Health And Safety In Broadcasting And The Performing Arts

The Joint Advisory Committee for Broadcasting and the Performing Arts (BJAC) was set up by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 1991. There are representatives from employers and trade unions as well as from specialised areas of the industry. The Committee has access to wide ranging experience and expertise in broadcasting, television, film, video production, theatre, variety and light entertainment.

The nature of working relationships in broadcasting and the performing arts is complex. People often work together on a temporary basis, then move on to another job, working in a new team and under different conditions. BJAC’s aim is to share experience and expertise with you. This leaflet has been written with your health and safety needs in mind, and to help you avoid accidents.


Work in the industry today is likely to take place in an environment where freelances would do much of the work. If planning, co-ordination and communications are poor, the chances of serious accidents happening may be significantly increased. Here are two examples of the sort of things that can go wrong.

  • a. An accident occurred during the recording of a stunt for a children’s television programme. In the stunt a motor bike was to emerge from a covered lorry and drive off the tailboard, automatically igniting some pyrotechnic effects. A presenter was to sit on the tailboard and introduce the item before walking out of range of the pyrotechnics. The director was to give a visual cue to the motor cyclist to do the stunt. The presenter could not hear the instructions given to her to start the introduction because of the noise from the motor bike, so the director agreed to give her a visual cue. When the cue was given to the presenter it was mistaken as the cue for the motor cyclist. The motor bike drove off the tailboard, narrowly avoiding the presenter, and the pyrotechnic effects were discharged. The presenter was burned on the face and one hand.
  • b. The second accident involved theatrical smoke effects during a performance of a musical at a major theatre. The smoke was produced by adding ‘dry ice’ to warm water in three ‘oil drums’ beneath the stage and piped upwards to the stage, but the arrangement was such that there would be considerable leakage. Production of smoke was controlled remotely. A stage hand was working below the level of the stage in the pit and was operating a manual lift. The cue for the smoke effect had been changed shortly before the accident and was given while the stage hand was in the pit, where gas accumulated. The stage hand managed to stagger out of the pit before collapsing.

Accidents such as these cause a lot of trouble and expense:

  • People were injured;
  • All those involved had time taken up during investigations;
  • There were uninsured losses;
  • There were prosecutions in the criminal courts.

Health and safety essentials – 3Cs


  • a. Someone needs to be placed in charge. This may be the ‘producer’ in broadcasting or the ‘director’ in the theatre;
  • b. This person is key to controlling the work and, therefore, the risks that might arise;
  • c. He/she needs to be sufficiently senior to have the necessary authority.


  • a. Look at the motor bike accident again. All those directly involved did what they were supposed to do. The trouble was that no-one properly considered how the work would be co-ordinated;
  • b. Agree responsibilities in advance of the work;
  • c. The work should be considered in its entirety. It is important that you co-operate with others to ensure that one person’s work does not adversely affect the work of others.


  • Don’t take on work beyond your capabilities. You need the right knowledge and experience;
  • You should know the risks associated with your work and how to deal with them;
  • Be sure to ask for advice and information where you need it.

Seven things to do

  • Check there is someone in charge – find out who it is. If it is you, you may have the responsibility for points 2-7.
  • Confirm competence – make sure you know what you are doing. Also, make sure that anyone who works for you knows what they are doing. If necessary, get advice, information, and more training. (Those who are not experienced can work under supervision.)
  • Temporary workers – The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require special information to be passed to ‘temporary workers’, ie those people who are employed on fixed-term contracts of employment or who have been supplied to work by an employment business (Regulation 13). Before the worker starts his/her duties information should be given about:
  • any work situation that requires special qualifications or skills;
  • any health surveillance that will be needed.
  • Assess your risks – Risk assessment is the essential first step. This is a careful examination of what could cause harm to people which enables you to weigh up whether you have taken enough precautions. Consult others who may have useful information, including any safety representatives.
  • Plan for health and safety – Include health and safety as plans for the project are developed. Who will have the key responsibilities? Where necessary obtain information and advice from specialists.
  • Pass information on – Who needs to know what? Have the health and safety arrangements been properly explained, especially to those who are to implement them? Is there someone working for you who needs information about safety? Do you have specialist information or expertise that you should share with the person in charge? Have you spotted something you’re not sure about? Are you going to make any changes that could affect safety?
  • Think again – Work in this industry is constantly changing: someone doesn’t turn up, equipment fails, the weather changes, the director has a flash of inspiration.. Some of these may affect the safety arrangements. Look at the motor bike accident again – whenever there is a change, consider its effects on safety and tell others who need to know
  • and re-think health and safety as the work progresses.

Risk assessment

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992

The arrangements and responsibilities for health and safety are set out in the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. This Act is supported by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992. The effect of these two pieces of legislation is to give duties to particular people and to require them to manage risks at work.

Risk assessment is now the basis for most of our health and safety legislation.

There are regulations which cover specific risks such as manual handling, work with substances hazardous to health and work at display screen equipment. You may need to know about these and others.

Failure to make a proper risk assessment was one of the charges on which the production company was found guilty after the ‘dry ice’ incident.

Who has legal duties

The employer must control the risks to health and safety that arise from the work activity, and make provision for welfare for employees. Arrangements need to take account of such things as who does the work, what training and supervision is needed, what equipment and materials are being used, where the work is being done and so on. In particular the employer must ensure that what needs to be done is done. The employer must also ensure the health and safety of others who may be affected by the work.

Apart from employers, there are legal duties imposed on people in other positions. Those who are self-employed must take care of their own health and safety and also that of anyone else who might be affected by their work.

There are legal duties imposed on those who have control of premises which are used by people at work. ‘Control’ could be with a company or an individual, and ‘premise’ includes any place where work is done. This could be out on the streets, on location or in a part of a building.

Suppliers of articles and substances for use at work also have obligations (and this includes designers, manufacturers and importers, and also those who do erection or installation work). This is particularly important given the unusual applications that many ordinary articles and substances are put to in the industry. If you wish to use articles and/or substances in an unusual way check with the suppliers and/or manufacturers for advice about the possible consequences for health and safety.

Employees have a duty to take care of themselves and other people who may be affected by their work, and to co-operate with their employers. Once the employer has made proper arrangements for health, safety and welfare it is up to employees to play their part.

The recognised trade unions are entitled to appoint employee safety representatives to represent their members in dealing with their employers. However, in recognition of the transient nature of some of the work in the industry, Equity and the Musicians Union are entitled to appoint safety representatives who are not employees.

Some typical questions asked by freelances

I’m freelance, do I have health and safety responsibilities?

Yes, you do, but you will need to know whether, in any given situation, you are acting as an employer, an employee or are self-employed because that determines what your legal duties are. Generally, everyone involved in work in any capacity must take proper care for themselves and other people. If you are self-employed, you will have to do some of the things that are done for employees by their employer – for example, you will have to make sure that you have had proper training, and you will have to assess the risks of your work.

Am I an employee under health and safety law?

This is a complicated question, and the answer depends on several factors. You could, in some work situations, be considered to be an employee while remaining self-employed for tax purposes. There are tests which can be applied, such as:

  • Do you have a ‘contract for services’ rather than a ‘contract of service’?
  • Does your contract have ‘mutuality of obligation’, ie on an employer to provide work, and a worker to accept it?
  • Who lays down what is to be done?
  • How it is to be done?
  • When it is to be done?
  • Who provides, hires and fires the team?
  • Who provides the materials, plant, machinery and tools or equipment used?

With skilled people, who have discretion to decide how their work should be done, the questions are wider:

  • Whose business is it?
  • Is the work your employer’s business or your own business?
  • Where does the business risk lie?

Am I an employer?

You may be, if you take on staff for a particular job or share out your own work to people who will answer to you for their work.

Who will make arrangements for health, safety and welfare in a production?

Employers and self-employed people must make arrangements.

Duties owed by an employer are often delegated to key individuals, either for carrying out risk assessments and/or for co-ordinating the work. The producer or director is the most likely person to act in this role.

Freelances frequently find themselves on other people’s premises working alongside employees, employers and self-employed people. Members of the public may also be present. It is crucial in these situations that a person sufficiently senior is put in charge to take over co-ordination and control of the work. Ask who that is. Team work needs co-operation and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 require just that. Where two or more employers (or self-employed people) share a workplace they must co-operate to take all reasonable steps to co-ordinate measures to comply with the law.

Everyone talks about risk assessment, who needs to do it?

If you are an employee, your employer must: If you are your own boss (self-employed), you must:

  • ask the person in charge of the project, for example the producer, about the arrangements for risk assessments, and ask for information about any assessments that have been done. Your co-operation may well be necessary for risk assessment being done by others.
  • Assessment need not be a difficult task. It is simply about identifying what problems might arise; evaluating alternative solutions and selecting the best options; and deciding whether the precautions are adequate or if more should be done to control the risks. It is important to check the results and review arrangements, particularly where any changes are made.
  • A short briefing session may be all that’s needed for low-risk work that requires a few simple precautions. Other work may need more thorough planning, and where there are any significant findings from risk assessment it is recommended that these are written down where five or more employees are involved.
  • HSE’s free leaflet Five steps to risk assessment (Ref IND(G) 163, see page 19 for availability) will help you. Don’t forget that where members of the public or other workers are at risk from your work, these people should be included in the assessment.

Need I discuss my own views on risk with anyone?

Yes. Your advice and co-operation is important. Make yourself known to the producer or other person in charge.

Not only does it make good commercial sense for you to discuss the work before it begins, it makes good health and safety sense. Discuss health and safety at production meetings, and if you join the work during the course of the production make yourself known to the person in charge and find out about the arrangements for health and safety.

What should I do if I think something is unsafe?

If something serious is being ignored don’t continue without discussing this with the person in charge.

Should I use plant, equipment or substances that aren’t mine?

We suggest not, unless you have agreed this and found out what health and safety rules apply. Check that plant and equipment is in good working order before you use it and that you know what the substances are that you will be using. You should have information on how to use the plant and substances safely.

Do I have to report accidents?

Certain situations have to be reported to HSE or to the local authority. This depends on which body has enforcement responsibility. Your nearest HSE Area Office or the Environmental Health Department of your local council will advise. If you are self-employed, you need to report accidents as an employer would. You should not be fearful of victimisation if you make a report. There is a ‘no victimisation’ provision in the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act (1993). Any enforcing authority would take a dim view of victimisation in this respect.

When members of the public have been injured as a result of the work being carried out you will need to report this too.

Violent incidents should be reported just as any other hazardous incident at work. Employers should have preventive policies which improve and encourage reporting.

All accidents and any dangerous or unhealthy situations are usually reported to the person in charge of the project. These may be recorded in an accident book, including accidents to employees, self-employed people and members of the public.

I’m experienced, do I need training?

You might. You need information about the work you are to do, particularly if it is to be carried out in unfamiliar surroundings or using someone else’s equipment. Also, you will need some degree of instruction and training if you are to use new equipment. Don’t be proud!

Do I need to have insurance?

Yes, you do. When you are employed to do work, your employer should take out and maintain certain insurance policies with authorised insurers against liability for bodily injury or disease. This is called Employers’ Liability Insurance. There are limited exceptions to this. More detail can be found in the HSE leaflet Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 – A short guide (HSE 4).

You will also need to consider what public liability insurance may be necessary for your particular specialism. Insurance arrangements should be made before work begins.

Are there any sources of further information?

Yes. There are local HSE offices in England, Scotland and Wales (see your telephone directory). But don’t forget, if you are a member of a union, or a trade or professional association they may have advice to give you. These organisations often work together to maintain and improve health and safety standards in industry. Some of these organisations are listed below.

If you are employed to do work, the organisation for which you are working may also have its own in-house codes of practice. Ask to see them.


This checklist should remind you about topics you might need to discuss with the people you will be working with. It is not intended to be exhaustive and not all questions will apply at any one time. You will no doubt think of other important things to include.


  • What are the hazards of the job?
  • Who is to assess particular risks?
  • Who will co-ordinate action?
  • Who will monitor progress?

2. The job

  • Where is it to be done?
  • Who with?
  • Who is in charge?
  • How is the job to be done?
  • What other work will be going on at the same time?
  • How long will it take?
  • What time of day or night?
  • Do you need any permit to do the work?
  • The hazards and risk assessments

Site and location

  • Consider the means of access and egress (from the site and the particular place of work – are they safe?);
  • Will any risks arise from environmental conditions?
  • Will you be remote from facilities and assistance?
  • What about physical/structural conditions?
  • What arrangements are there for security?


  • What supplier’s information is available?
  • Is there likely to be any microbiological risk?
  • What are the storage arrangements?
  • What are the physical conditions at the point of use? Check ventilation, temperature, electrical installations etc;
  • Will you encounter substances that are not supplied, but produced in the work, eg smoke from a fire or pyrotechnics? Check how much, how often, for how long, method of work etc;
  • What are the control measures? For example, consider preventing exposure, providing engineering controls, using personal protection (in that order of choice);
  • Is any monitoring required?
  • Is health surveillance necessary, eg for work with sensitisers?

Plant and equipment

  • What are the supplier/hirer/manufacturer’s instructions?
  • Are there any certificates of examination and test where these are necessary?
  • What arrangements have been made for inspection and maintenance?
  • What arrangements are there for shared use?
  • Are the electrics safe to use? Check the condition of power sockets, plugs, leads and equipment. (Don’t use damaged items until they have been repaired.)
  • What assessments have been made of noise levels?

4. People

  • Is information, instruction and training given, as appropriate?
  • What are the supervision arrangements?
  • Are members of the public/inexperienced people involved?
  • Have any disabilities/medical conditions been considered?

5. Emergencies

  • What arrangements are there for warning systems in case of fire?
  • What arrangements have been made for fire drills?
  • What provision has been made for first aid and fire-fighting equipment?
  • Do you know where your nearest fire-exists are?
  • What are the accident reporting arrangements?
  • Are the necessary arrangements made for availability of rescue equipment and rescuers?

6. Welfare

Who will provide:

  • shelter;
  • food and drinks;
  • washing facilities;
  • toilets (male and female); and
  • clothes changing/drying facilities?

BJAC working members

Information on BJAC can be obtained from: Employer representatives Independent Television Association (ITVA) British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT) Channel 4 Independent Theatre Council (ITC) The Society of West End Theatres (SWET) The Theatrical Management Association (TMA) Granada Television Independent Visual Communications Association (IVCA) Employee representatives BECTU Musicians Union (MU) British Actors Equity Association (EQUITY) Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU)

Other representatives Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT) The Health and Safety Executive – Entertainment Services National Interest Group

HSE publications

HSE priced and free publications are available by mail order from: HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 6FS, Tel: 01787 881165, Fax: 01787 313995. Priced publications are also available from good bookstores. For other enquiries ring HSE’s InfoLine Tel: 0541 545500, or write to HSE’s Information Centre, Broad Lane, Sheffield S3 7HQ HSE also operates an Autofax service offering health and safety information. For a full list of free leaflets available on Autofax dial 0839 060606 from the telephone linked to your fax machine.

This leaflet contains notes on good practice which are not compulsory but which you may find helpful in considering what you need to do.

This publication may be freely reproduced, except for advertising, endorsement or commercial purposes. The information is current at 1/96. Please acknowledge the source as HSE.