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Risk Assessment for Productions
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

The purpose of a risk assessment is to keep people and productions safe by identifying, controlling and, where possible, eliminating occupational health and safety hazards onstage and backstage.

While a risk assessment is not specifically required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) for hazards other than workplace violence, it may assist employers in complying with their obligations under the OHSA and its regulations. In conducting a risk assessment, the focus should be the health and safety of the worker. Controls implemented as a result of the risk assessment should also reflect this focus.

Best practice, as well as due diligence, calls for a written risk assessment of all production elements and related performance / work activities. There are many risk assessment templates available which may be customized to meet specific needs. (See Appendix 2 for an example.)

A co-operative approach between managers, supervisors and workers, including the creative team, performers and production staff, is encouraged, so that artistic choices may be realized safely and efficiently without unduly restricting the creative process.

Although the definition of a worker under the Act does not include volunteers, “employers still have some responsibility for the health and safety of people visiting or helping out in their workplaces.” (Source: Ministry of Labour website – Frequently Asked Questions). Risk assessments should consider hazards that may impact on volunteers and patrons.

Risk assessments should be conducted for:

  • The location: at the facility/venue/worksite
  • The department: wardrobe, props/scenic constructions, scenic art, stage, front of house
  • The activity: rehearsals, performances, changeovers, maintenance, etc.

Definitions

Note: These definitions are provided for clarity and guidance only.

Best practice
A program, process, method, technique, strategy or activity that:
  • has been shown to be effective in the prevention of workplace injury or illness
  • has been implemented, maintained and evaluated
  • is based on current information
  • is of value to, or transferable to, other organizations. (Theatre Alberta, Hazard Assessment Safe Stages Glossary)
Competent person
“A person who
  • (a) is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance
  • (b) is familiar with the OHSA and its regulations that apply to the work, and
  • (c) has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace” (see section 1(1) of the OHSA).
Controls
Measures designed to eliminate or reduce occupational hazards or hazardous exposure.
Due diligence
The level of judgement, care, prudence, determination, and activity that a person would reasonably be expected to display under particular circumstances. In terms of health and safety, this means taking all reasonable precautions, to prevent injuries or incidents in the workplace. (Based on Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety definition in OHS Answers)
Hazard
Any condition or circumstance that has the potential to cause injury or illness. (Source: Theatre Alberta, Safe Stages Hazard Assessment and Control)
Likelihood
The probability of a hazard leading to an occupational injury or illness.
Risk assessment
Careful evaluation of all equipment, machinery, work areas and processes to identify potential hazards that workers may be exposed to and assessment of the impact of the identified hazards on those that work in the area. Assessing the risk means determining the likelihood that the hazard may lead to injury or illness and the severity of that potential injury or illness. (based on Theatre Alberta, Hazard Assessment Safe Stages Glossary)
Severity
The seriousness of the potential occupational injury or illness resulting from a hazard.
Supervisor
“A person who has charge of a workplace or authority over a worker” (see section 1(1) of the OHSA). In live performance, this could include a production manager, technical director or equivalent.

Procedure

  1. The owner/employer should designate one or more competent person(s) to conduct the risk assessment. This person should be a Supervisor such as a Production Manager, Technical Director, or equivalent. The Stage Manager, once hired, should be involved in the assessment.
  2. The Supervisor(s) should draft the risk assessment for all elements of the production as soon as preliminary designs are submitted. This process should begin as early as possible in the planning of the production and should continue throughout the production process. (See Appendix 1 for a sample schedule.)
  3. A risk assessment should contain the following steps.

Identify the hazards

Identify the hazards for the production and activities involved. Review workplace information such as production designs, worker reports of concerns, workplace inspection records, incident investigation reports, show reports etc. to identify hazards.

Hazards may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Fog, smoke and special effects
  • Flame effects
  • Pyrotechnics, explosives
  • Weapons
  • Excessive sound levels
  • Slips, trips and falls due to:
    • Irregular stair heights
    • Raked floors
    • Unsuitable floor surfaces, especially for dance and fights
    • Scenery, props, equipment, cables etc. backstage
  • Falls from height due to:
    • Unguarded edges of balconies, elevated set pieces, orchestra pits, traps etc.
    • Performer flying
    • Reduced visibility due to:
      • Low lighting states and blackouts
      • Masks and headgear with potential to obstruct vision
  • Hazards of moving scenery due to:
    • Installation or disassembly of scenery
    • Automated scenery
    • Scene changes within a performance
    • Changeover from one production to another
  • Hazards due to the use or potential misuse of props or costumes
  • Hazards due to a lack of training or certification of replacement crew or performers (for example: in performer flying, firearms, and pyrotechnics)
  • Hazards relating to power failure, emergency access, egress or evacuation
  • Hazards specific to outdoor venues such as wind, heat, inclement weather, insects, animals, etc.
  • Hazards due to the use of tools, equipment and materials

Determine who might be harmed and how

  1. Identify those individuals who could be affected, including performers, production staff, cleaners, contractors, maintenance workers, etc. Recognize that people who are pregnant, young, elderly, or who have a disability may be especially vulnerable.
  2. Identify how the hazard could cause harm. Consider how your work affects other workers present as well as how their work affects your workers.

Evaluate the hazard and decide on precautions

Determine a Risk Rating for each hazard by considering the likelihood and severity of an occupational injury or illness resulting from each hazard. (See Appendix 2 for an example.)

  • Likelihood – Estimate, using High, Medium or Low, how likely or probable it is that the hazard will cause injury or illness.
  • Severity – Estimate, using Major, Moderate or Minor, how serious the injury or illness could be.
  • Risk Rating - Plot the Likelihood and Severity on the Risk Rating Chart to determine the Risk Rating.

Control of health and safety hazards

  1. The control of hazards is a general duty for employers under the OHSA (see section 25(2)(h) of the OHSA). Legal requirements governing exposure to various safety hazards can be found in the sector-specific regulations under the OHSA (see the Industrial Establishments Regulation and the Construction Projects Regulation under the OHSA). Health hazards are either covered by the sector regulations or separate hazard-specific regulations (see the Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents Regulation under the OHSA).
  2. Wherever possible, hazards should be removed. If this is not possible, controls should be designed to eliminate or reduce the hazard to levels that present a minimal risk to worker health and safety. Types of controls, in order of preference, include:
    • Engineering controls physically control hazards, and are the first and preferred choice of hazard control methods. (Examples include substitution (e.g. using a less toxic chemical, building a catwalk with guardrails) isolation (e.g. isolating noise using soundproof barriers), and ventilation (e.g. installing local exhaust).
    • Administrative controls are the second choice of hazard control methods and include the development and use of procedures, worker training, scheduling and supervision, preventive maintenance programs, signage, etc.
    • Personal protective equipment (PPE) is used to lessen the potential harmful effects of exposure to a known hazard. PPE is considered the last resort of hazard control and should be used only after engineering and administrative controls have been shown to be impractical, ineffective or insufficient. (Examples include eye protection, protective clothing, fall protection, foot protection, head protection, hearing protection, respiratory protection, etc.)
  3. Where there are no legal requirements under the OHSA or its regulations governing the exposure to a particular hazard, select appropriate controls for that hazard, taking into consideration time and feasibility. No person should be exposed to a hazard that has not been adequately controlled. If controls cannot be implemented for any reason, the activity posing the hazard should not be attempted.

Record findings and implement controls

  1. Decide who will track the controls and issue updates, with the frequency of updates determined by the complexity of the production.
  2. Ensure that administrative controls are followed and personal protective equipment is used. Employers have a duty to ensure that prescribed equipment, materials and protective devices are provided (section 25(1) of the OHSA) and workers have a duty to wear and use the prescribed personal protective equipment (section 28(1)(a) of the OHSA).
  3. Distribute and post risk assessments and relevant Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) (fog fluid etc.) in designated locations such as callboards (see sections 37 and 38 of the OHSA for MSDS requirements).

Review assessment and update if necessary

  1. Continue the risk assessment process throughout production (see Appendix 1), including discussions at scheduled meetings. Production is a fluid process so conditions should be monitored continuously for new or evolving hazards. Details related to props, wardrobe, wigs and make-up may not emerge until rehearsals begin. As circumstances change, the risk assessment should be updated.
  2. If a health or safety issue arises during the rehearsal period that is not in the risk assessment, it should be resolved through discussion and corrective action that meets or exceeds the requirements of the OHSA and its regulations.
  3. If the issue cannot be resolved in this way, Workers have the right under the OHSA to refuse unsafe work (section 43 of the OHSA sets out the criteria for a work refusal and the procedure that must be followed). The Supervisor should postpone the potentially unsafe action until a final resolution has been reached and corrective action has been taken, if required.
  4. Ensure that the written risk assessment is updated and the version is archived for future reference.

Call toll-free

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.

More Information

Performance Industry
Ministry of Labour
Ontario.ca/labour

Health and Safety Ontario (health and safety association)
www.healthandsafetyontario.ca

Workplace Safety & Insurance Board
www.wsib.on.ca

Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards referenced in occupational health and safety legislation
ohsviewaccess.csa.ca

References

e-Laws
www.ontario.ca/laws

Resources

Health and Safety Ontario | Workplace Safety & Insurance Board
www.healthandsafetyontario.ca | www.wsib.on.ca

Safe Stages (Theatre Alberta)
www.theatrealberta.com

Health and Safety Guide for Live Performance – see Hazard identification checklist (PDF)
Actsafe
www.actsafe.ca

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)
www.ccohs.ca

Risk Assessment
Health and Safety Executive (U.K.)
www.hse.gov.uk

Appendix 1 – Sample schedule for risk assessment

Pre-season / before the first rehearsal

  • The Production Manager/Technical Director (PM/TD) will draft the risk assessment as soon as preliminary designs are submitted.
  • The PM/TD will lead a risk assessment meeting before the first rehearsal.
  • Those in attendance will include, at a minimum, the Technical Director, Stage Manager and Head Carpenter.
  • If possible, the Assistant Stage Managers, Designers, Director, Choreographer and Fight Director should be included, as well as anyone else identified by the PM/TD.
  • Following the meeting, Stage Management will post and distribute the risk assessment to those in attendance as well as the Designers, Director, Choreographer and Fight Director if they were unable to attend.
  • After the initial form has been completed and the risk assessment meeting has been held, the PM/TD and Stage Manager for each production shall agree on who will track and issue updates, with the frequency of updates determined by the complexity of the production.

During the rehearsal period

  • Stage Management will identify necessary changes and collaborate with the PM/TD and the creative team on updates of the risk assessment.
  • The PM/TD will continue be actively involved in the risk assessment and will schedule meetings to discuss health and safety issues as needed.

The risk assessment should be reviewed at these points in a production

  • First Runthrough/Workthrough (in the rehearsal hall or onstage), when the whole play has been blocked.
  • Prior to Cue to Cue.
  • Prior to First Preview (The PM/TD or Stage Manager will notify the House Manager of any effects that may affect the audience (such as live flame), so that Front of House staff may be informed.)
  • After First Preview.
  • After Opening.
  • Periodically throughout the run of the production, as appropriate.
  • At any change in the run of the production including personnel, venue, and production element.
  • After an incident (such as injury, health concern, or near accident.)

The final risk assessment should be archived for future reference.

Appendix 2 – Sample risk assessment form

There are many risk assessment templates available which may be customized to meet specific needs.

Instructions

  1. Fill in the columns labeled Activity/Task and Hazard.
  2. Fill in the columns labeled Likelihood, Severity and Risk Rating, as follows.

    Likelihood – Estimate, using High, Medium or Low, the probability that the hazard will cause injury or illness.
    • High – injury or illness due to this hazard is probable.
    • Medium – there is a 50-50 chance that this hazard will cause injury or illness.
    • Low – the hazard will probably not cause injury or harm.
    Severity – Estimate, using Major, Moderate or Minor, how serious the injury or illness would be.
    • Major – the hazard would cause injury or illness resulting in fatality, or permanent or long-term disability.
    • Moderate - the hazard would cause injury or illness resulting in lost time.
    • Minor – the hazard would cause injury or illness without lost time.
    Risk Rating - Plot the likelihood and severity on the Risk Rating Chart to determine the Risk Rating.

    Risk Rating Chart
      High likelihood of injury Medium likelihood of injury Low likelihood of injury
    Major severity of injury High High Medium
    Moderate severity of injury High Medium Low
    Minor severity of injury Medium Low Low

  3. Fill in the column labeled Controls.

Risk assessment form

Sample Risk Assessment Form

Activity/Task


Describe the activity or task. Indicate scene, load-in, setup etc.

Hazard


Describe the hazard and how it could cause harm (injury, illness, fire etc.)

Likelihood


High, Medium or Low

Severity


Major, Moderate or Minor

Risk Rating

High, Medium or Low

Controls


Describe measures that are in place to reduce the hazard to an acceptable level (guardrails, procedures, PPE, etc.)
Rehearsal and performance Slips, trips and falls onstage and backstage Medium Moderate Medium
  • Guardrails on raised platforms
  • Edges (risers, stairs etc.) marked with contrasting tape, glowtape, LEDs etc.
  • Appropriate flooring for the activity
  • Appropriate footwear for the activity (non-slip soles)
  • Adequate backstage running lights and onstage lighting
  • Flashlights and/or headlamps for those who may need them for scene changes, costume changes etc.
  • Sufficient rehearsal time for all potentially hazardous sequences (scene and costume changes, dance and stage combat sequences etc.)

ISBN 978-1-4606-0910-1 (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.