Safety in Live Entertainment


The aim of this page is to list some of the Health and Safety regulations that exist to protect everyone working in live events. This is initially focussed on the UK, but will cover more territories in time. 

UK Legislation that applies to theatre

HASAWA – Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 – overall legislation that contains the following regulations:

CDM – Construction Design and Management Regulations 2014
COSHH – Control of Substances Hazardous to Health
LOLER – Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998
PUWER  – Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
RIDDOR – Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, 2013



Safe System of Work

Every activity required to put on a show of any kind should have a series of procedures which are documented, regularly revised and reviewed, and followed by all involved in the activity. These documents should be available to anyone involved in the activity to review BEFORE the activity takes place. 

Risk Assessment

What is a Risk Assessment?

A Risk Assessment is a formal record of hazards in the workplace, identifying the risks they pose, defining the seriousness and likelihood of the risks, and explaining the control methods to reduce the risks to acceptable levels.

How do I fill out a Risk Assessment?

The Health & Safety Executive (UK) has a set of sample risk assessments for various businesses. [HSE Website]

Can I download a sample risk assessment for a theatre?

We’re working on a series of sample risk assessments, and these will be available to download in the coming months.

Access Equipment

Electrical Safety

PAT Testing (Electricity at Work Act, 1989)

PAT Test Label (LabelsOnline)

All portable electrical equipment must be periodically tested to ensure it is safe to use, and the results should be recorded for future reference.

A large percentage of faults can be easily found by carrying out a visual check.

Visual Check

  • Unplug the item before carrying out any check
  • Is the flex correctly secured in the plug?
  • Is the cable free from any breaks, cracks, temporary repairs or other damage? (any electrical tape on the cable should be removed, and if a problem is found, the equipment should be taken out of service).
  • Can any of the inner cores of the cable (usually coloured brown, blue and green/yellow) be seen through the outer protective cable sheath?
  • Is the case fully intact and unbroken?
  • Are there any marks on the equipment or plug which may indicate overheating?
  • Does the equipment work as intended?

If any of the above checks fail, the equipment must be taken out of service and repaired by a competent person.

Further information about electrical tests and checks can be found on the HSE website.

General Guidance on Stage Lighting Safety (1992)

Factsheet - Electrical Testing (1994)

Electrical Safety for Entertainers (UK)

External Links


Audience Safety Concerns

Strobe Lights / Flashing Lights

Certain combinations of flashing lights can trigger seizures for anyone with photo-sensitive epilepsy. Warning signs should always be used when lighting effects are being used that could trigger a seizure. Be as specific as possible so that the audience knows what to expect. Don’t forget that actors, crew-members, orchestra members can also be triggered. Here are some examples:

  • Fast Strobing Lights are used in this performance
  • Camera Flash lighting effects are used in this performance
  • Multiple Strobes and Flashing Lights are used in this performance
  • An explosion lighting effect is used in this performance

Ensure the signs can be seen by everyone entering the venue.

Fire Safety

All items used on stage should be adequately fire-resistant. This includes scenic drapes and costumes. Where fire risks are increased (e.g. near pyrotechnic devices, hot lighting equipment) then extra precautions should be taken. 

Theatre Fires:


All systems connected with safety must be regularly maintained and tested. The frequency of testing will be set by local regulations.

Visual checks should be carried out every time an item (e.g. a ladder) is used. If there are signs of damage, it should be referred to the responsible person to be tested and if necessary replaced. No equipment that raises concern during a visual check should be used if a different item is available.

Safety Related Links

External Links

Health & Safety

BAPAM British Association for Performing Arts Medicine [UK]
ESTA Fog / Smoke [USA]
NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards [USA]
Online Sign Free Printable Safety Sign Maker
RU Safe? information and guidance about safety in small venues [UK]
The Purple Book - The Purple Guide to Health, Safety and Welfare at Music and Other Events [UK]
The Yellow Book - ABTT Technical Standards for Places of Entertainment Safety standards and guidelines for venues. [UK]
Theatre Safety Blog


Allan Chapman & James Insurance Public Liability Insurance etc. [UK]
Guide on Running Events Safely UK Health & Safety Exectuive [UK]
La Playa UK Public Liability Insurance etc. [UK / USA]
Wrightsure Insurance Public Liability Insurance [UK]


Actor Cigarette Safe Smoking Prop

Unions / Associations

ABTT (Association of British Theatre Technicians) Training, Advice, Membership [London, UK]
IATSE International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees [USA]
PLASA UK Professional Lighting & Sound Association [UK]

Glossary Entries

British Association for Performing Arts Medicine. Specialist health and safety support for performers and technicians.
British Association for Performing Arts Medicine website

Short for British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat.
(From their website:  The British Academy of Stage & Screen Combat was founded in 1993 with the aim of improving the standards of safety, quality and training of stage combat and promoting a unified code of practice for the training, teaching and assessing of stage combat within the United Kingdom.)

UK Regulations introduced in 2015 covering any construction project. Many live event construction projects (e.g. building set, raised stages etc) are covered by the regulations. 
UK Health and Safety Executive website

An alternative plan of action if a piece of technology fails to operate. Large-scale productions have to continue wherever possible to avoid having to give the audience refunds. So if a small piece of the set fails to work or gets stuck (particularly automated scenery) the cast and crew will have rehearsed an alternative choreography to work around it while the crew repair it. For example in The Lord of the Rings The Musical in London, when the revolving stage with multiple lifts had a safety sensor triggered, the automation went into 'E-Stop' mode, a thunderclap sound effect was triggered, the stage lifts went to a flat floor (once it had been found safe to do so) and the actors for the next scene were rushed into new positions, while the actors on stage immediately adopted a new choreography.
It's vital that contingencies are worked out in advance so that as soon as something goes wrong, the show can continue, and the audience will hopefully be unaware.

(UK Health and Safety) Acronym for Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. Requires employers to prevent or reduce their workers' exposure to substances that are hazardous to their health.
As well as dangerous chemicals and solvents, COSHH also covers ANY substance that is hazardous, including dust particles in a set-building environment.  
HSE COSHH website

Acronym for International Code of Practice for Entertainment Rigging.
A new standard, published in 2017.
Download ICOPER at PLASA

Abbreviation for Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (UK Health & Safety Executive).

Material Safety Data Sheet. Form available from manufacturers of, for example, smoke fluids. Lists any hazardous ingredients and other safety-related data about the product.

Short for Portable Appliance Test. Requirement under the UK Electricity At Work Regulations (1989) to test and inspect all portable electrical equipment. This includes stage lighting equipment (lanterns, cables, portable dimmer packs etc.).

(UK - Health & Safety) Abbreviation of Personal Protective Equipment. The equipment that's needed depends on the task and risk assessment but could include: steel toe-capped boots / shoes, protective headgear, gloves etc.

Abbreviation for Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (UK Health & Safety Executive)

Acronym from Risk Assessment & Method Statement. RAMS is the paperwork that you should provide when undertaking any activity that requires it.

Abbreviation for Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, 2013 (UK Health & Safety Executive)
Reporting Accidents and Incidents At Work - A Brief Guide (HSE)

A Risk Assessment is a document listing the risks and hazards involved in a particular activity, highlighting what controls are in place to reduce the risk to an acceptable (safe) level.

Safe Working Load. The maximum weight that should be put onto a lifting device or suspension point. Now superseded by WLL (Working Load Limit)

UK Health and Safety terminology. Can be defined as 'the integration of people, articles and substances in a suitable environment and workplace to produce and maintain an acceptable standard of safety. In this system, due consideration should be given to foreseeable emergencies and the provision of adequate facilities'
Submitted by Chris Higgs

When an emergency situation means the performance cannot continue, a SHOW STOP is announced. The stop would be called most often because of a safety issue (e.g. a piece of scenic automation is stuck in a dangerous position, or is blocking the stage or flytower in such a way that the show cannot continue. Or a performer has been injured). The audience may be asked to leave the theatre (and be issued refunds) or be asked to remain in their seats while the situation is corrected. For example, if a trapdoor is stuck open, the show must be stopped until it can be closed and made safe.
A heavily automated show should have a pre-recorded announcement, but it may be more human / theatrical to have a member of the stage management team or the company manager to walk on stage with the houselights up and make an announcement along these lines: 'Ladies and Gentlement, sorry to interrupt the performance, but we've had to pause the show here for a few moments while we reset some technical equipment to enable us to continue safely. Please remain in your seats - the performance will continue shortly'. Obviously if there's a major failure and it's unlikely the performance will be able to continue, the procedure should be to apologise to the audience, to give them information about how to obtain a refund or another ticket, and then to ask them to leave the auditorium.

Safe Working Load.

(UK Health & Safety) Any structure built for an event, whether it's staging, seating or a marquee or similar outdoor structure. 
UK Health and Safety Executive website

Australian equivalent of the UK "PAT" Test - a regime for testing electrical equipment for safe operation and then logging the results.

A framework of alloy bars and triangular cross-bracing (usually of scaffolding diameter) providing a rigid structure, particularly useful for hanging lights where no permanent facility is available. Very often box-shaped in cross section, so known as BOX TRUSS. This type of truss is useful for touring as lanterns / speakers etc can be hung inside the truss which protects them when loading and takes up less space in the truck.
You should only use truss from reputable manufacturers, and should check the manufacturers' website for instructions on how to use it, and what limitations it may have. 
Rigging a truss incorrectly can vastly reduce its' safe working load, and can result in damage to the truss,or a far more serious failure. Always seek advice from professionals, and do not attempt to rig equipment without proper advice or supervision. 

WLL / W.L.L.*
(UK - Health & Safety) Abbreviation for Working Load Limit.