Washrooms should be cleaned and maintained regularly. Where suitable water is not available for wash-up, an alcohol-based hand cleaner should be made available.
  6. If possible, showers should be provided.
  7. A telephone or cell phone should be available to the designated on-site health and safety officer for the purpose of contacting management or calling 911.
  8. A first aid area should be provided with a cot, and a quiet, protected area for resting.
  9. The first aid box must include the items required by Regulation 1101. The first aid box should also include cold and heat packs.
  10. In cold weather, workers should be able to perform costume and set changes while wearing gloves or mittens.
  11. For cold-weather productions, props should be sturdy, not intricate or fragile, so that they can be handled with mittens.

Concert performances

  1. All stage areas should be stable and level.
  2. Where applicable, the employer should provide proper, stable seating for each performer in the form of a well-maintained chair of medium to low height with a flat back and a level seat.
  3. Performers should be provided a stage or equivalent structure on which to perform. As most musicians would be seated in chairs, they should not be seated directly on unsupported plywood sheets, which could be located on grass, dirt, straw, gravel, or other non-stage surfaces.
  4. Measures should be taken to prevent chairs and other equipment from tipping or running off the edge of the stage or equivalent structure.
  5. Music stands, instrument stands and microphone stands must be in good condition, and must be anchored or weighted in case of gusting winds.
  6. Entrance/exit stairs to and from any performance platform must have a handrail and should be wide enough for musicians to carry their instruments.
  7. Lighting at an adequate reading level should be provided. In the event that the existing ambient light may fall below reading level, two 40-watt stand lights (or the equivalent) should be made available, upon request, to those musicians affected.
  8. Lighting for safe passage to and from the stage must be provided.
  9. Sound shields should be stabilized and secured against gusting winds.

Venue security

  1. The employer should have a procedure to deal with intruders.
  2. The backstage area, including dressing rooms and toilet facilities – and the routes between these areas and the performance space – should be secured from public access. Where this is not possible, a buddy system should be implemented. No one should work alone.
  3. Adequate lighting should be available backstage.

Vehicles

  1. Any vehicles or motorized equipment used in performance must have a qualified driver or operator.
  2. Ground over which the vehicle or motorized equipment is to be driven should be checked for obstructions.
  3. The vehicle or motorized equipment should be regularly taken for a trial run to test the ground, particularly after a rainfall.
  4. The driver/operator should adjust the speed of the vehicle to reflect the ground conditions.
  5. There should be adequate rehearsal time for any stunts, such as jumping from a stationary or moving vehicle.

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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.