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Scenery
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.

Preamble

This guideline deals with the design and construction of scenery, and its installation and use in performance venues, rehearsal venues, and temporary rehearsal installations. It does not deal with worker safety in the scene shop or during transportation.

The Design, Construction, and Installation sections are not intended to be a comprehensive exploration of all the engineering aspects of scenery. They identify the health and safety considerations to be incorporated into the design and construction process, and leave to the user decisions on how to address those needs.

The construction, design and complexity of the scenery may need a professional engineer to ensure the scenery conforms to good engineering practice and safety legislation. This guideline does not attempt to define when that would be necessary — the decision should be made for each project early in its planning.

The guideline is intended to apply to scenery in a cumulative fashion — for example, a scenic element that is flown, movable, and carries people should meet the requirements for each of the following sections: General, All Scenic Elements, Flown Elements, Movable Elements, and Movable Elements that Carry People.

Reference should always be made, as appropriate, to the Mechanised Scenery and Automated Systems, Risk Assessment, and Rakes Guidelines set out in the Safety Guidelines for the Live Performance Industry in Ontario.

Electrical materials and equipment should always be installed and used in accordance with the Ontario Electrical Code. Reference should always be made, as appropriate, to the Electrical Guideline set out in the Safety Guidelines for the Live Performance Industry in Ontario.

Definitions

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

Deck-supported scenic elements
Elements that derive most or all of their support from sitting directly on the stage, or on another scenic element.
Deck-supported scenic elements: Static deck-supported scenic elements
Elements which sit in one position, and are not intended for movement after fit-up.
Deck-supported scenic elements: Movable deck-supported scenic elements
Elements supported by another scenic element or system capable of movement (trap, elevator, etc.), even though neither element may be intended for movement in performance.
Engineering
“The practice of professional engineering” means any act of planning, designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising wherein the safeguarding of life, health, property or the public welfare is concerned and that requires the application of engineering principles...” [Professional Engineer’s Act R.S.O. 1990, Chapter P.28 section 1]
Flown scenic elements
Elements that derive most or all of their support from suspension. Flown elements may be brought in to touch the deck, but are not deck-supported.
Flown scenic elements: Dead-hung flown scenic elements
Elements suspended by a fixed length of chain, rope, cable or other extension from a fixed anchor point, and which are not intended for movement after fit-up.
Flown scenic elements: Movable flown scenic elements
Elements suspended from any system capable of movement (fly system, block and fall, hoist, winch, etc.), even though the element may not be intended for movement in performance.
Hazard range
The area inside which injury is possible
Installation and removal: Load-in (take-in, fit-up, set-up)
The delivery, assembly and installation of scenic elements at the rehearsal or performance venue, including suspension or erection as appropriate.
Installation and removal: Changeover
The change of scenic elements from that of one production to that of another (typically in a repertory theatre), but which does not involve a load-in or load-out.
Installation and removal: Load-out (tear-down, strike, take-down)
The dismantling and removal of scenic elements from the rehearsal or performance venue.
Permanent scenery
All scenic elements that are normally in place on the stage and are not added for an individual production, including such items as a false proscenium, tormentor, teasers, main drape, cyclorama, masking drapery, etc.
Scenic element
Any unit of scenery used as part of the staging of a production, including drops, scrims, flats, trucks, wagons, etc.
Weight facsimile
A construct with the same weight and centre of gravity as those of the performer(s) to be carried by a movable scenic element.

Design, construction and installation

General

  1. A risk assessment should be conducted by a competent person on all scenery, to include Identification of Hazards, Assessment and Control of Identified Hazards. The design and construction process should seek to eliminate hazards.
  2. Where hazards cannot be completely eliminated, controls should be identified and implemented to minimize the hazard. Such controls should include appropriate personal protective equipment, choreography of movement, adequate rehearsal, supervision, information and instruction for, and consultation with those individuals within the Hazard Range. For specific requirements see subsection 25(2)(a) and 25(2)(d) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA).
  3. Each job should be evaluated to assess the number of crew sufficient to do the job safely.
  4. Individuals working with scenery should be competent in all skills that may be needed in their work. For specific requirements see subsection 25(2)(a) of the OHSA.
  5. To ensure compliance with the law, workplace parties must always refer to the OHSA and its regulations. Reference should also be made to the complete Safety Guidelines for the Live Performance Industry in Ontario.

All scenic elements

  1. If an element is resting on the deck but is primarily supported by suspension, it should be treated as a flown element.
  2. If an element is supported by the deck but requires some kind of suspension for additional support, reference should be made to the section on Flown Elements.
  3. The design, construction, and installation of scenic elements in all intended configurations should address:
    • unimpeded operation of emergency equipment (e.g. fire curtains)
    • easy exit from the stage or auditorium in emergencies, and
    • efficient response to an emergency.
  4. Design and construction should address the weight, balance, size and shape of each scenic element, including:
    • its ability to be easily and safely transported, including being carried by crew during load-in and load-out
    • its ability to be easily and safely assembled, dismantled, manipulated, installed and struck by the number of crew to be engaged for the set-up, changeover and strike, and
    • the manner in which it is intended to be used and its suitability for the purpose. If its use changes, then the suitability of the element will need to be reviewed.
  5. Tools, hardware, machinery and other technology should be appropriate and adequate for the intended use.
  6. Scenery should be constructed using fire-resistant materials and coatings, or made fire-resistant by treatment with a flame retardant, particularly where there are proximate sources of heat, or other causes of ignition. It is strongly recommended that local fire authorities, or the authority having jurisdiction, be consulted in determining requirements.
  7. Drapery shall be treated as required with flame retardant or constructed with fire-retardant materials, particularly where there are proximate sources of heat, or other causes of ignition. It is strongly recommended that local fire authorities, or the body having jurisdiction, be consulted in determining requirements. [Fire Code Ontario Regulation 213/07, Division B Part 2 sections 2.3.2.1 and 2.3.2.2]
  8. All temporary scenic elements, including supporting systems, should be fully uninstalled at load out. Temporary installations should never be retained for permanent use without fully reassessing their suitability for all likely uses over an indefinite life span.
  9. Before changing the use of permanent scenery, there should be a review to ensure that such changes will not result in loads or operational requirements exceeding those originally anticipated and allowed for at the time of construction and installation. Where loading or usage limits are not clearly identified for permanent scenic elements, these should be determined before making such changes.

Flown elements

  1. All flown elements should be designed and constructed specifically to be flown.
  2. Special consideration should be given to:
    • the weight of the element itself
    • the weight of any additional load to be carried by the element
    • the combined mass, including the mass of any counterweight, as it might affect controllability in acceleration, movement and deceleration
    • the balance of the element, as it might affect stability in suspension and even distribution of the weight among its suspension point
    • engineering the element appropriately for its size, shape, use and anticipated load, and
    • ensuring the size and weight of the element will fit its use and the restrictions imposed by its location.
  3. For movable flown scenic elements that are intended to be fixed during performance, any supporting system capable of movement should be immobilised. This may be achieved by adding safety chains or cables, adding hardware “locks”, locking out controls that permit movement, disconnecting power, etc. (For reference see section 76 of Regulation 851).

Deck-supported elements

  1. All deck-supported elements should be designed and constructed specifically to be supported from below.
  2. Special consideration should be given to:
    • the weight of the element itself
    • the weight of any additional load to be carried by the element
    • balance of the element, as it might affect stability in its location, even distribution of the weight on its supporting surface, and possible need for some suspension support
    • engineering the element appropriately for its size, shape, use and anticipated load, and
    • ensuring the size and weight of the element will fit the use and restrictions imposed by its location.
  3. For movable deck-supported scenic elements that are intended to be static in performance, any other supporting element or system capable of movement should be immobilised. This may be achieved by adding hardware “locks” on the movable system, locking out controls that permit movement, disconnecting power, fastening a trap plug in place, etc. Blocking and lockout requirements in the Industrial Regulation (see sections 75 and 76 of Regulation 851) and manufacturer’s instructions must also be observed.

Operation and use

Movable elements (flown and deck-supported)

  1. All operators of movable scenery shall be trained in the safe operation of the element (see subsection 25(2)(a) of the OHSA).
  2. All operators should have a direct line of sight to moving elements under their control. Spotters should be used when the direct line of sight of the operator is restricted. There should be clear and direct communication between the spotter(s) and the operator.
  3. All movable elements should be tested in their normal range of motion at their anticipated speed of operation, with additional allowance being made for unexpected needs or occurrences. These tests should be conducted in the shop (if applicable), upon fit-up and before each rehearsal and performance.
  4. The chain of command for the routine movement of elements, and for unexpected situations and emergencies, should be established and clearly communicated to all concerned.
  5. All movable elements should be demonstrated to anyone who may be within hazard range during operation (see subsection 25(2)(d) of the OHSA). During tech rehearsal, many more people may be present during movement than would be in performance; these people should also be familiarized with the movement of the element.
  6. Any performers, non-operating crew, and others who may be within hazard range of a movable element in operation should be informed of the appropriate action to take in an unexpected situation or emergency.
  7. Where an element is a power-driven machine, an emergency stop mechanism shall be conspicuously identified and located within easy reach of the operator (as per section 27 of Regulation 851), and there should be a clear chain of command and rules established for its use. (See the E-stop Systems section in the Mechanised Scenery and Automated Systems Guideline.)
  8. Initial technical rehearsals should take place at reduced speed (where feasible) and in work light. Final technical rehearsals should provide sufficient opportunity for everyone involved to become comfortable with the operation and movement of the element when used under performance lighting conditions and at performance speed. When changes are made in the use of the element, new technical rehearsals should be conducted at reduced speed (where feasible) and in work light.
  9. In design, construction and installation, special consideration should be given to:
    • clearance distances from other elements
    • guidance to ensure the intended path of movement (e.g. track, guide wires, etc.)
    • controllability in acceleration and deceleration, and
    • stability in motion and at rest.
  10. Stage lifts and revolves should be appropriate to their use and the anticipated load, with additional allowance being made for unexpected needs or occurrences.

Movable elements that carry people

  1. Any system designed and manufactured to carry people should have a built-in load-bearing capacity (as per good engineering practices), additional load capacity, mechanical and control redundancies and sign-off by a Professional Engineer or other competent person. If it falls within the practice of engineering then only a professional engineer should sign. See also subsection 51(1)(b) of Regulation 851 for inspection requirements.
  2. Initial testing should be performed with an actual weight facsimile of the performer(s) to be carried by the element. Daily testing should be performed to ensure the element continues to operate safely and as expected.
  3. Stage time should be provided, dedicated solely to the training of the persons carried by the element and to the rehearsal of the effect, so that all those involved are completely comfortable.
  4. A fall protection system shall be used where persons being carried by an element in motion are exposed to a potential fall of 3 m or more (see Regulation 213/91, section 26 or Regulation 851 section 85 for specific requirements). As a best practice this height should be reduced to 1.2 m, where additional hazards are present, e.g. operating machinery, open traps, etc.

Inspection and maintenance for all scenery

  1. All scenic elements, including permanent scenery, shall be inspected and maintained regularly (as per subsection 25(1)(b) of the OHSA).
  2. Inspection and maintenance should be done by a competent person.
  3. Flown scenery should be inspected on a schedule consistent with the frequency and use of the scenic elements.
  4. The fly system shall be thoroughly examined by a competent person prior to its first use and thereafter as often as necessary, and in any case, at least annually. See Industrial Regulation 851, subsection 51(1).
  5. When maintaining scenery, the blocking and lockout procedures of the Industrial Regulation 851, sections 75 and 76 shall be followed. See also the Rigging Systems Guideline.

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

Resources

Stock Scenery Construction: Handbook, 2nd edition
by Bill Raoul Broadway Press, 1999 (ISBN 978-0-91174-738-6)

Theatrical Design and Production, 6th edition
by J. Michael Gillette
Mcgraw-Hill Publishing Company, 2008 (ISBN 978-0-07351-419-2).

Stagecraft Handbook
by Daniel A. Ionazzi
Betterway Publications, Inc., 1996 (ISBN 978-1-55870-404-6)

Scene Design and Stage Lighting, 8th edition
by W. Oren Parker, R. Craig Wolf and Dick Block
Wadsworth, Inc., 2003 (ISBN 978-0-15506-114-9)

Backstage Handbook: An Illustrated Almanac of Technical Information, 3rd edition
by Paul Carter and George Chiang
Broadway Press, 1994 (ISBN 978-0-91174-739-3)

Stagecraft 1: A Complete Guide to Backstage Work, 3rd edition
by William H. Lord
Meriwether Publishing, Ltd., 2000 (ISBN 978-1-56608-062-0)

Technical Design Solutions for the Theatre, 1st edition
by Ben Sammler
Focal Press, 2002 (ISBN 978-0-24080-492-7)

Structural Design for the Stage, 1st edition
by Alys Holder and Ben Sammler
Focal Press, 1999 (ISBN 978-0-24080-354-8)

ISBN 978-1-4435-9745-6 (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.