Switched On - Taking the Right Steps

It is important to understand that legal requirements concerning Health & Safety in the work place differ from country to country, and even within different local jurisdictions within a country.

The geographical scope of this information is such that it cannot be taken as providing legally binding Working Practice Regulations for every area and theatre – there is NO SUBSTITUTE FOR FINDING OUT THE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS IN YOUR AREA. In most cases practical Health & Safety advice is available from government agencies or lead industry bodies – most of which are easily accessible via the internet. CHECK THEM OUT NOW!

In the UK Health & Safety at work is dictated by the Health & Safety at Work Act of 1974. This Act, which includes strong measure to procure enforcement (i.e. fines, imprisonment, etc) states that: “an employer has duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, your health, safety and welfare at work.”

An organisation with 5 or more employees is required to have a Safety Policy which includes a Statement of Intent, a system for the Management of H&S and the rules therein. A Safety Committee and Safety Officers would form part of the Management system.

Every workplace activity is covered by the 1974 Act, as are all employers, employees, manufacturers and suppliers – even, and especially, any visitors to the work place – e.g. an audience. Thus all working practices, procedures and environments are covered e.g. exits and escape routes. The education and instruction of employees in terms of Health & Safety is also provided for under the Act, as is the requirement for provision of appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE).

Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – by extension, these regulations added substance to the ideas within the 1974 Act, and include rules for the protection or young people, and expectant mothers; health surveillance and provision for contact with the emergency services and other such bodies.

Training in the elements and management of Health & Safety is readily available in most industries and can go into great detail. The general principles however are designed to allow common sense to be easily applied.

The basic underlying principle is to make employers take time to think through all aspects of Healthy and Safe working practices. Employees are also given responsibility for Health & Safety – in fact everyone has a responsibility of some kind under the act (See Employees duties below). It is to this end that H&S systems and structures are put into place by companies.

The following section is included to illustrate key features of Health & Safety at Work as it is applied in the UK:

Main elements derived from the 1974 Act include:

Risk Assessment

An underlying precept of the 1974 Act. All activities should be assessed for their potential danger. Where there is a perceived risk then a Risk Assessment is be carried out. This involves:

  • Isolating the process or procedure to be assessed.

  • Identifying the manner and degree of harm that may occur – hazard identification.

  • Quantifying the likelihood that harm may occur and who to, and thus deduce the initial risk factor.

  • Recognising the manner in which the risk can be reduced.

  • Calculating the resultant Risk Factor and re-assessing the acceptability of the action under consideration.

As part of Risk Assessing – a control regime is illustrated by ERIC PD = Evaluate. Reduce. Isolate. Control. PPE. Discipline.

Do you need to do it? Can it be done another (safer) way?

Make it safer by reducing the dangers

Make sure the least number of people are put at risk

Put in measures to reduce the risk

The PPE Use Personal Protection Equipment – hard hats, steel top-cap boots

Be tough on any one not following the rules which help ensure their (and your) safety

Whereby an activity is initially evaluated, reduced then isolated then given control systems, PPE used where appropriate and finally people put under disciplinary constraints to make sure H&S is taken seriously.

A Risk Assessment document should remain a LIVING DOCUMENT – i.e. it should be continually re-assessed and updated.

It should NOT be carried out, filed away and forgotten e.g. it is usual to make a Risk Assessement and include a date/time on which the activity will be checked or monitored and the document updated – in a theatre context this is often part of a Production Manager’s duties in a Technical Rehearsal.

The underlying principle of Risk Assessments is to avoid ever having to say: “I never thought that would happen.”

RIDDOR: Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995. Accident management and prevention. Legal and moral requirements to report certain events via RIDDOR to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Accidents are not only harmful to people but cost company's money. Risk Assessment procedures, etc are designed to reinforce the safety procedures and avoid the need for RIDDOR.

ACOPs – Activities indicative of risk will usually have an industry guide line or Approved Code of Practice. These are not legally binding instructions but anyone choosing their own practice – differing from the ACOP – would have to be prepared to show that what they were proposing was as good as, if not better, than the ACOP.

‘Lone Worker’ rules/control systems: The manner in which people can or cannot be left to work in an area on their own. – e.g. with power tools, at height, etc. LW Systems can include the external monitoring of workers (e.g. signing in and out systems), extra precautions in the work place, or extra use of PPE, etc. See Exercise 38, below.

Employees’ duties

These include:

• Care of your own safety and that of others, whether by action or omission.

• Observance of the employers rules, regulations and systems of managing H&S.

• Communication of fears and concerns with H&S issues.

• Not to intentionally endanger self or others by reckless behaviour or misuse of equipment or by horseplay.

Work Place (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992: which covers such things as air handling, work station and seating, lighting, ventilation, temperature, cleanliness, etc.

COSHH – Control of Substances Hazardous to Health. Manufacturers or industry guidelines on the Storage, Handling, Use and Transportation of noxious substances – Mnemonic for this being SHUT. See Exercise 39 below.

PUWER – Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations - includes Suitability, Inspection, Risk Assessing, Information, Training, Standards, Testing and Maintenance of equipment.

LOLER – Lifting operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998. As implied these regulations concern manual and powered lifting operations (e.g. lifting heavy loads by hand, or by fork lift truck, etc). And connects to ….

Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 – incorporating TILE – Task assessment, Individual in question, Load being undertaken, Environment of lifting.

Working at Height Regulations 2005. Including Access Equipment – Ladders, Towers, etc.

Fire Safety: Through Risk Assessment, Information, Training.

Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 Including: Identification of Hazards, Working Procedures, Testing and Safety. Portable Appliance Testing (PAT Testing).

SUMMARY: It is important that you and those around you are able to work safely and with continued good health. You should know who in your workplace (and remember a School or College is also defined as a workplace) is in charge or responsible for your Health & Safety. You should also remember that you also have responsibilities – one of which is to draw attention to any concerns you may have about Health & Safety in your work place. Remember also that ignorance in no defence.

As a General Rule:

Practical Ability




a) Get yourself a good selection of the following – making sure you have at least one of the first two items listed:

• An egg
• A water filled balloon
• A baseball
• A golf ball
• A ping pong ball
• A pebble
• A basket ball
• A tennis ball
• A balled up piece of paper
• An orange
• A melon

b) Create a method to hold these items securely within a box – do this twice over – i.e. have two boxes.

c) Place the chosen items in one of the two boxes.

d) Get a friend or colleague to join in, and make sure you are dressed and in an area appropriate for the potential mess you are about to make!

e) Toss a coin to decide who has the filled box and who the empty box.

f) Stand face to face a step apart, with the boxes in easy reach on the floor.

g) The person with the filled box chooses an item and hands it to the other person who then places it in their box.

h) Person one then takes a step backwards and chooses another object to hand over or throw to person two.

i) This activity continues with ever increasing distance until either the egg or the balloon breaks.

j) The loser is either the person with egg or water all over them, or the person who first decides they want to stop – i.e. it is getting too dangerous!

Health & Safety Notes:

• Throwing should be underarm and avoid faces – or eye protection should be worn.

• You may wish to use the Risk Assessment system above for this activity before proceeding.

NOTES: The natural process of taking different levels of care depending on what is being thrown is Risk Assessment in action. Although it is not usual to carry out an activity to find out what is dangerous about it – i.e. a Risk Assessment is done before – nevertheless we are in practice Risk Assessing what we are doing all the time. It is this that stops us from walking out in front of moving traffic or running across the Motorway.


*** Exercise 36: WALK ABOUT

a) Choose an area within your work place, school, college or home

b) Assess that area in terms of the following chart:





Working Spaces





Rest Areas

Work Stations




Clothing Storage

Transparent Surfaces


Windows (including window cleaning)


Changing Clothing

Traffic Routes


Doors and Gates


Stairs / Lifts / Escaltors



Washing Facilities


Drinking Water

c) Make a note of anything you think may be faulty, lacking maintenance, or a hazard.

d) Make a note of what could occur in the area you are looking at which would be considered dangerous or hazardous or may, in certain circumstances, result in creating a Hazard.


***Exercise 37: TAKING A RISK

a. Choose a normal everyday activity from the following list:







b. Fill in the following chart in order to risk assess the activity.

















c). Refer to this chart if you require further guidance:




(severity x likelihood)








Multiple deaths




Immediate prohibition


Single death




Unacceptable - must be reduced


Major (defined by RIDDOR)




High level of supervision required

- try to reduce


Reportable (1 day absence)




Monitoring required




Very unlikely



NOTES: Bear in mind such things as trip hazards, hygiene, use and abuse of equipment, and all other possible dangers.

In the Chart:

Hazard would include things like burns, electric shock, etc.

Severity is a number taken from the list below the chart.

Likelihood is a number taken from the list below the chart.

Risk Factor is Severity x Likelihood.

Measures to Reduce Risk are ways to prevent a problem – e.g. Make sure equipment is electrically safe, have procedures fully rehearsed, consult qualified experts, use PPE etc.

Residual Likelihood is the new likelihood after you have put measures in to reduce the risk.

Residual Risk is Severity x Residual Likelihood. This should be measured by referencing the Risk Factor list below the chart.


a) Choose one of the following activities:

• Painting a stage floor

• Cutting colour

• Rigging a light at height

• Testing and/or using a pyrotechnic

• Using a circular saw in a construction workshop

b) Make a list of what problems may occur if you were trying to carry out the activity on your own – i.e. with no one near at hand.

c) Decide what systems you would put in place to allow you to carry out the activity or whether it should NOT be carried out in isolation.

d) Read the notes below if you need further guidance.

NOTES: You may wish to use the Risk Assessment system above for this activity – it is after all designed to help you assess just such risks.

• Not all the above may be acceptable for ‘lone working’.

• Bear in mind that even if you are alone in a room there may be others in other parts of a building who could check that you are OK at regular intervals – e.g when working at height.

• Finally – you may want to look on the internet for appropriate information concerning Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) and ‘Lone Working’ regulations as they relate to each of these activities.



a) Look around your work place, school or college for information regarding Health and Safety. you should be able to find notices about Fire and Exits routes, and general Health & Safety policy in general view.

b) Copy down the relevant information and think how you would make it more accessible to others – e.g. create a useful mnemonic or colourful cartoon character to get the information across.


*** Exercise 40:  GOOD MATERIAL

a) Look around your work place, school or college for three or more examples likely to be considered ‘Substances Hazardous to Health’ – e,g, cleaning materials, correction fluid, paint, etc.

b) Look at what information regarding Health and Safety comes with them.

c) Use the internet or other method (the telephone?) to obtain the relevant manufacturers information on their use.

Notes: Manufacturers of products are generally obliged to give out information pertaining to COSHH regulations.


*** Exercise 41:  HELP!

a) Look around your work place, school or college for information, OR ask the person most relevant, concerning the local government or council authority in charge of THREE of the following areas:

  • FIRE











Ascertain how each area pertains to your ‘work place’ and list what regulations and/or restrictions are in place from the particular authority.

Notes: If you have trouble making contact with the authority in question or gaining information generally, use the exercise to work out and list what regulations you would have in place in your work place in each area if it were up to you.