the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect

Health and Safety Guidance

This guidance aims to provide information for workers and health and safety representatives, covering hazards that are common in, and sometimes specific to, the industry covered by the BECTU Sector of Prospect. Members can download a PDF copy of this guidance here.

Areas included are:


Legal responsibilities of employers, employed, and self-employed

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) is the core piece of legislation that oversees Health and Safety in the UK. It places a general duty on employers to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of their employees. Employers have a duty to protect the mental as well as the physical health of employees. In particular, the employers must:

  • Organise risk assessments
  • Provide and maintain plant and systems at work so that they are safe and without risks to health
  • Make arrangements for ensuring the safe use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances
  • Provide health and safety information, instruction, training and supervision
  • Maintain the place of work (where it is in the employer’s control) so that it, and access to and exit from it, is safe and without risks to health and
  • Provide and maintain a safe working environment and adequate welfare facilities.

Any employer who employs five or more people is required to prepare and keep an up to date health and safety policy and to bring this to the attention of the employees. This should set out the organisation (people) and arrangements (procedures) necessary to ensure a safe and healthy place to work. With 42% of the BECTU membership being women, members should encourage their employers to adopt a gender sensitive approach to the way they manage H&S in the workplace.

The HSWA also states that employers must consult safety representatives of recognised trade unions about the making and maintenance of health and safety arrangements and where, requested by two or more safety reps, set up a safety committee.

The HSWA places a general duty on employers and the self-employed to ensure that their activities do not endanger anybody and, in certain circumstances, to provide information to the public about any potential hazards to health and safety.

The Deregulation Bill

The Deregulation Bill 2015 became law in March 2015. Under this some self employed people have become exempt from these rules, but most BECTU members whose jobs may pose a health and safety risk to others still need to abide by the HSWA. 

Are you the employer?

The film, TV and broadcasting industry uses large numbers of independent companies and freelancers and it is sometimes difficult to decide who the employer is. However, in the majority of cases, the employer will be the producer or production company. Help in deciding individual responsibilities can be found here.

For more general health and safety information visit the HSE website.  

Responsibilities of employees

As a worker you have a duty to take care of your own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by your actions at work. Workers must co-operate with employers and co-workers to help everyone meet their legal requirements.

Hazards and risks

As an employer or a self-employed person, you have a legal responsibility and you are responsible for health and safety in your business.

To avoid accidents you should undertake regular risk assessments or you can delegate the task, but ultimately you are responsible. You will need to make sure that whoever does the risk assessment is competent to do so.

When conducting a risk assessment care should be taken to be fully inclusive of the all the workforce and take into account hazards and risks that may affect different sections of the workforce in different ways. To ensure that your risk assessment takes account of gender issues visit here.

The HSE says that ‘competent people’ should have a knowledge and understanding of:

  • the work being assessed
  • the principles of risk assessment and the prevention of risk
  • up-to-date health and safety measures
  • how to identify hazards at work

In addition they should be able to:

  • identify health and safety issues
  • assess the need for action
  • design, develop and implement strategies and plans
  • check the effectiveness of these strategies and plans
  • promote health, safety and welfare advances, and good practice
  • know their limitations and when to call for others with specific skills and expertise

Risk Assessments

How to conduct a risk assessment

There is no single method of risk assessment that covers all types of workplaces and different employers will use different methods. The HSE site has a number of examples of risk assessments which need to be adapted to each individual organization. If you do decide to adapt someone else’s template, you do need to be sure that the risk assessment is ‘suitable and sufficient’ to the situation you are assessing. Whichever process is used, the risk assessments should be systematic and thorough and must look at what actually happens in the real workplace – not just at what the employer thinks happens.

The HSE have outlined the basic steps to risk assessment on their website. The site provides interactive risk assessments and templates. It has simple advice on what to do and is a useful starting point for undertaking a risk assessment in any workplace. It is aimed primarily at small businesses and some medium or larger employers would need a more in-depth approach, but the principles apply to all organisations.

There are two key definitions which are an important part of the risk assessment vocabulary:

  • A ‘hazard’ is something with the potential to cause harm (injury loss or damage)
  • A ‘risk’ is the potential for harm to be realised. This is usually seen as a combination of likelihood and severity.

The key is recognising that whereas there are a great many things which are hazardous, it is the context in which they arise which dictates whether or not they are actually a risk. The most widely accepted approach which may suit many BECTU members is the five steps approach as follows:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Decide who might be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
  4. Record your findings and implement them
  5. Review your assessment and update if necessary

Step 1 – Identify the hazards

This process should be systematic and involve walking around the work place and thinking about any possible hazards.

  • Consult with employees
  • Check the ‘Accident and Ill Health book’
  • Read manufacturers' instructions or data sheets for chemicals and equipment as they can be very helpful in spelling out the hazards and putting them in their true perspective
  • Consider non routine operations
  • Take into account activities that may have long term health effects such as noise.

Work place hazards may include:-

  • Asbestos (especially if you are involved with disturbing older buildings)
  • Camera cranes
  • Electrical safety
  • Fire
  • Gas
  • Hazardous substances –  eg Polyurethane foams
  • Lone working
  • Noise
  • Shift working - Working time directive (applies to all workers) and dangers of long hours (accidents more likely, driving home, etc)
  • Skin and Respiratory Sensitisers
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Stress
  • Threats of violence
  • Vibration
  • Working in confined spaces
  • Working at Height – Riggers

Step 2 - Decide who might be harmed and how

This is a subjective exercise but there are a number of schemes to score risks that can be used. The most common method of ranking risk is scoring a hazard in relation to its perceived risk.

An example would be:

  • 0 = no risk
  • 1 = slight risk
  • 2 = moderate risk
  • 3 = high risk

The simplicity of this method is popular, but in some aspects it is limited. More complex grids which allocate risk by scoring the degree of illness/injury and the likelihood of an accident happening can be viewed here.

Employers also need to state on the risk assessment which groups of people may be harmed and how. Some workers may have particular requirements such as temporary workers, expectant mothers, young workers, migrant workers, people with disabilities and older workers.

Step 3 - Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions

Once the risks have been identified the next step is to decide on what action will be taken to remove or reduce the risks. The law is quite clear that employers must reduce the risk to “as low as is reasonably practical”. This does not mean what is affordable; it means a balance between the size of the risk and the size of the ‘sacrifice’ (in time, trouble and money) to prevent the risk. Only if the cost is grossly out of proportion to the risk has the employer done what is ‘reasonably practicable’.

The HSE state that ‘your risk assessment should only include what you could reasonably be expected to know – you are not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks.’

Risk management should involve looking at each risk and deciding whether the risk can be got rid of altogether.  If this isn’t possible then measures should be taken to control the risk so that harm is unlikely.

This could include:-

  • issuing protective equipment
  • installing ventilation equipment
  • providing welfare facilities such as first aid and washing facilities
  • preventing access to the hazards
  • consulting and involving workers to make sure any suggestions will not create other possible hazards

Step 4 - Record your findings and implement them

If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down. The HSE state that ‘a risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace.'

The TUC however does recommend having written risk assessments even if there are fewer than five employees because a ‘written risk assessment is a vital document. Not only is it evidence that the risk assessment has been carried out, but it is a record of what the employer has ascertained needs to be done to control any risks’. A written assessment also provides a platform for future risk assessments and is a useful document to have when reviewing any increase in employee health and safety issues.

If you decide to use a generic template be sure that you thoroughly adapt it to your own work environment. The HSE website has a number of templates available including ones for hairdressing salons, woodwork and plastering and an interactive Risk Assessment tool

Another site that may be better suited for BECTU members is Online Interactive Risk Assessment (OiRA) which is developed and maintained by the European Agency for Health and Safety at work. The OiRA is a platform that allows building easy-to-use and cost-free online tools that can help small organisations to put in place a step-by-step risk assessment process – starting with the identification and evaluation of workplace risks, through to the decision making and implementation of preventative actions, to monitoring and reporting.

OiRA has risk assessment tools tailored for those working in:-

  • Hairdressing;
  • Live Performance/Production
  • Live Performance Venues

Step 5 - Review your assessment and update if necessary

Risk assessments need to be reviewed on an ongoing basis to take into account new equipment, new locations, new, substances and procedures. 

Each time you review it is worth asking whether there have been:-

  • Any significant changes
  • What have you learnt from there being any accidents or near misses
  • Have your workers identified any potential problems

The TUC also produces information for Workplace Reps which gives guidance on how to carry out risk assessments.

New and Expectant mothers – risk assessments

The HSE has produced guidance relating to pregnant women here.

A series of frequently asked questions concerning new and expectant mothers is here.

The section relating to risk assessments is reproduced in part here: ‘Your workplace risk assessment must specifically consider any risks to the health and safety of a new or expectant mother, or that of her baby.'

Possible risks include:

Physical agents

  • Movements and postures
  • Manual handling
  • Shocks and vibrations
  • Noise
  • Radiation (ionising and non-ionising)

Biological agents

  • Infectious diseases

Chemical agents

  • Toxic chemicals
  • Mercury
  • Antimitotic (cytotoxic) drugs
  • Pesticides
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Lead

Working conditions

  • Facilities (including rest rooms)
  • Mental and physical fatigue, working hours
  • Stress (including post-natal depression)
  • Passive smoking
  • Temperature
  • Working with visual display units (VDUs)
  • Working alone
  • Working at height
  • Travelling
  • Violence
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Nutrition

A non-exhaustive list can be found in the annexes of the Pregnant Workers Directive 92/85/EEC, or see also the European Commission’s guidelines.

Health and Safety areas specific to BECTU


The HSE website has an excellent source of information on asbestos.  The information below is a synopsis of this material. For more detailed information go here.

  • It is estimated that asbestos related illnesses kill 5000 workers each year, and it is the greatest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK.  This is more than the number of people killed on the road.
  • Around 20 tradesman die each week as a result of past exposure
  • However, asbestos is not just a problem of the past. It can be present today in any building built or refurbished before the year 2000. 

Why BECTU members should be concerned

Anyone working in buildings built or refurnished prior to 2000, be it a residential property or an industrial property may be at risk, especially workers involved in refurbishment, maintenance and other similar trades.

You can find asbestos in many places, for example:

  • as a sprayed insulating coating on steelwork and concrete
  • as lagging on pipes and boilers
  • as insulation board in walls, on doors and ceilings
  • as asbestos cement for roof and wall coverings, pipes and tanks
  • in other products, e.g. floor tiles, sealants, textured decorative coatings (such as artex), rope seals, millboards, paper products, fire doors, cloth (e.g. fire blankets)

When you are most at risk?

  • the building you are working on was built before the year 2000
  • you are working on an unfamiliar site
  • asbestos-containing materials were not identified before the job was started
  • asbestos-containing materials were identified but this information was not passed on by the people in charge to the people doing the work
  • you haven’t done a risk assessment
  • you don't know how to recognise and work safely with asbestos
  • you have not had appropriate information, instruction and training
  • you know how to work safely with asbestos, but you choose to put yourself at risk by not following proper precautions, perhaps to save time or because no one else is following proper procedures


  • you can't see or smell asbestos fibres in the air
  • the effects of being exposed to asbestos take many years to show up - avoid breathing it in now
  • people who smoke and are also exposed to asbestos fibres are at a much greater risk of developing lung cancer
  • asbestos is only a danger when fibres are made airborne and breathed in
  • as long as the asbestos is in good condition and it is located somewhere where it can’t be easily damaged then it shouldn’t be a risk to you

Asbestos register

BECTU has a national asbestos register which is maintained by the union's solicitors, Thompsons. The union invites all members, across the union, who believe that they have been exposed to asbestos during the course of their work to use the register to record their details in case of future ill-health. For more information go here.

How you may be at risk

There are four main diseases associated with inhalation of asbestos fibres:-  Mesothelioma, Asbestos – related lung cancer, Asbestosis and Pleural thickening

Mesothelioma is a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract (peritoneum). It is almost exclusively related to asbestos exposure and by the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal.

Asbestos-related lung cancer is the same as (looks the same as) lung cancer caused by smoking and other causes. It is estimated that there is around one lung cancer for every mesothelioma death.

Asbestosis is a serious scarring condition of the lung that normally occurs after heavy exposure to asbestos over many years. This condition can cause progressive shortness of breath, and in severe cases can be fatal.

Pleural thickening is generally a problem that happens after heavy asbestos exposure. The lining of the lung (pleura) thickens and swells. If this gets worse, the lung itself can be squeezed, and can cause shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest.

The Duty to Manage Asbestos

The duty to manage asbestos is directed at those who manage non-domestic premises: the people with responsibility for protecting others who work in such premises, or use them in other ways, from the risks to ill health that exposure to asbestos causes.

The revised ACOP L143 ‘Managing and working with asbestos’ contains updated information about the requirements to manage asbestos under regulation 4 of CAR 2012. The information was previously available in the ACOP L127 ‘The management of asbestos in non-domestic premises’ which has now been withdrawn.

How you can protect yourself – get informed, undergo instruction and training re Asbestos

Workers and supervisors must be able to recognise asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) and know what to do if they come across them in order to protect themselves and others.

There are three main levels of information, instruction and training. These relate to:

  • Asbestos awareness
  • Non-licensable work with asbestos including Notifiable Non Licensed Work (NNLW)
  • Licensable work with asbestos.

Only attending a training course will not make a worker competent.  Competence is developed over time by implementing and consolidating skills learnt during training, on-the-job learning, instruction and assessment.

It is important that the level of information, instruction and training is appropriate for the work and the roles undertaken by each worker (and supervisor).

Using a training needs analysis (TNA) will help to identify what topics should be covered to ensure workers have the right level of competence to avoid putting themselves or others at risk.

For more information on the range of training available visit here.

Camera cranes/Jib Guidance

Who is responsible?

If you are an employer or self-employed person and you provide equipment for use at work, or if you have control of the use of equipment, then the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) will apply to you.

Is the equipment safe?

If the equipment is yours then you need to make sure that it is safe and properly maintained. If you hire the equipment then the hiring company should maintain the equipment in a safe manner and provide physical evidence that it is safe for use. ‘The user has the duty to manage the subsequent lifting operations in a safe manner and the duty to ensure that the periodic thorough examinations are undertaken at the frequencies laid down in Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 - LOLER or the examination scheme if there is one. The user may well come to an arrangement with the hirer under which the hirer carries out the thorough examinations but that does not alter the user’s duty to make sure they are done. Further information is available in the British Standard BS 7121 series of standards’ (LOLER point 44).

Things to consider when doing a risk assessment

General guidance on how to conduct a risk assessment is above. It is important to remember that carrying out a thorough risk assessment is a legal requirement.

Specific areas to consider when working with camera cranes and jibs are:-

  • Falls from height - Guard rails and harnesses for operatives and the equipment should be considered if there is a danger of people or  equipment falling. Will the crane be working in high winds? Is the ground where the crane is operating stable? For more information go here.
  • Slips and trips - Are there trailing cables? Is the ground uneven?
  • Is the crane likely to hit anything? - Consider where you are operating as you should not take lifting equipment within 10 m of overhead power cables. Are members of an audience likely to stand up as the camera is coming over? For specific advice about safety at sports events please see here.
  • Should anyone require protective clothing? - Especially in outside broadcasts, an assessment should be made on the conditions that the camera operatives are working in.  For guidance on when protective clothing may be required see here.
  • Is the vehicle carrying the camera crane safe?:- Following a recent incident when a modified 4 x 4 scarab carrying a camera crane overturned whilst travelling over uneven terrain, seriously injuring a member of the film crew; new HSE guidelines have been circulated as follows:

‘All vehicles should have been supplied with adequate safeguarding measures, sufficient information and instructions to ensure they can be used safely. The majority of vehicles can be fitted with camera booms (cranes) of various lengths and weights, all of which will affect the vehicles’ stability during its travel and during filming.

Owners and operators are reminded that these vehicles are work equipment and must comply with all of the relevant legislation. In addition to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which places general duties on employers and the self-employed (e.g. freelancers), the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 place specific requirements on those in control of such vehicles and cranes. These are to ensure that:

  • the equipment, in whatever configuration, is suitable for the conditions, taking into account its stability, the terrain being crossed, and conditions such as wind speed;
  • the equipment is suitable for carrying persons, and incorporates features (e.g. seat belts), to protect passengers from falling out and from unexpected movement;
  • where there is a risk of the vehicle rolling over, it is minimised, for example, by the provision of a suitable protective structure giving sufficient clearance to anyone being carried, and a suitable passenger restraint system;
  • the equipment is maintained in a safe condition;
  • it is inspected at suitable intervals to ensure that it continues to be safe for use (any such inspection should be carried out by a competent person who has the necessary skills, knowledge and experience, and a record kept until the next inspection); and operators of the equipment have adequate information and instruction about its safe use, and in particular, its stability.' 

Manual handling

When the risks of lifting and moving (pushing, carrying) loads are not correctly assessed two common outcomes are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDS) and workplace upper limb disorders (WRULDS). The HSE publish a variety of information related to Manual Handling issues

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (MHOR) require employers to manage the risks to their employees. Risk assessments should consider the needs of all workers and avoid hazardous manual handling operations as far as is reasonably practicable, by redesigning the task to avoid moving the load or by automating or mechanising the process.

HSE has developed tools to help employers analyse lifting, carrying and team handling (the MAC tool and the V-MAC tool), repetitive upper limb tasks (the ART tool) and pushing and pulling (the RAPP tool – due out in 2016). Depending on the task, you may find it helpful to use more than one tool, for example you may need to pick up a box of items (lifting), carry it to a workstation (carrying), then distribute the contents to other locations such as pigeon holes or a filing cabinet (repetitive movements).

For more information about each HSE tool use the following links:

Construction Design Management Regulations (CDM)

The Construction Design Management regulations April 2015 replace the previous regulations CDM 2007. The new regulations are the main regulations for all construction projects. In the CDM regulations, ‘construction’ is very broadly defined and can be taken to cover virtually all typical event structures including:  stages, tents and marquees, grandstands, the installation/rigging of production equipment, including audio, lighting, video and scenery.

The guidelines have been designed to particularly help small businesses and organisations deliver building and construction projects in a way that prevents injury and ill health and also conform to a European Directive. 

A brief video outlining the regulations is here.

The CDM regulations 2015 assign responsibilities to particular roles within a project. The main roles are ‘client’, ‘designer’ and ‘contractor’ and when there is more than one, there are additional roles of ‘principle designer’ and ‘principle contractor’. 

On large projects the client is responsible for making sure the principle designer and principle contractor carry out their duties.   

During the planning phase the principle designer is responsible for the health and safety aspects of the project. On small domestic projects such as home improvements the clients’ responsibilities are transferred to the contractor.

Construction Phase Plans – Under the new regulations all construction projects must have a Construction Phase Plan drawn up before work starts. The plans must reflect the size of the job and the nature of risk, so that jobs with a limited risk only have a simple plan. All contractors must ensure their workers have the correct skills, knowledge and experience to do their job and provide appropriate levels of information, instruction and supervision. The principle contractors must also provide site induction for all workers, secure the site and provide welfare facilities from the start of the job.

Construction Design Management Regulations (CDM) specific to BECTU

The HSE have produced some general guidance specifically for the entertainment industry here.

The above HSE link has additional links providing diagrammatic guidance for the areas of:-

Tv/film and broadcasting

Theatre and performing arts

Live events

BECTU was involved in producing some worked examples of how CDM would work in some typical construction projects relating to events and productions.  Links to this guidance relating to:-

  • building an outside broadcast at a sports ground
  • building a tv set in a studio
  • building a tv drama set on location
  • a studio based film set construction
  • touring theatre set build

can be found here. Full details of the legislation are available here.   

A short guide is available here.

The Structural Safety Organisation Publications have produced a detailed overview of how the CDM2015 affects those working in the building of stages.

Electrical safety

Electricity is a part of everyday life; however when not used safely it can cause damage to property as well as injure or kill people. There are simple precautions that should be followed when using electricity which are outlined below.

Common hazards with electricity relate to:-

  • Contact with live parts which can burn or kill
  • Working with electricity outdoors where the wiring may get wet
  • Using extension cables which may overload sockets or get damaged
  • Electricity not being earthed properly

After conducting a risk assessment it is possible to reduce the risks by:-

  • Ensuring people working on or with the electrical equipment or systems are ‘competent’ for the task
  • Ensuring the electrical installation is safe
  • Providing  safe and suitable equipment
  • Reducing  the voltage
  • Providing a safety devise such as residual current device  RCD
  • Carry out preventative maintenance

For more general guidance on electrical safety read here.

Key elements to consider when devising safe working practices for people who carry out work on or near electrical equipment  is available here. This document includes advice for managers and supervisors who control or influence the design, specification, selection, installation, commissioning, maintenance or operation of electrical equipment.

For advice about working with electricity at events see here.

This document includes brief guidance on:-

  • licensing
  • carrying out a risk assessment
  • common sense ways of preventing electrical danger
  • using fixed installations
  • independent generators
  • knowing what voltage to use.

Electricity and the law

Guidance of how to keep safe when working with electrical equipment is available on the HSE website. This includes guidance on working with Portable electrical equipment, PAT testing, explosive substances and the procedures for reporting accidents.

The 2015 amended  document of ‘The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989’ is available here. The only difference between this and the 2007 regulations is that it removes reference to regulations 17–28 and Schedule 1, which applied only to mines and were revoked in April 2015 by the Mines Regulations 2014, and shows changes made to regulations 3 and 29. This document applies to all electrical systems. This guidance is primarily for dutyholders (including those involved in the design, construction, operation or maintenance of electrical systems and equipment), engineers, technicians and their managers.


Fire safety in the work place

Most fires are preventable and most of the regulations provide guidance on how to prevent fires.  A general guide to fire safety is available here.

Fire safety in construction

To help reduce the number of fatalities, injuries and damage caused by fire in the construction industry, the document ‘Fire safety in Construction’ was updated in November 2015. The documents aim is to help all those involved in construction to identify the main causes of accidents and ill health and explain how to eliminate the hazards and control the risks. The guidance aims to be simple but comprehensive and supportive for those with legal responsibilities under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM).

Fire safety inflammable materials

Working with flammable liquids, dusts, gases and solids is hazardous because of the risk of fire and explosion. The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 – DSEAR places a duty on employers to find out what dangerous substances there are in the work place and to identify what the risks are. More details of DSEAR are here.

A link to the other regulations covered by DSEAR including: - ATEX and Petrol is here.                   

Working with hazardous substances

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)

COSHH regulations 2002 is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health. There are many substances that may be hazardous to health, and employers have a duty to make sure that employees have protective clothing and have received training to enable them to use hazardous material minimizing the risk to themselves.  A brief guide to COSHH is here.

A guide for managers on work place health and safety and welfare is here.

BECTU members working as hairdressers, makeup artists nail technicians and with scenery may be most at risk from working with hazardous substances.  If you are concerned about asthma being bought on by your work environment and need guidance visit here.


Hairdressers may be affected by breathing and handling chemicals used during their work. According to the HSE, up to 70% of hairdressers are affected by the skin condition dermatitis. There are two kinds of dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis. Hairdressers are most at risk when they are washing hair and using shampoo, hair colouring and products used for cleaning up afterwards. Using latex gloves and keeping the hands clean and moisturised can help avoid skin problems. For more information regarding dermatitis and how to prevent it read here.

An example of a hairdresser’s risk assessment considering hazards such as using blades and sharp instruments  and standing for  a long period of time, can be found here.

Hairdressers may also be at risk of breathing difficulties by using bleaches and hair sprays and working in rooms without adequate ventilation. The HSE specific guidance for hairdressers is here.

For general information about – managing skin exposure risks at work including a case study on a hairdresser and advice on good practice see here.

Makeup artists and nail technicians

Makeup artists and nail technicians need to consider many health and safety considerations from being sure that the environment they are working in has adequate light, ventilation and that the work surfaces and seating is at the right height for the person working to ensuring the products being used are safe, do not create an allergic reaction and remain uncontaminated through shared use.

The HSE has produced a number of guidance documents for workers in this field:

An HSE guide for beauticians and nail technicians is here.

An HSE guide to storing chemical products small scale is here.

The HSE guidance for nail technicians is here. The guidance states the importance of good ventilation and how face masks by themselves do not provide adequate protection from fumes.

A basic guide to Health and Safety considerations for makeup artists can be found here.

Props and Scenic Workers

Props and scenic workers are working with machinery and chemicals that may prove a risk to health. A risk assessment should be performed on all activities that pose a significant risk to human health.

Machines and tools

The workshop worker must satisfy themselves that all machines and tools are properly and regularly maintained, cleaned and guarded. They must also ensure that the working environment and housekeeping standards are satisfactory and that any necessary safety equipment is provided and in good condition.   Machinery should be set out so that there is adequate space to operate it safely. More information on the safe use of machinery is here.


Fire is a major hazard in the workshop that may cause death or serious injury and may cause significant damage to a workshop. All workers should be informed of the procedures in the event of a fire or other type of emergency. Exits must be kept clear of rubbish and other items so that they can be used in the event of an emergency.  There should be suitable numbers and appropriate types of fire extinguishers located within the workshop. Workers should be given instruction on the use of such fire extinguishers.

For further information about general fire safety see here.

Slips, trips and falls

Good housekeeping procedures should be routine. Gangways should be kept clear and no wires should be left trailing.

HSE have general guidance on how to avoid slips, trips and falls here.


When cutting timber or any sheet materials a dust extraction system should be used at all times. Operators of portable equipment should also wear a dust mask. Metal and dust should never be exhausted through the same system since sparks or hot metal can ignite wood waste.

Fumes and vapours from certain materials used in scene painting and prop making are particularly hazardous and should not be present in the workshop atmosphere. Such materials include toluene di-isocyanate and diphenylmethane di-isocynate which are included in the preparation of polyurethane foams.

Another material that has vapours that should be kept to a minimum is styrene which is a constituent of unsaturated polyester resin used in glass fibre reinforcement. These fumes can cause:-

  • Asthma, a potentially life-threatening disease
  • Sensitization, which can lead to asthma attacks if exposed again
  • Lung damage
  • Other respiratory and breathing problems
  • Skin and eye irritation

Fume extractors must be used whenever these materials and substances and are being used. Extractor fans should be tested every 12 months to comply with The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations amended 2002.

Further HSE guidance on Ventilation systems is here.

Risks to fertility, reproduction and breastfeeding

Some substances contain chemicals that have a harmful effect on the reproductive system of women of child bearing age. This includes fertility problems and the risk of birth defects to unborn children. There will also be some risks for lactating babies as the contamination will transfer in the milk.

There is usually a safer alternative substance, by asking contacts across the industry what they use for the task in hand, and checking for new substances on the market there may be several alternatives to research.

  • Using the appropriate regs, ensure that the MSDS have been provided and that the COSHH assessment has been done before the substance is introduced to the workplace
  • Insist on a safer alternative
  • Where there is no alternative, insist that the task is not carried out by this group of women.


If you work regularly with hand-held or hand-guided power tools for more than a few hours each day you could be risking damage to nerves, blood vessels and joints of the hand, wrist and arm. Regularly working with tools such as sanders and hammer drills may increase your chance of getting Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) or carpal tunnel syndrome. Exposure to vibration at work is preventable.

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 was introduced to better protect workers from vibration at work and came into force in July 2005.

For a list of symptoms possibly indicating HAVS and advice to prevent this visit here.

Lone working 

Lone workers whether they are self employed or employed should not be placed at more risk than other people. The HSE recognises that ‘establishing a healthy and safe working environment for lone workers can be different from organising the health and safety of other employees. ‘Employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare at work of all their workers. They also have responsibility for the health and safety of any contractors or self-employed people doing work for them.  

Workers have responsibilities to take reasonable care of themselves and other people affected by their work activities and to co-operate with their employers in meeting their legal obligations. More HSE information about lone workers is here.


Employers have a duty to protect employees hearing. This duty is underpinned by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (the Noise Regulations) which came into force for all industry sectors in Great Britain on 6 April 2006 (except for the music and entertainment sectors where they came into force on 6 April 2008).

Loud noise can permanently damage your hearing and once you have lost it you can never get it back. If you think that you may be suffering from hearing loss due to the noise levels at work there are a number of simple assessments that you can try here.

The HSE website has a link to a Hearing loss calculator where you can enter the levels of noise that you are working with. If noise levels are potentially harmful, your employer should try and reduce the noise level and/or provide you with ear protective gear.

For a brief guide to noise at work click here.

Noise risks in the music industry

Music and entertainment sectors are defined in the Noise Regulations as all workplaces where a) live music is played or b) recorded music is played in a restaurant, bar, public house, discotheque or nightclub, or alongside live music or a live dramatic or dance performance.

For specific advice for different areas of the music and entertainment industry prepared by representatives of music and entertainment industries together with Environmental Health Officers and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) go here.

Working at Height – Riggers, Theatre technicians

All employers need to abide by the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) and The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA).

When deciding the need to work at height employers/self employed workers need to consider:

  • Can they avoid working at height, if not they should follow the working at height hierarchy to select the safest option (see below)
  • Take positive steps to prevent or reduce risk
  • Carry out a risk assessment ( see Hazards and Risks above)  and act upon it
  • Use the safest equipment to avoid falls
  • Ensure competent people plan, organise and carry out the tasks.

Best practice is to select the most appropriate method of access for the intended work, working through a hierarchy of options. The aim of the hierarchy is to ensure workers are working safely and the worker should be able to use this hierarchy when no instructions are given.  As the ABTT states, ‘this reduces risk by ensuring that technicians feel empowered to make decisions that reflect a safe approach to their work, not as an excuse to cut corners and do the work the quickest way. Very often employees believe they must carry out the work as quickly as possible with the only equipment available. The Work at Height Regulations expects the opposite.

To keep workers safe staff should be fit and able and must be trained to correctly check prior to use, set up, use and dismantle the range of access equipment provided to them. Technicians need to understand the hazards in using fall arrest equipment and the rescue or recovery techniques as defined by the employer in the event of an arrested fall.

The working at heights hierarchy

1-    Don’t work at height if you can do it in any other way

This can sometimes be achieved by good planning for example working at stage/ground level before scenery/equipment is hoisted.

2-    If you have to work at height, work from an ‘existing safe place of work’

An existing safe place of work is defined as: Any existing permanent place of work which does not require extra work equipment to prevent a fall from height occurring, that is to say a position from which there is no risk of falling and is therefore ‘safe’.  A safe place may include stairways and landings or platforms where there is no risk if the permanent barriers prevent falling.  In a theatre, this could be the grid, a bridge, gallery or similar platform with guardrails and toe-boards.

3-    If there is no existing safe place of work, use equipment to prevent the fall

This means powered access, Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs), towers or other means of access that provide safe and appropriate access to the work at height and the use of fixed length lines with harnesses or belts.

4-    If you can’t minimise both the height and consequence, minimise the consequences of the fall

Use nets or fall arrest equipment to absorb the energy generated by a fall.

5-    If you can’t do that, minimise the risk by instruction, training and supervision

Equipment used at this level in the hierarchy will not have any method for preventing a fall and includes ladders, stepladders and trestles.

For more information about the safe use of ladders see here.

For information on the safe use of tallescopes see here.

For information concerning working at height  with detailed chapters on using tallescopes, ladders, power access equipment, mobile access towers see ABTT’s Code of Practice document.

6-    Rescue must be planned in advance and ready to take action quickly

Planning for work involving use of fall restraint harnesses must include rescue plans to rapidly recover a person who has fallen and is or may become unconscious. Recovery must occur within 10 minutes if potentially fatal consequences are to be avoided.

Risk assessments – for more information see Risk assessments procedures above

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 impose a duty on all employers to carry out suitable and sufficient assessments of all risks to the health and safety of employees and others. Each theatre should carry out its own risk assessment and review and, where found necessary, augment individual production requirements.

 The film, TV and broadcasting industry uses large numbers of independent companies and freelancers and it is sometimes difficult to decide who the employer is. However, in the majority of cases, the employer will be the producer or production company. Help in deciding individual responsibilities can be found here.

For an example of a Working at Height risk assessment see page 9.

For complex, hazardous or specialist productions – advice may have to be sourced from a competent outside specialist or consultant. Please note an employer’s legal duty to manage health and safety cannot be delegated to a consultant or to anyone else.

Guidance for the management and use of stages and related temporary event structures produced by The Structural Safety Organisation Publications can be found on the Stages website.


DRONES - properly known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that are using surveillance cameras come under the regulations of the Civil Aviation Authority CAA and the Data Protection Act and Local Authorities

If you wish to use a small UAS either for recreation or work purposes you have to take responsibility to do so safely. The Civil Aviation Agency has produced a video for non professionals, which provides the basic information you need to know before flying a UAS. 

The CAA has also published guidance CAP 722  which highlights the safety requirements that have to be met before a UAS is allowed to operate in the UK Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace.

As this is a live document which is continually being updated, do check the CAA website for the most recent regulations. The regulations do differ depending on the weight of the UAS.

Working in confined spaces

BECTU members such as makeup artists and hairdressers may sometimes find that their working conditions lack ventilation and this coupled with using occasional toxic substances can be an area of concern.  For the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 Approved Code of Practice , which explains the definition of a confined space and gives examples see here.It will help you assess the risk of working within a particular confined space and put precautions in place for work to be carried out safely

A basic overview of working with solvents including a section on who is responsible for what and also a section on working in confined spaces can be found here.

Special Effects

The main legal requirements covering health and safety in the use of special and visual effects is the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.  The HSE published some guidance outlining areas to consider when doing a special effects risk assessment here. This document includes guidance on:-

Competence - as the amount of knowledge, skill and experience someone needs to be considered ‘competent’ will vary for different tasks.  Competence should therefore be judged in the light of experience, training and the work to be undertaken. Levels of competency are graded according to knowledge, skill, experience and training, as recommended by the Joint Industry Grading Scheme for Special Effects (JIGSFX), for more information visit their website

Typical hazards for example: - premature firing due to mobile phones or other types of radio transmitting equipment, weather conditions such as electrical storms and/or projectiles and other debris. 

Control measures that may need to be taken including:- creating an exclusion zone from mobile or other radio transmitting equipment; the determination of safe distances and /or emergency arrangements for dealing with effects that do not go according to plan.

More guidance on the safe use of special effects, including links to specialist guidance when  using explosives, fireworks, smoke and strobe lighting is available here.


According to the Labour Force Survey 2015, in 2014/15 stress accounted for 35% of all work related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health – for more information regarding this survey see here.

If you feel that you may be suffering from stress – you may wish to visit the HSE possible signs of stress page here.

If you feel that you are suffering from stress at work remember that your employer has a duty of care towards your mental and physical wellbeing. For more information go here.

The HSE have produced Management Standards on how employers should tackle workplace stress, see here. In the absence of specific legislation, these standards, based on the risk assessment approach, and are seen as the most useful method of tackling stress in the workplace. The TUC has produced guidance for safety representatives on these Standards. The guide outlines the standards and explains what safety representatives need to do to ensure that their employer takes effective measures to reduce stress. See here.

Shift working

Laws covering shift work are:-

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 –  where employers  have a ‘duty of care’ to their employees; 
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1999 which require every employer to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety to which their  employees and others, who may be affected by their actions, are exposed whilst they are at work. This should enable the identification of the preventative and protective measures that need to be taken to ensure their health and safety.
  • The Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) (as amended), which provide entitlements for workers as regards their working time, which contain specific provisions for night workers. Links to the WTR and guidance relating to the number of hours that may be worked is here.

The HSE guidance for working shift work is here.

Working nights for long periods of time have been linked to a wide range of health problems in men and women including increased rates of prostate cancer, breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, diabetes type 2, increased accident risk, premature babies, heart disease, drug and alcohol addiction and menstrual disorders.  Work patterns that disrupt the body’s natural sleep patterns have also been linked to early retirement and more women than men taking early retirement on health grounds.

  • Workers working shift work and/or night work should demand effective risk assessments on shift patterns and ensure the least unhealthy patterns are adopted. 
  • Where shift work and night work is unavoidable, unions should explore ways of ensuring employees do not work nights for two decades or more continuously.
  • BECTU members should advise that shift and night workers do not work more than 8 hours a shift where possible. 

Working hours

Worker s in the UK work longer hours than their European neighbours. The British Government’s decision to opt out of the Working Time Directive has meant many workers are working longer hours. Increased competition for jobs has led to an increase in workers working unpaid overtime.  Plus the introduction of zero hours contracts has in some cases increased the likelihood of workers working as many hours as they can get whilst the work is there.

Young women and older women are more likely to be engaged in part time work due to their caring commitments to children and elderly relatives. Part time work is often coupled with working multiple jobs.  Long and sometimes unsocial able working hours, coupled with hectic home lives often results in tiredness and stress related illnesses.

Vulnerable Workers


The HSE recognise that men and women are concentrated in certain jobs, and therefore face hazards particular to those jobs.   Work by the HSE and TUC in recent years has identified a number of topics areas where gender specific risks have been overlooked. For more information go here.

Women and health issues

Women are affected by all areas of health and safety, although there is a perception that often risk assessments are written omitting to take account of specific women related health issues such as menstrual cycles; pregnancy; breast feeding and the menopause. For advice on how to make this process gender sensitive please see Fact Sheet 43 from The European Agency for Health and Safety at Work here.

For guidance in how to manage the menopause at work visit here.

Men and health issues

The issues regarding men’s health are becoming increasingly recognised in society.  Men are generally seen as less likely to visit their GP with a long term health issue, 78% of deaths by suicide are male and 1 in 5 men die before the age of 65.  These statistics come from the Men’s Health Forum.   To raise awareness of  men’s health issues  the Men’s Health Forum  have produced a number of self help  guides  covering areas such as weight loss, long term health issues and mental health .  For more information visit here.

Male and female reproductive health – see shift work

Older workers

Today’s workforce is made up of workers of all ages.  Increased life expectancy, the removal of a default retirement age and the raising of the State Pension Age, means that many people will need, and want to continue working. For general information about older workers and links to other websites supporting older workers please visit here.


When compiling this Health and Safety guidance BECTU have included links to a number of specific Health and Safety organizations, in particular The Health and Safety Executive. Where we have done this we thank the organisations for allowing us to access this information.

Latest guidance published 6 July 2018.