Although the performing arts are supposed to blend entertainment with freedom of expression, it is also important that performers take Health and Safety considerations seriously. As well as considering any relevant Health and Safety regulations, performers and those who are staging performances should also remember to take out adequate Performing Arts insurance.
Why is it important to think about Health and Safety?
Any company or solo performer who is mounting a production or putting on a performance should take the time to think about relevant Health and Safety legislation. Failing to consider the relevant Health and Safety legislation can put performers, production staff and the audience at risk.
Health and Safety legislation is designed to help to remove or reduce any risks that are associated with a performance. If someone is injured whilst working at or watching a production, the person or company that is mounting the production may be considered to be liable.
Examples of relevant HSE legislation
Lots of different pieces of HSE legislation apply to theatrical or film productions, and the responsible party should always consider all HSE legislation when they are mounting a production. However, there are certain pieces of advice which are more likely to apply to a theatre setting.
Advice about working at heights is often pertinent, because the stage and auditoria of theatre buildings are normally very large and deep. Whenever possible, employees should avoid working at height. Scenery and rigging should be lowered down to the ground for adjustment whenever possible. If employees must work at height, all possible precautions should be taken to reduce fall risks. Any gantries, bridges or catwalks which are used should be secure and must be safety tested. The Association of British Theatre Technicians has published its own guidance on working at heights in a theatre environment and other safety issues that can be found here.
Theatre workers must also be aware of any recommendations that relate to manual handling of items. Because of the confines of the theatre environment, workers may be expected to lift awkwardly shaped items in tight or confined spaces. However, poor lifting techniques can lead to long term injuries. Theatre workers should be trained in safe lifting techniques and must not be asked to manually lift anything which exceeds safe limits.
A full risk assessment must be carried out before any special effects are attempted. Strict guidelines must be adhered to if weapons or pyrotechnics are used. Care must always be taken for any scenes which simulate death or injury involving asphyxiation or drowning.
Who should consider special Performing Arts Insurance?
Performing Arts Insurance is designed to provide the perfect insurance cover for a number of different types of performers and business owners. Those who may want to consider taking out special Performing Arts Insurance include; theatre groups, circuses, dance troupes, musicians, orchestras, disc jockeys, variety acts and historical re-enactment groups. Drama schools, workshops and production companies should also consider taking out this type of insurance.
Most individual performers will be covered by the insurance of the organisation that they are working with, however solo performers may need their own insurance if they are solely responsible for their production or performance. Some performers may be required to pay an additional premium for their cover, depending on the nature of their work. Applicants may need to pay a premium for the use of pyrotechnics or aerial work over 3 metres high.
What happens if there is an accident?
If there is an accident, the insurance provider will seek to understand how and why the incident occurred. In most cases, the insurance provider will be able to cover any financial or legal costs that have been incurred because of the accident. However, if the insurance provider finds that the accident occurred because of negligence then they may not be prepared to cover the costs which have been incurred. This is another reason why it is important for performers and producers to make sure that they follow all appropriate health and safety regulations.
What if I have been hurt at a theatre or during a performance?
If you have been hurt in an accident at a theatre or during a performance, then you may be entitled to claim personal injury compensation. You should notify someone straight away if you are injured, and they should report this in an accident book. You should also seek professional medical help to treat your injury.
Most employees should be covered by their employers Performing Arts Insurance and may be able to claim directly. If you are unable to make a claim directly, you may want to seek independent legal advice from a lawyer to see whether or not you are eligible to make a personal injury claim for compensation. Explaining the details of any injury to the lawyer will help them establish who is at fault for the personal injury. It will also help them to work out how much compensation you may be entitled to. Once this has been established, they will may able to help you to launch a claim for compensation which in all likelihood would be a no win no fee claim. More on personal injury and no win no fee claims can be found here.