Safe and ethical practices are vital to the success of the live theatre industry. All aspects of theatre, from set construction and rigging to make-up and costumes, must be safe for workers and performers during each phase of the production process. Ethical considerations include sustainability, diverse and inclusive casting, and sourcing of products. On this page is a collection of resources on safe and ethical practices in the industry from a number of different theatre venues, companies and institutions across the world. – Justin Cash
Resources for Safe and Ethical Theatre Practices
Theatre Safety Manuals, Videos, Guides and Handbook Examples
Play it Safe is an outstanding safety manual for school venues developed by the Vancouver Board of Education and ActSafe. Written in plain language, this document covers risk assessment and control, includes separate instruction materials for teachers and students, and even has a section on safety assessments for students and competency checklists.
A risk assessment is a procedure that identifies potential hazards and how likely they are to cause harm. Hazards could be a substance, activity or process. Policies and procedures are then put in place to reduce the risk.Hair and Makeup Artist Handbook
An outstanding resource about safe and ethical practices developed by Arts Centre Melbourne, specifically designed for senior drama and theatre students. Covers everything from rehearsal processes and risk assessment to ethical considerations and employee mental health and wellbeing.
Excellent performing arts safety manual from the University of California. Includes hazard and safety information for set construction, props, lighting, audio and video, special effects, costumes, make-up, front of house, set striking and bump-outs.
A comprehensive set of resources on safe and ethical practices developed by Live Performance Australia. Includes hazard safety guides on use of stage machinery, special effects, chemicals, event rigging, and many more. Also includes ethical examples on appropriate ways of running child auditions, offering ticket refunds etc.
Safe Stages is a Canadian joint initiative between Theatre Alberta and Alberta Human Services offering the theatre community with best practices and resources. Covers OH&S and assessment and control for physical, chemical, biological and psychosocial hazards.
Guide for safe working practices in the New Zealand. Covers everything from rigging and flying operations to working at heights guidelines.
Comprehensive theatre safety guidelines from the Theatre Department at Collin College covering air quality, chemical use, electricity, floors, hand tools, lifts, lighting equipment etc.
Comprehensive work health and safety handbook from the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Sydney. Includes risk management matrixes, student production safety, hazards etc.
Excellent sustainable production guide from Julie’s Bicycle covering production management, sound, lighting and audio visual, set construction, wardrobe, cast, communications and marketing in the pre-production, rehearsal and production, and post-production phases of live theatre events.
Useful safety guidelines developed for K-14 schools in the U.S. Includes easy to understand language about general theatre safety, use of equipment and tools, and best practices.
Health and safety guidelines from Princeton University covering practices such as set construction and lighting and sound.
This handbook from Western Carolina University gives a non-technical overview of commonsense theatrical production safety (p.32). Useful as a starting point.
Useful series of articles on safe practices from Ithaca College. Includes rigging, power tools, material handling, electrical safety etc and is written in plain language for ease of understanding.
Educational activities on safety from the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Includes a safety PowerPoint, simple tests and worksheets.
General health and safety checklist for venue and production from the Canadian Actors Equity Association.
Simple safety facts page that will prove useful as a starting point for students. What is risk assessment? Why is risk assessment important? How is risk assessment measured? How are hazards identified?
Julie’s Bicycle’s practical guide to sustainable exhibitions and live theatre productions, complete with checklists and relevant case studies.
Simple health and safety checklist for New Zealand repertory theatres.
COVID safe theatre guidelines for Australian performing arts centres.
Article outlining the Sydney Theatre Company’s award-winning Greening The Wharf project, a comprehensive sustainability program believed to be the first of its kind for any theatre company in the world.
Safe and Ethical Make-Up Practices
Informative table from Ethical Consumer UK on the ethical issues surrounding makeup such as purchasing cruelty-free, vegan, organic and Fairtrade products, while avoiding palm oil, toxics and plastic packaging.
Safe and ethical guidelines for theatrical hair and makeup.
Useful article outlining the 10 cardinal sins of makeup hygiene.
Handy set of tips about safe hair and makeup practice.
Useful list of Dos and Don’t for makeup team safety in the UK film and television industry.
Diverse and Inclusive Theatre Casting
Great article 10 Ways to Increase Equality in Theatre.
Useful suggestions as to how to make sure your theatre shows are truly inclusive.
2017 article about colour blind issues in granting permission rights for a production of Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
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Playbill article 5 Tips to Making Theatre More Diverse.
Article discussing the omission of disability in many theatre diversity initiatives.
Article celebrating the 2016 Broadway season for its diversity in casting African American actors in shows such as Hamilton, and others.
Article exploring examples of diversity and non-diversity in Australian theatre during COVID-19.
Diversity should not be an imposition, an afterthought, or a means to raise your chances for getting a grant. It should be at the heart of your creative endeavours.RALPH B. PEÑA | Diversity for Dummies Part Two.
The Theatre Casting Toolkit is a project based in the UK for anyone who wants to see a broader range of actors on our stages and in rehearsal rooms, featuring a mix of practical tools, inspiration, information and guidance.
Article discussing the under-representation of disabled actors on American theatre stages.
The Counting Together website is a coalition of theatre artists and service professionals who have joined forces to engage in separate, long-term studies of race, gender, and/or disability in the American theatre. Guesswork is turning into data.
Article discussing both sides of the coin when undertaking colour-blind casting.
Article on diversity in theatre casting and LGBT+ inclusivity in the arts.
Great article from TheatreArtLife outlining numerous best practices we should be striving to achieve to ensure inclusive casting.
Safe Set Construction Practices
Excellent set construction safety checklist from the University of California. Covers fall protection, rigging, power tools, ladders, lifting and material handling, chemical hazards etc.
Health and safety considerations for theatre set construction from BBC Bitesize.
Safe Prop Construction Practices
A useful overview of the need for safety in the construction of theatre props. Safety checklists include the use of power saws, special props such as weapons, props storage, and even safety with live animals in the theatre.
Safe props design, construction and use guidelines.
Safe Theatre Lighting Practices
Stage lighting safety checklist from a university theatre department covering fire risks, electrical risks, dimmer board safety, and cable management.
Victorian Education Department setup and use of theatre lights in schools risk assessment template (DOC).
Health and safety considerations for theatre lighting from BBC Bitesize.
Safe Theatre Audio Practices
Audio and video safety checklists including electrical risks, mounted equipment, noice levels, video and projection equipment, cable management, and regular maintenance and inspections.
Health and safety considerations for theatre sound from BBC Bitesize.
Safe and Ethical Theatre Costume Practices
While the nature of the industry requires the mass production of clothing, analysing the lifecycle of each piece of textiles in its entirety is … the most valuable way for the industry to adopt a more sustainable practice. In doing so, the industry can better consider how textiles are sourced and transported, where fabrics began and where costumes will end up.Sourcing Sustainable Costume with The Costume Directory’s Sinéad Kidao
Safety overview and checklist for the construction and wearing of theatrical costumes including equipment, storage, chemicals, etc.
What are Sustainable Textiles?
Ethical, environmental and sustainably produced textiles are identified by the following characteristics:
1. Fabrics made using organic raw materials, such as pesticide-free cotton and silk made by worms fed on organic trees
2. No harmful chemicals and bleaches used in the process of colouring fabric
3. Fabrics made from recycled and reused textiles, such as second-hand clothes and recycled plastic bottles
4. Durable textiles made to last, so that drapery and garments last longer
5. Fair trade products that ensure the people who make them are paid a fair price and have decent working conditions
6. Textiles produced by manufacturers and distributed by retailers who are addressing the wider environmental and social impacts of their business
Source: Sustainable Production Guide by Julie’s Bicycle
Costume safety checklist from the University of San Fransisco.
Health and safety considerations for costume design from BBC Bitesize.
Costume construction safety checklist from the University of Vermont.
Safe costume design, construction and use guidelines.
Interesting article on how we can become more sustainable in theatre wardrobe departments.