Hazards ISETSA Addresses

Introduction to Hazards in the Secondary Educational Performing Arts

ISETSA applies the type of attention that is required to address the safety and health hazards in the secondary educational performing arts. We place great emphasis on the Risk Management approach and begin with Hazard Identification. After this professional identification we analyze the hazardous exposures and develop programs and training to help schools manage the risks in order to make them acceptable.

We evaluate every single aspect and operation (i.e. walls, surfaces, floors, curtains, doors, makeup, rigging, exits, and fire prevention). This approach or method assists us in maintaining the theater and its environments in a safe and healthy condition. Three major risk management aspects to consider at all times: keep the audience safe, keep the performers and technicians safe, and keep the house safe. This reduces and controls the liability. We often use a magnifying glass to search for hazards, and a stethoscope to listen to bearings on motors and sheaves in blocks. Levels and lasers are used to make sure the alignment is correct for the safe and efficient operation of the mechanical equipment.

ISETSA's risk management approach to theater in general and the secondary educational theater in particular is, in our opinion, the only risk management program in the world that that applies the principles of risk management to the secondary educational theater and its activities and programs.

Hazard Identification Process

The secondary educational performing arts are in great need of safety and health programs. There is a dire need for crucial information about health and safety in their activities. Their facilities are in dire need of safety and health attention. The hazards to health and the problems with safety in performance and production are many and they are increasing each day. They are increasing at an alarming rate. Many of them, if not most, remain unsolved because they are not given the professional training or the attention required by the laws that govern educational facilities and activities. These laws apply to students in schools in any and all activities. Tens of thousands of students and instructors are in imminent danger in their performing arts facilities because of a lack of attention to hazards and risks in the performing arts. Thus, what results are incredible hazardous exposures to students, instructors, and audiences.

List of Hazards

These are a select number of typical hazards and hazardous exposures that have been observed over the last forty-five years in the secondary educational theaters we have inspected.

A few of the hazards have been identified in the Entertainment Industry and its production process, both educational and commercial. We strongly urge those in authority or in any supervisory capacity to “properly train for competency” those individuals and technicians who are under their care as employees, volunteers or students and who are subject to these hazardous exposures.

This LIST OF HAZARDS is minimal and represents areas that everyone in the Industry, in our opinion, needs to be cautioned about. The LIABILITY for not notifying and training all personnel is extremely high. Due Diligence and the Duty to Warn are legal requirements for everyone in Entertainment. Injuries, incidents, deaths, and major law suits proceed directly from the lack of implementation of Health and Safety Programs and Competency Training. Federal Regulations in every country apply.

This listing of Hazards to Health and Safety is not a definitive list. It is a good beginning and a basis for those who work in any area of the Entertainment Industry. It should be upgraded regularly and added to, as well as specifically tailored to each Entertainment, Public Assembly Facility and Space.

We ask you to send us suggestions as often as you can, in order to fully develop this List of Hazards, as a tool for those who desire to comply fully with the Health and Safety Standards that should be implemented in every aspect of the Entertainment Industry.

Chemical Exposure Hazards:
  • Hazards from use, storage, lack of facility protection, fire, lack of proper personal protective devices, improper waste storage and disposal
  • Hazards from lack of training personnel in the use of MSDS'S
  • Hazards from using pyro and fog and smoke together, possible chemical reactions with human systems
  • Hazards from cleaning metal surfaces, skin, eyes, vapors, fire, burns
  • Hazards from lack of knowledge and misuse of MSDS'S
  • Hazards from MSDS’s with misinformation
  • Hazards from MSDS’s that are not updated with latest findings
  • Hazards to performers and crews from special effects chemicals that have not been identified as dangerous and detrimental to the health of those in the effects areas

Equipment Hazards:
  • Hazards from lack of preventive maintenance of motors
  • Hazards from the use of broken and worn tools
  • Hazards from the lack of safeties on overhead equipment
  • Hazards from the incorrect application of motors
  • Hazards from the lack of proper guards on power equipment
  • Hazards from lack of redundancy on overhead equipment

Electrical Hazards:
  • Hazards from working near high power lines, especially with lifts and cranes, on movie shoots, on location
  • Hazards from open electrical circuit boxes, connections, wires
  • Hazards from improper lighting installations, C clamp breakage, abraded wires, exposed wires, lack of fusing, open lighting cabinets
  • Hazards from electrical devices and electricity, cables, equipment
  • Hazards from electrical systems in non-compliance with required NEC Regulations
  • Hazards from lack of grounding equipment, GFIC’s, etc.
  • Hazards from non-maintained lighting instruments

Fall Protection Hazards:
  • Hazards created when fog or pyrotechnic effects cloud the edges, stairs, ramps, and openings of traps or any acting or working area
  • Hazards created when OSHA Regulations are not applied to the use of openings or edges of elevated platforms, traps, ramps, orchestra pits, trusses, and lifts

Fire Hazards:
  • Hazards, such as fires, from aerosol sprays
  • Hazards from lack of proper use of pyrotechnic devices
  • Hazards from employing incompetent pyrotechnics
  • Hazards to technicians and audience from misuse of pyro materials
  • Hazards to people and facilities from special effects
  • Hazards to performers and crews from deliberate overuse and repeated application of certain special effects (many, many takes)
  • Hazards from the misuse of special effects especially in indoor or studio shooting conditions
  • Hazards from aerosol sprays for painting or spot work
  • Hazards from lack of proper Fire Prevention Practices
  • Hazards from improper application of NFPA and Standard of Care Fire Protection Methods and Procedures
  • Hazards from lack of flame retarding for scenery
  • Hazards from blocked fire hoses and extinguishers
  • Hazards from storing too close to sprinkler heads
  • Hazards from not closing and propping open Fire Doors
  • Hazards from defective Fire Curtains
  • Hazards from smoking around areas were aerosol sprays are used
  • Hazards from improper storage of pyro materials
  • Hazards to all personnel in entertainment environments from not hiring professionally competent and licensed pyrotechnics and special effects personnel
  • Hazards to stunt people and performers from lack of preplanning of special effects
  • Hazards to technicians, crew, and performers, and stunt personnel from poorly planned or overzealous use of special effects
  • Hazards from flammable liquids not used correctly, not stored properly, incorrect containers, non-compliance with industry and NFPA Standards, spills, improper ventilation, smoking around these liquids, incorrectly marked and non-marked containers, vapors
  • Hazards from using combustible second hand furniture
  • Hazards from lack of training with fire extinguishers
  • Hazards from hanging items from sprinkler pipes and heads
  • Hazards from not using Fire Curtains regularly

Health Hazards:
  • Hazards from fatigue due to extended hours and overtime
  • Hazards from make-up used by other performers
  • Hazards from make-up: such as allergies, body sores, loss of sight
  • Hazards from aerosol sprays used in make-up applications: eyes, respiratory, rashes,
  • Hazards to health from aerosol sprays in close enclosures
  • Hazards from not applying ergonomic techniques in all tasks
  • Hazards from chairs and tables not maintained properly and in a timely manner; hazards applicable to health and safety practices
  • Hazards from lack of proper eye protection, face masks, goggles, safety glasses
  • Hazards due to flagrant misuse of eye wash bottles, playing games and spraying water
  • Hazards that may cause injuries because eye wash bottles are not the correct application for certain operations where eye wash stations are needed and required by Federal Regulations
  • Hazards from using pneumatic devices in assembling scenery and sets without the proper training by a competent professional
  • Hazards from wearing improper footwear in shops, on location, working on the stage and grid: sneakers, thongs, street shoes
  • Hazardous exposure to impact and high decibel noise
  • Hazardous exposure to noise when proper noise attenuation has not been applied to walls, ceilings, and equipment
  • Hazards from lack of Proper Personal Protective Equipment that is mandated by Federal Regulations and reasonable care
  • Hazards from lack of proper First aid AIDS Practices, and Emergency Procedure Training where Blood Borne Pathogens are a concern
  • Hazrds from make-up: old, used, bacteria laden, mislabeled
  • Hazards from make-up allowed to be placed in high heat sources
  • Hazards from types of make-up that cover all the pores of the body
  • Hazards from improper storage of make-up materials
  • Hazards from incorrect lifting and from moving equipment
  • Hazards from the incorrect application of ergonomic principles in the setting up of computers, monitors, and other office equipment
  • Hazards from lack of proper hand protection, gloves, creams
  • Hazards from using improper eye wash stations and bottles
  • Hazards from eye wash stations that do not use properly warm, potable, mandated water
  • Hazards from lack of proper bodily protection in every way
  • Hazards from using pneumatic staplers and other pneumatic devices without full personal protection, hands, face shields, body shields
  • Hazards from using glue guns or any adhesive spray, aerosol: need for Personal Protective Devices
  • Hazards from lack of foot protection, work shoes, steel toed boots
  • Hazards to hearing from lack of a Federally mandated Hearing Conservation Program and proper personal equipment: ear plugs or muffs
  • Hazards created by not using proper hearing protection and from not insulating loud and noisy equipment in the work environment
  • Hazards from personnel called upon to do too much
    in short period of times, under stress and pressure, fatigue

Indoor Air Quality & Ventilation Hazards:
  • Hazards from lack of proper Ventilation practices and
    equipment, exhaust fans, booths, circulation of fresh air
  • Hazards created in working environments by not regularly scheduling Hepa vacuuming work areas and washing down surfaces
  • Hazards and bodily harm from contamination in ducting, showers, sinks, fan outlets, air intake units, and from bacteria and microbes
  • Hazards from Carbon Monoxide, closed areas, vehicle emissions within garages, studios, enclosed areas of any type
  • Hazards to individuals respiratory systems from not having properly mandated, Engineered Ventilation in compliance with Codes and Standards
  • Hazards to individual from the lack of proper storage and use of chemicals in non-ventilated working environments
  • Hazards from solvents, used without proper personal protective equipment, lack of ventilation, fire hazards, stored incorrectly
  • Hazards from toxic fumes, vapors, or emissions

Rigging Hazards:
  • Hazards from rope: its use, lack of maintenance and untimely replacement, wrong types, fibers, burns, breaking, wrong knots, cuts, UV damage, corrosion, rotting, drying out
  • Hazards from defective Rigging Equipment
  • Hazards from lack of preventive maintenance of rigging equipment
  • Hazards from lack of training in Safe Rigging Practices

Tripping, Slipping, & Falling Hazards:
  • Hazards from slipping and falling, poor floor surfaces, lack of proper maintenance, slippery surfaces, tripping objects
  • Hazards from not properly abrading steps and tread surfaces
  • Hazards from not properly cleaning floors and stairs and other surfaces, including walls, grids, behind lock rails, catwalks




Office related

  • Hazards from filing cabinets due to number of drawers pulled-out at the same time, and not securing cabinets to floor and wall

Moving related

  • Hazards from moving scenery and platforms and traps and trusses without proper planning, assistance, and safe practices
  • Hazards from not choreographing all movement of anything on stage, from scenery to props to people and animals
  • Hazards created in moving scenery and sets, wagons, trusses, when there is not enough preplanning and there is a lack of trained personnel

Traps related

  • Hazards created when traps are used and opened and OSHA Regulations are not known and complied with by stage personnel
  • Hazards created when traps are opened and there is not sufficient safeguards, i.e. marking, stanchions, guards, railings, lighting
  • Hazards created when traps are opened and improper and insufficient lighting and platforms are used under the trap
    • Hazards created when personnel are not competently trained and supervised in the use of traps

    • Hazards and injuries from using too few personnel when moving equipment, scenery, platforms, curtains, machinery, trusses
    • Hazards and injuries created or occurring when personnel who work with traps, equipment, elevated equipment, or any technical apparatus are not competently trained and supervised
    • Hazards from not properly using personal protection equipment (PPE) when required by Federal Regulations and reasonable application of health and safety procedures in the working environment

    • Hazards from poor storage practices, cramming, pushing materials close to sprinkler heads, unsafe fire conditions, unbalanced loads, unsecured, overhead, lack of railings and kick boards, unlocked areas
    • Hazards created from not safely securing any item used in production in order keep in from falling or falling over
    • Hazards created by not firmly securing and fastening motorized equipment in the shop to the floor
    • Hazards from overloading top shelving in storage units
    • Hazards and injuries from not properly securing shelves in seismic territories, placing too heavy a load on top shelving, unbalanced
    • Hazards from corroded materials
    • Hazards from the weakening of materials by corrosion, especially those that may be hidden inside of other attachments
    • Hazards from metal filings in the work and performing environments
    • Hazards from welding and cutting: improper procedures, burns, fires, fumes, slag, poor ventilation, poor training, eye damage, improper clothing, lack of proper safety clothing
    • Hazards and injuries from not implementing proper, personal safety protective Regulations: no sneakers, thongs, sandals, jewelry, loose clothing, tight clothing, long hair


    • Hazards to entertainment personnel from the misuse of weapons, lack of training, materials, storage, security
    • Hazards from “hurry up and get it done directions.”
    • Hazards and deaths from load-ins and load-outs
    • Hazards from individuals inside trucks or semi's loading
    • Hazards from not balancing loads of platforms inside trucks and semis

• Hazards and fatalities from “just do it” and whatever it takes commands.
• Hazards and injuries from employing blatantly unsafe work practices
• Hazards from incompetence among some workers

• Hazards from costume and prop equipment
• Hazards from costumes, too large, too tight, flimsy, fire problems

• Hazards from lack of proper Signage where required

• Hazards from a lack of proper Emergency Response
• Hazards from poor housekeeping
• Hazards from lack of proper Training in CPR and First Aid
• Hazards from proper weapon training and use
• Hazards from faulty handrails and step units
• Hazards from faulty platforms, not marked, no rails, toe and kick plates
• Hazards from poorly supported and constructed scenery
• Hazards from lack of a Seismic Preparation Plan Drill
• Hazards from improperly fabricated platforms
• Hazards and injuries from platforms that have not been thoroughly planned and have not been constructed correctly with the loads in mind
• Hazards from incorrect fastening devices for platforms
• Hazards from improper bracing for platforms
• Hazards from platform tops not properly secured
• Hazards from splinters in any wood surface or scenery
• Hazards from not maintaining platforms before and after productions
• Hazards from not marking the edges of the Stage and other
platforms, elevations, steps, pits
• Hazards from improper use of lifts and improper maintenance
• Hazards from using non-rated hardware, especially overhead
• Hazards from lack of sanitary practices: restrooms, make-up,
green room, offices, shop, refrigerator
• Hazards from the use of improper fasteners
• Hazards from using defective fasteners, counterfeit, used nuts and bolts
• Hazards from unrestrained pressure vessels
• Hazards from Fog and Smoke Machines
• Hazards from Strobe Units
• Hazards from Laser Units, shock, burns,
• Hazards from radiation from Microwave Ovens not properly maintained
• Hazards from lack of proper Crowd Management and Crowd Control
• Hazards from lack of trained and competent security personnel for Crowd Management and Crowd Control
• Hazards from using the wrong or incorrect or non-maintained areas and equipment, i.e. stanchions, steps, lighting, etc. in Crowd Management and Crowd Control situations and events
• Hazards from eating and drinking in work areas
• Hazards from non-abrasive surfaces on floors, steps
• Hazards from playing radio in work areas, distractions, rhythms, noise
• Hazards from not using proper Fall Protection Equipment as required by the Regulations of each country, Federal, State or Province
• Hazards from not having a Regulated Fall Protection System
• Hazards from not having full, competent training for Fall Protection for all personnel who are required and must work overhead
• Hazards from lack of supervision of Riggers
• Hazards from improper use of wire rope ladders
• Hazards from lack of proper co-ordination of productions
• Hazards from improper hanging points in ballrooms,
• Hazards from improper hanging points in arenas, etc.
• Hazards from standing on lift rails of baskets to rig higher points
• Hazards from not using lanyards to retain tools, overhead
• Hazards from the improper use of hand tools
• Hazards from using tools for the wrong purpose
• Hazards from improper training of use of hand tools
• Hazards from poor arrangement for computer work
• Hazards from insects: spiders, wasps, bees
• Hazards from rodents: rats
• Hazards from snakes and roaming animals
• Hazards from inclement weather: rain, snow, sleet
high winds, lightning storms, tornadoes, floods, dust
• Hazards from working in lakes, the ocean: drowning,
swept overhead, lack of training in scuba and underwater
• Hazards from using improper ladders, A frames, etc.
• Hazards from serrated metal
• Hazards from lack of toxic fume and vapor monitor devices
• Hazards from poor supervision practices
• Hazards from the purchase/use of improper and hazardous
equipment and materials
? Hazards, injuries and fatalities from the use of counterfeit products
• Hazards from non-maintained external walkways, i.e. tripping, falling
• Hazards from intense and impact noise
• Hazards and permanent injury to hearing from not applying the OSHA Hearing Conservation Act
• Hazards which from negligence of repair and
lack of preventive maintenance
• Hazards that stem from lack of proper administrative response
to notification of problems and dangerous situations, negligence,
• Hazards from poor training and insufficient instruction and on-going instruction in specific areas
• Hazards to health stemming from long working hours
• Hazards to health due to poor environmental conditions: improper ventilation, no ventilation, particulates in the work environment, lung damage
• Hazards to health from lack of cleaning work surfaces:
wall, ceilings, floors, work tables, showers, sinks,
• Hazards to health from non-ventilated dryers: fire, breathing problems, contaminated work environments, permanent respiratory damage
• Hazards to health and safety from clogged work sinks, bacteria and Legionnaires Disease, fumes
• Hazards to health from use of plastic in production, ventilation problems, breathing problems, fire, asphyxiation, lung and bodily organ damage, eyes
• Hazards from plastic being cut: Styrofoam, acrylic, powder, fumes
• Hazards from plastic burns, melting, fire, fumes
• Hazards from not providing safety limits to lifts
• Hazards from the lack of training on lifts and platforms
• Hazards and injuries from not using certified and trained personnel with lifts of all types
• Hazards from incidents from non-flame retarded curtains and drapes
• Hazards from lighting instruments too close to curtains and drapes
• Hazards from using open flame of any kind on stage
• Hazards from using untrained animals in productions
• Hazards and injuries from not providing the proper supervision for animals before, after and during productions
• Hazards from not complying with Standards of Care and Regulations for the use of animals and insects in productions
• Hazards from using glass on stage
• Hazards from placing lighting instrument lens in areas where the sun may magnify the rays and cause a fire
• Hazards from not properly labeling containers in the shop
• Hazards to Disabled personnel and audience members by not complying with ADA Laws
• Hazards from using materials which may burn you
• Hazards from dye vats in costume shops
• Hazards in costume shops created by lack of Federally mandated and properly engineered ventilation system
• Hazards from not using proper personal protective equipment in the costume shop
• Hazards and permanent injuries created by not using personal protective equipment
• Hazards in the costume shop created by improper chemical use
• Hazards from improperly using powder dyes in costume shops
• Hazards from explosives in costume shops
• Hazards and injuries from fire on stage and in shops, studio stages,
• Hazards from using open burners and stoves in costume areas
• Hazards from sharp and pointed objects in shops, punctures, cuts
• Hazards from electrical cords that have become frayed and have open connections in costume/wardrobe shops, and all shop or office areas
• Hazards from using the body instead of tools and equipment to move materials, scenery: using the hand and foot or back and knee, elbows, kicking, stomping, using the shoulder, head
• Hazards from shop glue guns and materials, e.g. burns, shock, respiratory damage
• Hazards from glue guns that are defective and melt
• Hazards from tools which should have been replaced when they are found to be broken, abused, and missing parts
• Hazards from tools and equipment that have not been maintained
• Hazards from non-sharpened tools for cutting, cuts, punctures
• Hazards from noise from lack of noise barriers or properly placed and installed insulation for noise abatement, hearing protection
• Hazards from falling tools, equipment, lights that are not safetied off or do not have lanyards
• Hazards from catwalks: tripping, lack of grounding, dropping items
• Hazards from catwalks due to defective hooks and fastening devices
• Hazards from electrical shock and falls from ladders and catwalks
• Hazards from improperly wired instruments
• Hazards from improper hooks on catwalks
• Hazards from non-grounded cables and instruments
• Hazards from overhead items not properly secured and lacking redundant fastening with the proper application of the correct hardware or fasteners
• Hazards from speakers not being properly secured with the correct hanging hardware
• Hazards from speakers falling due to lack of redundant fastening
• Hazards from lighting instruments such as burns, shock, cuts
• Hazards from gel frames not being properly secured to instruments
• Hazards from top hats and barn doors not being properly secured
• Hazards from compressed gas cylinders not being secured
correctly and stored correctly according to OSHA Regulations
• Hazards from ladders to grids where rungs are not
distanced from the wall so that feet can fit on them and hands
not being able to grasp the rungs
• Hazards from Confined Spaces: basements, under
stage, crawl spaces, attics, grids, storage areas,
elevator and lift maintenance areas, mechanical rooms,
special scenery configurations, costume shops, prop areas
• Hazards from working two shifts or driving long hours, especially tour trips between gigs
• Hazards from extended work on high elevations, lifts and platforms
• Hazards from deliberate violation of Fall Protection Standards when working on lifts, with trusses, on wire rope ladders
• Hazards from deliberate violation of Fall Protection OSHA Standards in not supplying a secondary or redundant tie off line
• Hazards from misusing fall protection equipment for flying apparatus
• Hazards created and injuries caused by not competently and fully supervising personnel who work with lighting trusses and wire rope ladders
• Hazards created by not complying with Fall Protection Regulations as to harnesses and fall arrest systems
• Hazards created by not using the proper ladders correctly.
• Hazards created by not using ladders that are proper for the proper activity, e.g. electrical work, scenery work, folding ladders.
• Hazards from not storing ladders correctly.
• Hazards from not maintaining ladders in all aspects, i.e. broken rungs, damaged uprights
• Hazards from standing on tops of ladders
• Hazards from not stabilizing ladders on even surfaces
• Hazards from improper placement of ladders, e. g. on tables, boxes, ramps, moving platforms
• Hazards from violating OSHA Regulations: placing ladders in front of doors
• Hazards from allowing ladders to be moved with personnel on them
• Hazards due to painting a ladder
• Hazards caused by putting ladders on platforms and wheels
• Hazards from improper attitudes in using ladders and believing that a falling ladder can be stopped by any number of people holding it
• Hazards from not locking ladders
• Hazards from having one person go up ladder in front and another in back
• Hazards with pyro when working long hours, fatigue
• Hazards from not fully training and supervising individuals in voluntary and educational situations and venues, heavy liability
• Hazards from not fully documenting, memos, photographs, witnesses in incidents, injuries, deaths, property and equipment damage

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Dr Davidson's Eye on Theater Health and Safety - 3-Book Boxed Set - An Administrative Overview, Setting The Stage, On Stage

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Practical Health and Safety Guidelines for School Theater Operations - Assessing the Risks in Middle, Junior and Senior High School Theater Buildings and Programs

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Product Liability Assessor: Certified  ||||  Risk Management Assessor and Analyst: Expert  ||||  Health and Safety Expert and Assessor in Entertainment, Public Assembly and Education, Fine Arts  ||||  Expert Witness: 420 Cases  ||||  Codes and Standards Consultant: Special Effects, Entertainment, Process Management, Fireworks, Pyrotechnics, Theater and Motion Pictures Facilities, Life Safety, Performing Arts Facilities, ADA, Rigging  ||||  Worker Compensation Reviewer: Insurance Brokers and Carriers  ||||  HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS AND ENVIRONMENTAL AUDITS

I am only one, but I am one - I can't do everything, but I can do something;
And that I can do, I ought to do - And what I ought to do by the grace of God I shall do."
-Edward Everett Hale

"The only thing necessary for evil to prosper is for good men to stand by and do nothing"
-Attributed to Edmund Burke