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Hand Props, Costumes and Make-Up
Safety Guideline for the Live Performance Industry in Ontario

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

This Guideline deals with the use and handling of props, costumes and make-up during rehearsal and performance.

Definitions

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.

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 and Safety Authority (TSSA).
Costume
Any article, including footwear, masks, wigs and headgear, that is worn, not carried or handled, by the performer. This includes any weapon (firearm or blade) that is worn as opposed to being handled or used.
Fire retardant (flame retardant)
A substance that helps to delay or prevent combustion. In general, fire retardants reduce the flammability of materials by either blocking the fire physically or by initiating a chemical reaction that stops the fire. Since no material can be made "fire proof", the term should not be used as it gives a false sense of security.
Flame resistance
The characteristic of any material that can prevent it from igniting. Flame resistance works regardless of whether the source of ignition is flaming or non-flaming, and whether the source of ignition remains in place or is removed.
Hand Prop
Any article that is carried or handled, not worn, by the performer. This includes any weapon (firearm or blade) that is handled or used.
Hazardous product
Means any product, mixture, material or substance that is classified in accordance with the Hazardous Products Regulations (Canada) in a category or subcategory of a hazard class listed in Schedule 2 to the Hazardous Products Act (Canada).
Hazardous Products Regulations (Canada)
Means the Hazardous Products Regulations, SOR/2015-17, made under the Hazardous Products Act (Canada).

General props, costume and make-up guidelines

  1. The safety of the performers and others who handle props, costumes and make-up should be taken into account in all stages of their design, purchase, construction, repair, maintenance and use. Consideration should be given to the safe integration of hand props and costumes with the other elements of the production, including scenery, lighting, sound and the performance venue.
  2. The age, size and physical fitness of the performers should be taken into account in all stages of design, purchase, construction and use of hand props and costumes.
  3. The responsibility for the construction, care and maintenance of individual items should be clearly assigned by the employer to a designated individual or designated team of individuals.
  4. Items constructed for a production should not be used without the maker’s instructions for care and maintenance.
  5. Solvents in paints, dyes, adhesives, etc. used in construction should be allowed to evaporate completely before the costume or prop comes into contact with crew or performers. Solvents are often flammable liquids. Flammable liquids must be stored in sealed containers. An area where flammable liquids are dispensed must be adequately ventilated. Equipment used to dispense flammable liquid must be grounded and bonded (Regulation for Industrial Establishments, Reg. 851 sections 22 and 23).
  6. Solvents should not be used for cleaning if at all possible. Use non-solvent-based stain and make-up removers. If solvents are used in cleaning they should be allowed to evaporate before coming into contact with wardrobe crew and performers and the article should be aired sufficiently before fittings. See flammable liquid comments in section 5 above (Regulation for Industrial Establishments, Reg. 851 sections 22 and 23).
  7. Props and costumes should be checked regularly for wear or damage and repaired or replaced when necessary.
  8. Performers should inform the person(s) responsible as early as possible of any repairs needed to maintain the safety of a costume or prop (OHSA clause 28 (1)(d)).
  9. Performers should be given adequate instruction and rehearsal time to become accustomed to all props and costumes as they will be used in combination with scenery, lighting and other production elements, including scene changes, costume quick changes and stage fight sequences (OHSA clause 25 (2)(a)).
  10. Performers should inform the company as soon as possible about any allergies or adverse physical reactions to props, costume and make-up materials.
  11. Those portions of props or costumes which are likely to come in contact with the performer should be free of materials or finishes which could cause allergic reaction, injury or harm.
  12. Where the combination of costumes, props and makeup with scenery, sound and lighting may create a safety hazard, controls must be implemented to ensure the performer’s mobility, vision and hearing are not impeded. Precautions must be taken before these elements are included in rehearsal (OHSA clause 25 (2)(h)).
  13. Employers must acquaint the worker or person in authority over a worker with any hazards associated with the work (OHSA clause 25 (2)(d)). Supervisors must advise the worker of any hazards associated with the work (OHSA clause 27 (2)(a)). All workplace parties should be encouraged to identify safety concerns as they arise, and to request the necessary assistance.

Hand props guidelines

  1. Hand props should be designed, chosen and built with consideration for their specific use on stage.
  2. Props should be checked for rough edges, chips, loose material or other potential hazards before being given to the performers.
  3. Rehearsal props should be provided wherever possible and should be as close as possible in size, weight and shape to the intended performance articles.
  4. Performers should be informed of any changes made to a hand prop already in use and be given adequate time to work with the changed article before use in run-throughs or in performance.
  5. Any addition or change in stage business that involves the use of hand props should be rehearsed with the props before it is included in the performance.
  6. Alternatives to open flame should be considered wherever possible. Where open flame is used, items placed or used near open flame should be made of flame resistant materials or treated with fire retardant. Check with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) on the amount of time any prop or costume should be required to withstand exposure to open flame. Refer to Flame Effects Guideline for more detailed information.

Costumes guidelines

  1. Within the reasonable bounds of period, style and character, costumes should be designed, constructed and fitted so as not to impede movement on or off stage.
  2. The person(s) responsible for costumes should be informed as soon as possible about special movement required of a performer so that these movements may be anticipated in the construction and fit of the costume.
  3. Rehearsal costumes should be provided wherever practicable, except where the style would be normal modern dress, and should be as close as possible in size, weight and shape to the intended performance articles.
  4. All aspects of costumes should be fitted to avoid injury or unnecessary discomfort. Costumes, including masks, wigs and headgear:
    • should provide a field of vision adequate for safe movement on and off stage;
    • should not obstruct the performer’s breathing or hearing; and
    • should be fitted and balanced to prevent headaches, neck or back strain.
  5. During fittings, performers should be encouraged to consider their anticipated range of staged movement in each costume.
  6. The combination of performer footwear and playing surface should provide the degree of traction necessary for the safe execution of the performance.
  7. Alternatives to open flame should be considered wherever possible. Where open flame is used, costumes worn near the flame should be made of flame resistant materials or treated with flame retardant. Any trim or decoration applied to the costume after treatment with fire retardant should also be made of flame resistant materials or be treated with fire retardant. Refer to Flame Effects Guideline for more detailed information.
  8. Costume elements worn next to the skin should be cleaned/washed/dry cleaned frequently. Other costume elements, including wigs, masks and headgear, should be cleaned/washed/dry cleaned as necessary. Ensure that any item that has been washed or cleaned is re-treated with fire retardant.
  9. Non-scented detergents and fabric softeners should be used for the comfort of both the person(s) handling the costumes when cleaning, maintaining or repairing and the performers wearing them.
  10. Footwear and inside hat bands should be disinfected at the end of a run whether the item is headed to immediate re-use or to storage. The inside of hats should be wiped daily with a disinfectant cloth.
  11. Used footwear and hat bands should be wiped with a disinfectant cloth before they are tried on at fittings.
  12. Rehearsal garments should be cleaned following the rehearsal period, before storage or immediate re-use.

Building props and costumes

  1. When building props and costumes, hazardous materials such as dyes, paints, adhesives, solvents etc. should be avoided, if possible. Where it is necessary to use such materials, personal protective equipment such as gloves, respirators, etc. shall be worn, as required. The employer must provide workers with training regarding the care and use of any personal protective equipment (PPE) to be used (Regulation for Industrial Establishments 851 section 79).

    Manufacturer recommendations regarding how to work with the product safely can be found in the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for each product. The employer must provide a worker with information and instruction regarding the proper use, storage and handling of any chemicals in the workplace (hazardous product Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), Reg. 860 subsection 6(1), other hazardous chemicals OHSA clause 25 (2)(d)).

    Solvents are often flammable liquids. Flammable liquids must be stored in sealed containers. An area where flammable liquids are dispensed must be adequately ventilated. Equipment used to dispense flammable liquid must be grounded and bonded (Reg. 851 sections 22 and 23).

Make-up guidelines

(Based on Stage Fright – Health and Safety in the Theatre written by Monona Rossol (originally published in 1986, reprinted in 1991, by Allsworth Press NY) and additional material by Sharon Secord – Head of Wardrobe, University of Waterloo Drama Department).

  1. Performers should use only cosmetic products on their skin; not paints, dyes, or other non-cosmetic substances.
  2. When providing special make-up such as body make-up, the employer should ensure such material has the ingredients labelled. Products with no ingredient list available should not be used. Where available, a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) should be reviewed before using the make-up.
  3. Performers should inform the company as soon as possible about any allergies or adverse physical reactions to make-up ingredients, latex, etc.
  4. Body make-up, special effects make-up and new products should be skin tested before full application.
  5. If any make-up causes a skin reaction, its use should be discontinued and a substitute found.
  6. Frequency of use (number of dress rehearsals and performances) and duration of use (a single scene or the full performance) should be considered when choosing make-up.
  7. Make-up should be used only as directed; for example, face make-up should not be used as eye make-up.
  8. Anyone applying make-up should wash hands before and after application. Make-up artists should wash their hands before they start working on each performer. They should either discard sponges and brushes or wash them before using on the next performer.
  9. If the performer’s skin appears to be broken, gloves should be worn by the person applying the make-up.
  10. Performers should never lend their make-up to anyone, or borrow or accept used make-up, particularly mascara and foundation.
  11. Aerosol sprays or airbrush products should be used only in dressing rooms or make-up rooms with good local ventilation to remove overspray.
  12. Cosmetics should be replaced regularly.
  13. Clouds of face powder or talcum should not be created, as these products can cause harm if inhaled. Old face powders should be discarded.
  14. Brushes and pencils should be moistened with clean water, not saliva.
  15. Performers and make-up artists should avoid eating or drinking while make-up is being applied.
  16. When removing spirit gum, latex, etc., performers should avoid prolonged skin contact with solvents like acetone, which dry out the skin. Lost skin oils and moisture should be replaced as soon as possible.

More Information

ISBN 978-1-4606-9636-1 (HTML)

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.