The occupational safety and health hazards for those who work in parks and botanical gardens fall in the following general categories: environmental, mechanical, biological or chemical, vegetation, wildlife and caused by human beings. The risks differ depending on where the site is located. Urban, suburban, developed or undeveloped wildland will differ.
As parks and garden personnel are found in all geographical areas and generally spend a great deal, if not all, of their working time outdoors, they are exposed to the widest variety and extremes of temperature and climatic conditions, with the resultant risks ranging from heat stroke and exhaustion to hypothermia and frostbite.
Those who work in urban areas may be in facilities where vehicular traffic is significant and may be exposed to toxic exhaust emissions such as carbon monoxide, unburned carbon particles, nitrous oxide, sulphuric acid, carbon dioxide and palladium (from the breakdown of catalytic converters).
Because some facilities are located in the higher elevations of mountainous regions, altitude sickness may be a risk if an employee is new to the area or is prone to high or low blood pressure.
Park area workers are usually called upon to perform search and rescue and disaster control activities during and following natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, volcanic eruptions and the like affecting their area, with all of the risks inherent in such events.
It is essential that all personnel be thoroughly trained in the potential environmental risks inherent in their areas and be provided with the proper clothing and equipment, such as adequate cold- or hot-weather gear, water and rations.
Personnel in parks and gardens are called upon to be thoroughly familiar with and operate an extremely wide variety of mechanical equipment, ranging from small hand tools and power tools and powered lawn and garden equipment (mowers, thatchers, rototillers, chainsaws, etc.) to heavy equipment such as small tractors, snow ploughs, trucks and heavy construction equipment. Additionally, most facilities have their own shops equipped with heavy power tools such as table saws, lathes, drill presses, air pressure pumps and so on.
Employees must be thoroughly trained in the operation, hazards and safety devices for all types of equipment they could potentially operate, and be provided and trained in the use of the appropriate personal protection equipment. Since some personnel may also be required to operate or ride the full range of motor vehicles, and fixed- or rotary-wing aircraft, they must be thoroughly trained and licensed, and regularly tested. Those that ride as passengers must have knowledge of the risks and training in safe operation of such equipment.
Biological and Chemical Hazards
Continuous, close contact with the general public is inherent in almost every occupation in park and garden work. The risk of contracting viral or bacterial diseases is always present. Additionally, the risk of contact with infected wildlife that carry rabies, psitticosis, Lyme disease and so on is present.
Park and botanical garden workers are exposed to various amounts and concentrations of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals, as well as toxic paints, thinners, varnishes, lubricants and so on used in maintenance and transport work and equipment.
With the proliferation of illegal drugs, it is becoming common for personnel in national parks and forests to come across illegal drug-manufacturing laboratories. The chemicals found in these can cause death or permanent neurological damage. Personnel in urban and rural areas may also encounter discarded drug paraphernalia such as used hypodermic syringes, needles, spoons and pipes. If any of these punctures the skin or enters the body, illness ranging from hepatitis to HIV could result.
Thorough training in the risks and preventive measures is essential; regular physical examinations should be provided and immediate medical attention sought if a person is so exposed. It is essential that the type and duration of exposure be recorded, if possible, to be given to the treating physician. Whenever illegal drug paraphernalia is encountered personnel should not touch it but rather should secure the area and refer the matter to trained law enforcement personnel.
Most types of vegetation pose no health risk. However, in wildland areas (and some urban and suburban park areas) poisonous plants such as poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac can be found. Health problems ranging from a minor rash to a severe allergic reaction can result, depending on the susceptibility of the individual and the nature of the exposure.
It should be noted that roughly 22% of the total population suffers from allergic reactions of one form or another, ranging from mild to severe; an allergic individual may respond to only a few substances, or to many hundreds of different types of vegetation and animal life. Such reactions can result in death, in extreme cases, if immediate treatment is not found.
Prior to working in any environment with plant life, it should be determined whether an employee has any allergies to potential allergens and should take or carry appropriate medication.
Personnel should also be cognizant of plant life that is not safe to ingest, and should know the signs of ingestion illness and the antidotes.
Parks workers will encounter the full spectrum of wildlife that exists around the world. They must be familiar with the types of animals, their habits, the risks and, where necessary, the safe handling of the wildlife expected to be encountered. Wildlife ranges from urban domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, to rodents, insects and snakes, to wildland animals and bird species including bears, mountain lions, poisonous snakes and spiders, and so on.
Proper training in the recognition and handling of wildlife, including the diseases affecting such wildlife, should be provided. Appropriate medical response kits for poisonous snakes and insects should be available, along with training in how to use them. In remote wildland areas, it may be necessary to have personnel trained in the use of, and be equipped with, firearms for personal protection.
In addition to the aforementioned risk of contact with a visitor having a contagious illness, a major share of the risks faced by personnel who work in the parks, and to a lesser degree botanical gardens, are the result of either accidental or deliberate action of facilities visitors. Those risks range from the need of park employees to perform search and rescue activities for lost or injured visitors (some in the most remote and dangerous environments) to responding to acts of vandalism, drunkenness, fighting and other disruptive activities, including assault on park or garden employees. Additionally, the park or garden employee is at risk of vehicular accidents caused by visitors or others who are driving by or in the vicinity of the employee.
Approximately 50% of all wildland fires have a human cause, attributable to either arson or negligence, to which the park employee may be required to respond.
Wilful damage or destruction of public property is also, unfortunately, a risk the park or garden employee may well be required to respond to and repair, and, depending on the type of property and degree of damage, a significant safety risk may be present (i.e., damage to wilderness trails, foot bridges, interior doors, plumbing equipment and so on).
Personnel who work with the environment are, generally, sensitive and attuned to the outdoors and to preservation. As a result, many such personnel suffer from varying degrees of stress and related illnesses because of the unfortunate actions of some of those who visit their facilities. It is important, therefore, to be aware of the onset of stress and take remedial action. Classes in stress management are helpful for all such personnel.
Violence in the workplace is, unfortunately, becoming an increasing common risk and cause of injury. There are two general classes of violence: physical and psychological. The types of violence range from simple verbal threats to mass murder, as evidenced by the 1995 bombing of the US federal office building, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 1997 a tribal police officer was killed while trying to serve a warrant on a Southwest Indian reservation. There is also a less discussed, but common, psychological violence that has been classed euphemistically as “office politics” that can have equally debilitating effects.
Physical. In the United States, attacks on federal, state and local governmental personnel who work in remote and semi-remote parks and recreation areas are not uncommon. The majority of these result in injury only, but some involve assaults with dangerous weapons. There have been instances where disgruntled members of the public have entered federal land-managing agencies’ offices brandishing firearms, threatened the employees and had to be restrained.
Such violence can result in injury ranging from minor to fatal. It can be inflicted by unarmed assault or the use of the widest variety of weapons, ranging from simple club and stick to handguns, rifles, knives, explosives and chemicals. It is not uncommon for such violence to be inflicted upon the vehicles and structures owned or used by the governmental agency that operates the park or recreational facility.
It is also not uncommon for disgruntled or dismissed employees to seek retaliation against current or former supervisors. It is also becoming common for outdoor recreation, forest and park employees to encounter persons growing and/or manufacturing illegal drugs in remote areas. Such persons do not hesitate to resort to violence to protect their perceived territory. Park and recreation personnel, particularly those involved in law enforcement, are required to deal with persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol who break the law and become violent when apprehended.
Psychological. Not as well publicized, but in some instances equally damaging, is psychological violence. Commonly called “office politics”, it has been in use probably since the beginning of civilization to gain status over co-workers, gain an advantage in the workplace and/or weaken a perceived opponent. It consists of destroying the credibility of another person or group, usually without that other person or group being aware that it is being done.
In some instances, it is done openly, through the media, legislative bodies and so on, in an attempt to gain political advantage (for example, destroying the credibility of a governmental agency in order to cut its funding).
This usually has a significant negative result on the morale of the individual or group involved and, in rare, extreme instances, can cause a recipient of the violence to take his or her own life.
It is not uncommon for victims of violence to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, which may affect them for years. It has the same effect as “shell shock” among military personnel who have experienced prolonged and intense combat. It may require extensive psychological counselling.
Protective measures. Because of the constantly increased risk of encountering violence in the workplace, it is essential that employees receive extensive training in the recognition and avoidance of potentially dangerous situations, including training in how to deal with persons who are violent or out of control.
Post-incidence assistance. It is equally essential, not only for the affected employees or employers, but all agency employees as well, that any employee subjected to on-the-job violence be given not only prompt medical attention, but equally prompt psychological assistance and stress counselling. The effects of such violence can remain with the employee long after the physical wounds heal and can have a significant negative effect on his or her ability to function in the workplace.
As the population increases, the incidence of violence will increase. Preparation and prompt and effective response are, at present, the only remedies open to those at risk.
Because personnel are required to work in all types of environments, good health and physical fitness is essential. A consistent regimen of moderate physical training should be adhered to. Regular physical examinations, geared to the type of work to be performed, should be obtained. All personnel should be completely trained in types of work to be performed, the hazards involved and hazard avoidance.
Equipment should be maintained in sound operating condition.
All personnel expected to work in remote areas should carry two-way radio communication equipment and be in regular contact with a base station.
All personnel should have basic—and if possible, advanced—first aid training, including cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, in the event a visitor or co-worker is injured and medical help is not immediately available.
Zoological gardens, wildlife parks, safari parks, bird parks and collections of aquatic wildlife share similar methods for the maintenance and handling of exotic species. Animals are held for exhibition, as an educational resource, for conservation and for scientific study. Traditional methods of caging animals and preparing aviaries for birds and tanks for water creatures remain common, but more modern, progressive collections have adopted different enclosures designed to meet more of the needs of particular species. The quality of space accorded to an animal is more important than the quantity, however, which has consequential beneficial effects on keeper safety. The danger to keepers is often related to the size and natural ferocity of the species attended, but many other factors can affect the danger.
The main animal groupings are mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates. Problem areas that are common to all the animal groups are toxins, diseases that are contractible from animals (zoonoses) and changing animal moods.
Mammals’ varied forms and habits require a wide range of husbandry techniques. The largest land forms are herbivorous, such as elephants, and are limited in their ability to climb, jump, burrow or gnaw, so their control is similar to domestic forms. Remote control of gates can offer high degrees of safety. Large predators such as big cats and bears require enclosures with wide margins of safety, double entry doors and in-built catch-ups and crushes. Agile climbing and jumping species pose special problems to keepers, who lack comparable mobility. The use of electric shock fence wiring is now widespread. Capture and handling methods include corralling, nets, crushing, roping, sedation and immobilization with drugs injected by dart.
Few birds are too large to be restrained by gloved hands and nets. The largest flightless birds—ostriches and cassowaries—are strong and have a very dangerous kick; they require crating for restraint.
Large carnivorous reptile species have violent strike attack capability; many snakes do too. Captive specimens may seem docile and induce keeper complacency. An attacking large constricting snake can overwhelm and suffocate a panicking keeper of much greater weight. A few venomous snakes can “spit”; thus eye protection against them should be mandatory. Restraint and handling methods include nets, bags, hooks, grabs, nooses and drugs.
Only a large giant salamander or big toad can give an unpleasant bite; otherwise risks from amphibians are from toxin excretion.
Few fish specimens are hazardous except for venomous species, electric eels and bigger predatory forms. Careful netting minimizes risk. Electric and chemical stunning may be occasionally appropriate.
Some lethal invertebrate species are kept which require indirect handling. Mis-identification and specimens hidden by camouflage and small size can endanger the unwary.
Many animal species have evolved complex poisons for feeding or defence, and deliver them by biting, stinging, spitting and secretion. Delivered quantities may vary from the inconsequential to lethal doses. Worst case scenarios should be the model for accident anticipation procedures. Single keeper exposure to lethal species should not be practised. Husbandry must include risk evaluation, unambiguous warning signs, restriction of handling to those trained, maintenance of stocks of antidotes (if any) in close liaison with local trained medical practitioners, predetermination of handler reaction to antidotes and an efficient alarm system.
A good animal health programme and personal hygiene will keep the risk from zoonoses very low. However, there are many which are potentially lethal, such as rabies, which is untreatable in later stages. Almost all are avoidable, and treatable if diagnosed correctly early enough. As with work elsewhere, the incidence of allergy-related illness is rising and it is best treated by non-exposure to the irritant when identified.
“Non-venomous” bites and scratches require careful attention, as even a bite which appears not to break skin can lead to rapid blood poisoning (septicaemia). Carnivore and monkey bites should be especially suspect. An extreme example is the bite of a komodo dragon; the microflora in its saliva are so virulent that bitten large prey that escapes an initial attack will rapidly die from shock and septicaemia.
Routine prophylaxis against tetanus and hepatitis may be appropriate for many staff.
Animals can give an infinite variety of responses, some very dangerous, to close human presence. Observable mood changes can alert keepers to danger, but few animals show signs readable by humans. Moods can be influenced by a combination of seen and unseen stimuli such as season, day length, time of day, sexual rhythms, upbringing, hierarchy, barometric pressure and high-frequency noise from electrical equipment. Animals are not production line machines; they may have predictable patterns of behaviour but all have the capacity to do the unexpected, against which even the most skilled attendant must guard.
Risk appreciation should be taught by the skilled to the inexperienced. An undiminishing high level of caution will enhance personal safety, particularly, for example, when food is offered to larger carnivores. Animal responses will vary to different keepers, especially to those of different sex. An animal submissive to one person may attack another. The understanding and use of body language can enhance safety; animals naturally understand it better than humans. Voice tone and volume can calm or cause chaos (figure 1).
Figure 1. Handling animals with voice and body language.
Clothing should be chosen with special care, avoiding bright, flapping material. Gloves may protect and reduce handling stress but are inappropriate for handling snakes because tactile sensitivity is reduced.
If keepers and other staff are expected to manage trespassing, violent or other problem visitors, they should be schooled in people management and have back-up on call to minimize risks to themselves.
Despite the variety of potential risks from exotic species, the greater workplace hazards are conventional ones arising from plant and machinery, chemicals, surfaces, electricity and so on, so standard health and safety regulations must be applied with common sense and regard for the unusual nature of the work.
Museums and art galleries are a popular source of entertainment and education for the general public. There are many different types of museums, such as art, history, science, natural history and children’s museums. The exhibits, lectures and publications offered to the public by museums, however, are only one part of the function of museums. The broad mission of museums and art galleries is to collect, conserve, study and display items of artistic, historical, scientific or cultural importance. Supportive research (fieldwork, literary and laboratory) and behind-the-scenes collection care typically represent the largest proportion of work activities. Collections on display generally represent a small fraction of the total acquisitions of the museum or gallery, with the remainder in on-site storage or on loan to other exhibits or research projects. Museums and galleries may be stand-alone entities or affiliated with larger institutions such as universities, government agencies, armed services installations, park service historic sites or even specific industries.
A museum’s operations can be divided into several main functions: general building operations, exhibit and display production, educational activities, collection management (including field studies) and conservation. Occupations, which may overlap depending on size of staff, include building maintenance trades and custodians, carpenters, curators, illustrators and artists, librarians and educators, scientific researchers, specialized shipping and receiving and security.
General Building Operations
The operation of museums and galleries poses potential safety and health hazards both common to other occupations and unique to museums. As buildings, museums are subject to poor indoor air quality and to risks associated with maintenance, repair, custodial and security activities of large public buildings. Fire prevention systems are critical to protect the lives of staff and a multitude of visitors, as well as the priceless collections.
General tasks involve custodians; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) specialists and boiler engineers; painters; electricians; plumbers; welders; and machinists. Safety hazards include slips, trips and falls; back and limb strains; electrical shock; and fires and explosions from compressed gas cylinders or hot work. Health hazards include exposures to hazardous materials, noise, metal fumes, flux fumes and gases, and ultraviolet radiation; and dermatitis from cutting oils, solvents, epoxies and plasticizers. Custodial staff are exposed to splash hazards from diluting cleaning chemicals, chemical reactions from improperly mixed chemicals, dermatitis, inhalation hazards from dry sweeping of lead paint chips or residual preservative chemicals in collection storage areas, injury from broken laboratory glassware or working around sensitive laboratory chemicals and equipment, and biological hazards from cleaning building exteriors of bird debris.
Older buildings are prone to mould and mildew growth and poor indoor air quality. They often lack exterior wall vapour barriers and have air handling systems which are old and difficult to maintain. Renovation may lead to uncovering material hazards in both centuries-old buildings and modern ones. Lead paints, mercury linings on old mirrored surfaces and asbestos in decorative finishes and insulation are some examples. With historic buildings, the need to preserve historic integrity must be balanced against design requirements of life safety codes and accommodations for persons with disabilities. Exhaust ventilation system installations should not destroy historic facades. Rooflines or skyline restrictions in historic districts may pose serious challenges to construction of exhaust stacks with sufficient height. Barriers used to separate construction areas often must be free-standing units that cannot be attached to walls that have historic features. Renovation should not mar underlying supports which may consist of valuable wood or finishes. These restrictions may lead to increased dangers. Fire detection and suppression systems and fire-rated construction are essential.
Precautions include the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for eyes, face, head, hearing and respiration; electrical safety; machine guards and lock-out/tag-out programmes; good housekeeping; compatible hazardous material storage and secure compressed gas cylinders; fire detection and suppression systems; dust collectors, local exhaust and use of high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered vacuum cleaners; safe lifting and material handling training; fork-lift safety; use of hoists, slings and hydraulic lifts; chemical spill control; safety showers and eye washes; first aid kits; and hazard communication and employee training programmes in hazards of materials and jobs (particularly for custodians in laboratories) and means for protection.
Exhibit and Display Production
The production and installation of museum exhibits and displays can involve a wide range of activities. For example, an animal exhibit in a natural history museum could involve the production of display cases; the construction of a reproduction of the animal’s natural habitat; the fabrication of the animal model itself; written, oral and illustrated materials to accompany the exhibit; appropriate lighting; and more. Processes involved in the exhibit production can include: carpentry; metalworking; working with plastics, plastics resins and many other materials; graphic arts; and photography.
Exhibit fabrication and graphics shops share similar risks with general woodworkers, sculptors, graphic artists, metalworkers and photographers. Specific health or safety risks may arise from installation of exhibits in halls without adequate ventilation, cleaning of display cases containing residues of hazardous treatment materials, formaldehyde exposure during photography set-up of fluid collection specimens and high-speed cutting of wood treated with fire retardant, which may liberate irritating acid gases (oxides of sulphur, phosphorus).
Precautions include appropriate personal protective equipment, acoustic treatment and local exhaust controls on woodworking machinery; adequate ventilation for graphics tables, silkscreen wash booths, paint-mixing areas, plastics resin areas, and photo development; and use of water-based ink systems.
Museum educational activities can include lectures, distribution of publications, hands-on arts and science activities and more. These can be directed either towards adults or children. Arts and science activities can often involve use of toxic chemicals in rooms not equipped with proper ventilation and other precautions, handling arsenic-preserved stuffed birds and animals, electrical equipment and more. Safety risks may exist for both museum education staff and participants, particularly children. Such programmes should be evaluated to determine what types of precautions are needed and whether they can be done safely in the museum setting.
Art and Artefact Collections Management
Collections management involves field collection or acquisition, inventory control, proper storage techniques, preservation and pest management. Fieldwork can involve digging on archaeological expeditions, preserving botanical, insect and other specimens, making casts of specimens, drilling fossil rocks and more. The duties of curatorial staff in the museum include handling the specimens, examining them with a variety of techniques (e.g., microscopy, x ray), pest management, preparing them for exhibits and handling travelling exhibitions.
Hazards can occur at all stages of collections management, including those associated with field work, hazards inherent in the handling of the object or specimen itself, residues of old preservation or fumigation methods (which may not have been well documented by the original collector) and hazards associated with pesticide and fumigant application. Table 1 gives the hazards and precautions associated with some of these operations.
Table 1. Hazards and precautions of collection management processes.
Hazards and precautions
Field work and handling of specimens
Ergonomic injuries from repetitive drilling on fossil rock and heavy lifting; biohazards from surface cleaning of bird debris, allergic response (pulmonary and dermal) from insect frass, handling both living and dead specimens, particularly birds and mammals (plaque, Hanta virus) and other diseased tissues; and chemical hazards from preserving media.
Precautions include ergonomic controls; HEPA vacuums for control of detritus allergens, insect eggs, larvae; universal precautions for avoiding staff exposure to animal disease agents;.and adequate ventilation or respiratory protection when handling hazardous preserving agents.
Taxidermy and osteological preparation
Health hazards in the preparation of skins, whole mounts and skeletal specimens, and in the cleaning and restoration of older mounts, arise from exposure to solvents and degreasers used to clean skins and skeletal remains (after maceration); residual preservatives, especially arsenic (internal and external applications); osteological preparation (ammonium hydroxide, solvents, degreasers); formaldehyde for preserving organ parts after autopsy (or necropsy); frass allergens; contact with diseased specimens; asbestos-plaster in old mounts. Safety and fire risks include heavy lifting strains; injury from use of power tools, knives or sharps on specimens; and use of flammable or combustible mixtures.
Precautions include local exhaust ventilation; respirators, gloves, aprons; use of brushes and HEPA vacuums to clean fur and rearrange nap instead of low-pressure compressed air or vigorous brushing alone; and use of disinfectants in necropsy and other handling areas. Check with local environmental authority on current approval status for taxidermy and preservation chemical applications.
Illustrators and microscopic examinations by curators and their technicians
Exposure to hazardous storage media at close range and xylene, alcohols, formaldehyde/glutaraldehyde and osmium tetroxide used in histology (sectioning, staining, slide mounting) for scanning and transmission electron microscopy.
See laboratory research for appropriate precautions.
Fumigant and pesticide use
Insect damage to collections cannot be tolerated, but indiscriminate use of chemicals can have adverse side effects on staff health and collections. Integrated pest management (IPM) programmes are now utilized as practical means for pest control while reducing health and collection risks. Commonly used chemical pesticides and fumigants (many now banned or restricted) include(d): DDT, naphthalene, PDB, dichlorvos, ethylene oxide, carbon tetrachloride, ethylene dichloride, methyl bromide and sulphuryl fluoride. Many have poor warning properties, are extremely toxic or lethal to humans at low concentrations and should be applied by professional, licensed exterminators or fumigators offsite or outside occupied areas. All require complete airing in a well-ventilated area to remove all off-gassing products from porous collection materials.
Precautions include PPE, respirator, ventilation, splash protection, medical surveillance, HEPA vacuums, regulatory licensing for applicators and air sampling before reentry into fumigated spaces.
Hazardous tasks involve molecular systematics; DNA research and general storage of living cells and tissue cultures (growth media); DMSO, radioactive isotopes, a wide variety of solvents, acids, ethyl ether; cryogenic liquids for freeze-drying (nitrogen, etc.); and use of benzidine-based dyes.
Precautions include cryogenic protection (gloves, face shields, aprons, well-ventilated areas, safety relief valves, systems for high-pressure transport and storage), biosafety cabinets, radiation laboratory hoods and respirators, local exhaust enclosures for weighing and microscope stations; clean benches with HEPA-grade filters, gloves and lab coats, eye protection, HEPA vacuums for control of detritus allergens, insect eggs, larvae; and universal precautions for avoiding laboratory and custodial staff exposure to animal disease agents.
Shipping, receiving and preparing of loaned collections for exhibitions
Exposure to unknown storage media and potentially hazardous shipping material (e.g., crates lined with asbestos paper) from countries without stringent environmental reporting requirements.
Precautions include appropriate hazard warnings on outgoing loaned exhibitions, and ensuring that incoming exhibition documents stipulate contents.
There are also hazards associated with the collection objects themselves. Wet collections in general have the following risks: exposure to formaldehyde used for field-fixing and permanent storage; sorting specimens from formaldehyde to alcohol storage (usually ethanol or isopropanol); and “mystery liquids” on incoming loans. Dry collections in general have the following risks: residual particulate preservatives, such as arsenic trioxide, mercuric chloride, strychnine and DDT; and vaporizing compounds leaving residues or recrystallization, such as dichlorvos/vapona pest strips, paradichlorobenzene (PDB) and naphthalene. See table 2 for a list of many of the particular hazards found in collection management. This table also includes hazards associated with conservation of these specimens.
Table 2. Hazards of collection objects.
Source of hazard
Botanicals, vertebrates and invertebrates
Storage media containing formaldehyde, acetic acid, alcohol, formaldehyde used in field fixing, sorting to alcohol storage, mercuric chloride on dry-mounted plant specimens, arsenic- and mercury-preserved birds and mammals, dry-mount adhesives; insect frass allergens.
Decorative arts, ceramics, stone and metal
Pigments or preservatives may contain mercury. Silver- or gold-plated objects may have cyanide bound into finish (which can be liberated by water-washing). Celluloid objects (French ivory) are fire hazards. Fiesta-ware and enamel jewellery may contain radioactive uranium pigments.
Naphthalene, paradichlorobenzene (PDB) exposures while replenishing storage drawers or observing specimens; field collection bottle preparations using cyanide salts.
The furniture may have been treated with pentachlorophenol-containing wood preservatives, lead and other toxic pigments. Cleaning and restoration may involve treatment with mineral spirits, methylene chloride paint strippers, varnishes and lacquers.
Radioactive specimens, natural ores of high-toxicity metals and minerals (lead/asbestiform), noise from section preparations, epoxies for slide/section preparation.
Old pharmaceuticals in medical, dental and veterinary collections (which may have degraded, are illegal substances or have converted into reactive or explosive compounds); gunpowder, firearms; carbon tetrachloride in nineteenth- and twentieth-century fire-extinguishing devices; vehicle battery acid; PCBs in transformers, capacitors and other electrical collections; mercury felts in static generators, lighthouses and science collections; asbestos from plasters in trophy mounts, casts and a variety of household appliances, ceramic glazes, wiring and textiles.
Paintings, print and paper
These may contain high-toxicity pigments of lead (white flake, white lead, chrome yellow), cadmium, chromium (carcinogenic in chromate form), cobalt (particularly cobalt violet or cobalt arsenate), manganese and mercury. Cyanide may be present in some printers’ inks and in old (nineteenth century) wallpapers; mercury was added to some paintings and fabrics as mildew prevention; lampblack and coal tar dyes are carcinogenic. Cleaning and restoration of these materials can involve the use of solvents, varnishes, lacquers, chlorine dioxide bleaches and more.
Ergonomic and health risks from fossil preparation involving drilling or chipping rock matrix containing free crystalline silica, asbestos or radioactive ore; epoxies and liquid plastics for fossil casts; noise; solvents and acids for rock digestion (hydrofluoric most hazardous).
Nitrocellulose film has the risk of spontaneous combustion, and nitric acid burns from decomposing film. It should be copied to modern film. Selenium toning restoration can involve hazards of selenium and sulphur dioxide exposure, and requires adequate ventilation.
Lead and cadmium surface paint, arsenic-treated felt gaskets and asbestos insulation render cases difficult to dispose of. Residues and chips containing these substances pose hazards during interior and exterior case cleaning; vacuum debris may be considered hazardous waste.
Hazards include dyes (particularly benzidine based), fibre levels, arsenic for lace and other component preservation, mercury for felt treatment; poisonous plant materials used for clothing decorations; mould, mildew, allergens from insect parts and excrement (frass).
Occupational health and safety considerations are similar to those of general industry. Precautions include occupational maintenance of a good inventory of collection treatment methods, personal protective equipment, including vinyl (not latex) gloves for dry specimen handling, and impervious gloves and splash protection for liquids. Medical surveillance with regard to general and reproductive hazards; good hygiene practices—lab coats and work clothes laundered separately from family clothes (or best at work in a dedicated washer); avoidance of dry sweeping (use HEPA vacuum cleaners); avoiding water-trap vacuum cleaners on suspect collections; proper hazardous waste disposal methods; and chemical hazard information training for staff are some examples.
Conservation work, often in full-scale laboratories, involves the cleaning and restoration (by chemical or physical means) of items such as paintings, paper, photographs, books, manuscripts, stamps, furniture, textiles, ceramics and glass, metals, stone, musical instruments, uniforms and costumes, leather, baskets, masks and other ethnographic objects. Hazards unique to conservation range from highly intermittent exposures to dropper-size amounts of restoration chemicals, to potentially heavy exposures when using large quantities of chemicals to treat statuary or large vertebrate specimens. Ergonomic injuries are possible from awkward hand-and-brush positions over painting or statuary restoration work, and heavy lifting. A wide variety of solvents and other chemicals are used in cleaning and restoration of collection objects. Many of the techniques used for the restoration of damaged artwork, for example, are the same, and involve the same hazards and precautions as those of the original art process. Hazards also arise from the composition and finish of the object itself, as described in table 2. For precautions see the previous section.
Journalism is one of the romantic professions, but it is also one of the most dangerous. Between 1990 and 1997 more than 500 journalists and media workers were killed, many the victims of gangsters, paramilitary groups and terrorists. Each year, hundreds of reporters and writers are injured, both physically and psychologically, by the horrors of war and social conflict. See figure 1.
Figure 1. Algiers, Algeria, 11 February 1996: The devastated offices of Le Soir, one of three newspapers hit by a terrorist car bomb.
The tendency to try to manipulate or control information is becoming more evident as the speed and range of communication increases. Today information speeds around the world in seconds thanks to satellite technology. News and information can be beamed into people’s homes as it happens.
Consequently, journalists and their visible helpers—camera and technical staff, for instance—pose a threat to any group, official or otherwise, that wants to avoid public scrutiny. This leads to specific and targeted attacks on journalists and media organizations.
The problem of “censorship by violence” is exacerbated by the nature of commercial competition in the media industry and by unregulated patterns of employment. Media networks compete vigorously for market share, and this is leading to greater pressure on journalists to provide ever more dramatic and sensationalist images and reportage. Many media people are taking greater risks than before.
The situation is made worse because few media organizations provide training for their staff in how to deal with situations of violence and conflict. Such training is essential. Media staff need to be able to make coherent and sensible “risk assessment” judgements about fast-moving reporting situations. They need a basic knowledge of first aid and advice from media veterans on how to report from dangerous scenes.
The most vulnerable group of media workers—freelance journalists and casual staff—are the ones least likely to receive training even where it is available. More freelance staff are employed than ever before and many of them are hired from the regions where the reported action is taking place. Sometimes they are hired without any life or health insurance. If they get hurt, they are not entitled to compensation.
Because they often work in very unpredictable circumstances, some journalists will always be at risk. Often it will be impossible to avoid injury, even death. But much more can be done to minimize the levels of risk. For instance, in Algeria, where some 60 journalists were assassinated between June 1994 and March 1996, journalists’ unions, employers and the authorities have combined their efforts to minimize risks.
Much more needs to be done by media organizations and representatives of media workers and journalists to provide protections for media personnel. In particular there is a need for:
In addition, media organizations must reverse recent trends that undermine the social and professional conditions in which journalists work. There should be increased investment in professional training and journalistic ethics to emphasize the importance of investigative journalism to the good health of democratic society.
Journalists themselves have a key role to play. All journalists must take responsibility to exercise the highest standards of personal safety and minimize risks to themselves and their colleagues. Journalists need to maintain the highest professional standards and conduct and should not compromise the ethics of journalism in any aspect of the gathering, production or dissemination of news and information.
But it is not only the professionals that need to take practical steps to address the issue. Governments, which have a responsibility to protect the lives and security of citizens, must ensure that journalists and media organizations are provided with the maximum security and protection from violence.
Government and public authorities must not regard journalists as part of the state security apparatus and must not demand information or materials from media organizations in order to assist inquiries which are the responsibility of official agencies.
One of the worrying features of journalism has always been that governments are prepared to use the cover of journalistic activity in order to carry out surveillance and espionage. It is a practice which exposes all travelling journalists to suspicion and intimidation.
The key is to reduce the risk. There are no absolute guarantees of safety, but governments, journalists and media organizations need to avoid creating the conditions which make it easier to commit violence against media. A starting point would be recognition that no single story, no matter how dramatic, is worth a life.
The production of television and radio broadcasts involves camera shoots and recordings on location and in the studio, video- and audiotape editing, transmitting and receiving broadcasts, managing electronic information and graphics, and maintenance of equipment and tape. Broadcast engineers and technicians produce pre-taped and live broadcasts for major network and cable companies, local stations and production companies. Major occupations include: camera operator, sound person, tape editor, computer operator, maintenance engineer, news broadcaster and other television and radio artists.
Broadcasting and its support activities can take place in remote locations, in the studio or in various maintenance and specialty shops. Employees can be exposed to many hazards typical of the technological workplace, including poor indoor air quality, poor workplace design and low-frequency electromagnetic radiation (since microwave technology is used to transmit and receive broadcasts, and the density of electronic equipment produces relatively high levels of low-frequency energy fields). Proper shielding and placement of equipment are prudent measures to protect operators from these fields.
Hazards and Precautions
Roving camera and audio crews cover news and special events for networks and local stations. Crews carry to the site everything needed for the broadcast, including camera, sound recorder, lights, tripod and electrical cords. Since the advent of lightweight cameras equipped with sound recorders, a single person may be assigned to operate the equipment. The hazards can include trips, slips and falls and musculoskeletal stress. Violence in riots and wars can lead to injuries and fatalities. Bad weather, crowds, environmental disasters and rough terrain increase the potential for serious injuries and illnesses among the crew.
The danger can be reduced through assessing the location for the potential for violence and the securing of safe operating locations. Personal protective equipment, such as bullet-proof vests and helmets, may also be needed. Adequate staffing and material-handling equipment and safe lifting practices can reduce musculoskeletal stresses.
News and traffic reports are frequently recorded or aired from helicopters. Broadcast personnel have been killed and injured in crashes and unplanned landings. Strict adherence to proper training and certification of pilots, preventive maintenance of equipment and prohibition of unsafe flying practices (such as flying too close to other helicopters or to structures) are crucial for protecting these employees. See the article “Heliocopters” elsewhere in this volume.
Sporting events, such as golf tournaments and car races, and other special events are often shot from elevated platforms and scaffolds. Motorized lifts and cranes are also used to position equipment and personnel. These structures and machines are typical of those used in general building construction and motion picture production, and one may encounter the same hazards, such as falling off the structure, being struck by falling objects, being struck by lightning in open areas and being electrocuted from contact with overhead power lines and live electrical equipment.
Proper inspection and erection of platforms, full guardrails with toe boards to prevent objects from falling, access ladders, grounding and guarding of electrical equipment and observance of weather alerts, as in construction work, are some appropriate precautions to be taken.
Studio productions have the advantages of familiar surroundings where employees operate cameras, sound equipment and special effects equipment. The hazards are similar to those described in motion picture production and include: musculoskeletal stresses, electrical hazards, noise (especially in rock radio studios) and exposure to theatrical smokes and fogs. Appropriate ergonomic design of work spaces and equipment, electrical safeguards, control of sound levels, careful selection of smokes and fogs and adequate ventilation are all possible preventive measures.
Film editing, handling and storage
Before being broadcast, video- and audiotapes must be edited. The conditions will depend on the size of the facility, but it is not uncommon for several editing operations to be going on at the same time. Editing work requires close attention to the material, and editing rooms can be noisy, overcrowded and poorly lit, with poor indoor air quality and electrical hazards. The space and the equipment can have poor ergonomic design; tasks may be repetitive. There may be noise and fire hazards. Proper workspace design including space, lighting and ventilation, soundproofing and electrical safeguards are all necessary. Special inspection and handling procedures are required for old film storage. Some production companies have libraries that contain old cellulose nitrate (nitrocellulose) films. These films are no longer made, but those that are in storage are severe fire and life hazards. Nitrocellulose can combust and explode readily.
Computer graphics are common in taped programmes and require long hours at visual display units. Working conditions vary based on the size and layout of the facility. Workspace design requirements are similar to other computer workstations.
Technicians and engineers maintain cameras, recorders, editing machines and other broadcasting equipment, and their working conditions resemble those of their industrial counterparts. Low-residue organic solvents, such as freons, acetone, methanol, methyl ethyl ketone and methylene chloride are used to clean electronic parts and electrical contacts. Metal components are repaired using welding, soldering and power tools. The hazards can include inhalation of solvent vapours and metal fumes, skin contact with solvents, fire and machine hazards. The substitution of safer materials, local exhaust ventilation for solvent vapours and fumes from welding and soldering, as well as machine guards, are all possible safeguards.
The motion picture and television industry is found throughout the world. Motion picture production can take place in fixed studios, on large commercial studio lots or on location anywhere. Film production companies range in size from large corporations’ own studios to small companies that rent space in commercial studios. The production of television shows, soap operas, videos and commercials has much in common with motion picture production.
Motion picture production involves many stages and a crew of interacting specialists. The planning stages include obtaining a finished script, determining the budget and schedule, choosing types of location and studios, designing the scene-by-scene appearance of the film, selecting costumes, planning sequence of action and camera locations and lighting schemes.
Once the planning is completed, the detailed process of choosing the location, building sets, gathering the props, arranging the lighting and hiring the actors, stunt performers, special effects operators and other needed support personnel begins. Filming follows the preproduction stage. The final step is film processing and editing, which is not discussed in this article.
Motion picture and television production can involve a wide variety of chemical, electrical and other hazards, many of which are unique to the film industry.
Hazards and Precautions
Filming in a studio or on a studio lot has the advantage of permanent facilities and equipment, including ventilation systems, power, lighting, scene shops, costume shops and more control over environmental conditions. Studios can be very large in order to accommodate a variety of filming situations.
Filming on location, especially outdoors in remote locations, is more difficult and hazardous than in a studio because transportation, communications, power, food, water, medical services, living quarters and so on must be provided. Filming on location can expose the film crew and actors to a wide variety of hazardous conditions, including wild animals, poisonous reptiles and plants, civil unrest, climate extremes and adverse local weather conditions, communicable diseases, contaminated food and water, structurally unsafe buildings, and buildings contaminated with asbestos, lead, biological hazards and so on. Filming on water, in the mountains, in deserts and other dangerous locales poses obvious hazards.
The initial survey of possible filming locations should involve evaluating these and other potential hazards to determine the need for special precautions or alternative locations.
Fabricating scenery for motion pictures can involve constructing or modifying a building or buildings, building of indoor and outdoor sets and so on. These can be full size or scaled down. Stages and scenery should be strong enough to bear the loads under consideration (see “Scenery shops” in this chapter).
Basic life safety includes ensuring adequate exits, keeping access routes and exits marked and clear of equipment and electrical cables and removal or proper storage and handling of combustible materials, flammable liquids and compressed gases. Dry vegetation around outdoor locations and combustible materials used in filming such as sawdust and tents must be removed or flame-proofed.
Automobiles, boats, helicopters and other means of transportation are common on film locations and a cause of many accidents and fatalities, both when used for transportation and while filming. It is essential that all drivers of vehicles and aircraft be fully qualified and obey all relevant laws and regulations.
Scaffolding and rigging
On location and in studios, lights are rigged to sets, scaffolding or permanent overhead grids, or are free standing. Rigging is also used to fly scenery or people for special effects. Hazards include collapsing scaffolds, falling lights and other equipment and failures of rigging systems.
Precautions for scaffolds include safe construction, guardrails and toeboards, proper supporting of rolling scaffolds and securing of all equipment. Construction, operation, maintenance, inspection and repair of rigging systems should be done only by properly trained and qualified persons. Only assigned personnel should have access to work areas such as scaffolds and catwalks.
Electrical and lighting equipment
Large amounts of power are usually needed for camera lights and everyday electrical needs on a set. In the past direct current (DC) power was used, but alternating current (AC) power is common today. Often, and especially on location, independent sources of power are used. Examples of electrical hazards include shorting of electrical wiring or equipment, inadequate wiring, deteriorated wiring or equipment, inadequate grounding of equipment and working in wet locations. Tie-ins to the power sources and un-ties at the end of filming are two of the most dangerous activities.
All electrical work should be done by licensed electricians and should follow standard electrical safety practices and codes. Safer direct current should be used around water when possible, or ground fault circuit interrupters installed.
Lighting can pose both electrical and health hazards. High-voltage gas discharge lamps such as neons, metal halide lamps and carbon arc lamps are especially hazardous and can pose electrical, ultraviolet radiation and toxic fume hazards.
Lighting equipment should be kept in good condition, regularly inspected and adequately secured to prevent lights from tipping or falling. It is particularly important to check high-voltage discharge lamps for lens cracks that could leak ultraviolet radiation.
Camera crews can film in many hazardous situations, including shooting from a helicopter, moving vehicle, camera crane or side of a mountain. Basic types of camera mountings include fixed tripods, dollies for mobile cameras, camera cranes for high shots and insert camera cars for shots of moving vehicles. There have been several fatalities among camera operators while filming under unsafe conditions or near stunts and special effects.
Basic precautions for camera cranes include testing of lift controls, ensuring a stable surface for the crane base and pedestal; properly laid tracking surfaces, ensuring safe distances from high-tension electrical wires; and body harnesses where required.
Insert camera cars that have been engineered for mounting of cameras and towing of the vehicle to be filmed are recommended instead of mounting cameras on the outside of the vehicle being filmed. Special precautions include having a safety checklist, limiting the number of personnel on the car, rigging done by experts, abort procedures and having a dedicated radio communications procedure.
Actors, extras and stand-ins
See the article “Actors” in this chapter.
Costumes are made and cared for by wardrobe attendants, who may be exposed to a wide variety of dyes and paints, hazardous solvents, aerosol sprays and so on, often without ventilation.
Hazardous chlorinated cleaning solvents should be replaced with safer solvents such as mineral spirits. Adequate local exhaust ventilation should be used when spraying dyes or using solvent-containing materials. Mixing of powders should be done in an enclosed glove box.
A wide variety of special effects are used in motion picture production to simulate real events that would otherwise be too dangerous, impractical or expensive to execute. These include fogs, smoke, fire, pyrotechnics, firearms, snow, rain, wind, computer-generated effects and miniature or scaled-down sets. Many of these have significant hazards. Other hazardous special effects can involve the use of lasers, toxic chemicals such as mercury to give silvery effects, flying objects or people with rigging and electric hazards associated with rain and other water effects. Appropriate precautions would need to be taken with such special effects.
General precautions for hazardous special effects include adequate preplanning, having written safety procedures, using adequately trained and experienced operators and the least hazardous special effects possible, coordinating with the fire department and other emergency services, making everyone aware of the intended use of special effects (and being able to refuse to participate), not allowing children in the vicinity, running detailed rehearsals with testing of the effects, clearing the set of all but essential personnel, having a dedicated emergency communications system, minimizing the number of retakes and having procedures ready to abort production.
Pyrotechnics are used to create effects involving explosions, fires, light, smoke and sound concussions. Pyrotechnics materials are usually low explosives (mostly Class B), including flash powder, flash paper, gun cotton, black powder and smokeless powder. They are used in bullet hits (squibs), blank cartridges, flash pots, fuses, mortars, smoke pots and many more. Class A high explosives, such as dynamite, should not be used, although detonating cord is sometimes used. The major problems associated with pyrotechnics include premature triggering of the pyrotechnic effect; causing a fire by using larger quantities than needed; lack of adequate fire extinguishing capabilities; and having inadequately trained and experienced pyrotechnics operators.
In addition to the general precautions, special precautions for explosives used in pyrotechnics include proper storage, the use of appropriate type and in smallest amounts necessary to achieve the effect, and testing them in the absence of spectators. When pyrotechnics are used smoking should be banned and firefighting equipment and trained personnel should be on hand. The materials should be set off by electronic firing controls and adequate ventilation is needed.
The uses of fire effects range from ordinary gas stoves and fireplaces to the destructive fires involved in burning cars, houses, forests and even people (figure 1). In some cases, fires can be simulated by flickering lights and other electronic effects. Materials used to create fire effects include propane gas burners, rubber cement, gasoline and kerosene. They are often used in conjunction with pyrotechnic special effects. Hazards are directly related to the fire getting out of control and the heat they generate. Poor maintenance of fire generating equipment and the excessive use of flammable materials or the presence of other unintended combustible materials, and improper storage of combustible and flammable liquids and gases are all risks. Inexperienced special effects operators can also be a cause of accidents as well.
Figure 1. Fire special effect
Special precautions are similar to those needed for pyrotechnics, such as replacing gasoline, rubber cement and other flammable substances with the safer combustible gels and liquid fuels which have been developed in recent years. All materials in the fire area should be non-combustible or flame-proofed. This precaution includes flame-proofed costumes for actors in the vicinity.
Fogs and smoke effects are common in filming. Dry ice (carbon dioxide), liquid nitrogen, petroleum distillates, zinc chloride smoke generators (which might also contain chlorinated hydrocarbons), ammonium chloride, mineral oil, glycol fogs and water mists are common fog-generating substances. Some materials used, such as petroleum distillates and zinc chloride, are severe respiratory irritants and can cause chemical pneumonia. Dry ice, liquid nitrogen and water mists represent the least chemical hazards, although they can displace oxygen in enclosed areas, possibly making the air unfit for supporting life, especially in enclosed areas. Microbiological contamination can be a problem associated with water-mist generating systems. Some evidence is forthcoming that respiratory irritation is possible from those fogs and smokes that were thought to be safest, such as mineral oil and glycols.
Special precautions include eliminating the most hazardous fogs and smoke; using a fog with the machine designed for it; limiting duration of use, including limiting the number of retakes; and avoiding use in enclosed spaces. Fogs should be exhausted as soon as possible. Respiratory protection for the camera crew should be provided.
Firearms are common in films. All types of firearms are used, ranging from antique firearms to shotguns and machine guns. In many countries (not including the United States) live ammunition is banned. However, blank ammunition, which is commonly used in conjunction with live bullet hits in order to simulate actual bullet impacts, has caused many injuries and fatalities. Blank ammunition used to consist of a metal casing with a percussion primer and smokeless powder topped with a paper wad, which could be ejected at high velocity when fired. Some modern safety blanks use special plastic inserts with a primer and flash powder, giving only a flash and noise. Blank ammunition is commonly used in conjunction with bullet hits (squibs), consisting of a plastic-cased detonator imbedded in the object to be struck by the bullet to simulate actual bullet impacts. Hazards, besides the use of live ammunition, include the effects of use of blanks at close range, mixing up live and blank ammunition or using the wrong ammunition in a firearm. Improperly modified firearms can be dangerous, as can the lack of adequate training in the use of blank-firing firearms.
Live ammunition and unmodified firearms should be banned from a set and non-firing facsimile weapons used whenever possible. Firearms that can actually fire a bullet should not be used, only proper safety blanks. Firearms should be checked regularly by the property master or other firearms expert. Firearms should be locked away, as should all ammunition. Guns should never be pointed at actors in a scene, and the camera crew and others in close proximity to the set should be protected with shields from blanks fired from weapons.
A stunt can be defined as any action sequence that involves a greater than normal risk of injury to performers or others on the set. With increasing demands for realism in films, stunts have become very common. Examples of potentially hazardous stunts include high falls, fights, helicopter scenes, car chases, fires and explosions. About half the fatalities occurring during filming are stunt-related, often also involving special effects.
Stunts can endanger not only the stunt performer but often the camera crew and other performers may be injured as well. Most of the general precautions described for special effects also apply to stunts. In addition, the stunt performer should be experienced in the type of stunt being filmed. A stunt coordinator should be in charge of all stunts since a person cannot perform a stunt and be in adequate control of safety, especially when there are several stunt performers.
Aircraft, especially helicopters, have been involved in the most serious multiple fatality accidents in motion picture production. Pilots are often not adequately qualified for stunt flying. Acrobatic manoeuvres, hovering close to the ground, flying too close to sets using pyrotechnics and filming from helicopters with open doors or from the pontoons without adequate fall protection are some of the most dangerous situations. See the article “Helicopters” elsewhere in the Encyclopaedia.
One precaution is to employ an independent aviation consultant, in addition to the pilot, to recommend and oversee safety procedures. Restriction of personnel within 50 feet of grounded aircraft and clear written procedures for filming on ground near aircraft with their engines running or during aircraft landings or takeoffs are other safety measures. Coordination with any pyrotechnics or other hazardous special effects operators is essential, as are procedures to ensure the safety of camera operators filming from aircraft. Procedures for aborting an operation are needed.
Vehicle action sequences have also been a source of many accidents and fatalities. Special effects, such as explosions, crashes, driving into rivers and car chase scenes with multiple cars, are the most common cause of accidents. Motorcycle scenes can be even more hazardous than automobiles because the operator of the motorcycle suffers from the lack of personal protection.
Special precautions include using camera cars. Using stunt drivers for all cars in a stunt scene can lower the accident rate, as can special training for non-stunt passengers. Other safety rules include proper safety equipment, inspection of all ramps and other equipment to be used during a stunt, using dummies in cars during crashes, explosions and other extremely high risk sequences and not driving cars directly towards cameras if there is a camera operator behind the camera. See figure 2 for an example of using dummies in a roller coaster stunt. Adequate ventilation is needed for automobiles that are being filmed indoors with engines running. Stunt motorcycles should be equipped with a deadman switch so that the motor shuts off when the rider separates from the motorcycle.
Figure 2. Using dummies for a roller coaster stunt.
Stunts using fire and explosion place performers at higher risk and require special precautions beyond those used just for the special effects. Protection for stunt performers directly exposed to flames includes wearing a protective barrier gel (e.g., Zel Jel) on the hair, the skin, clothing and so on. Proper protective clothing, including fireproof suits under costumes; flame-resistant gloves and boots; and sometimes hidden oxygen tanks, should be supplied. Specially trained personnel equipped with carbon dioxide fire extinguishers should be on hand in case of an emergency.
Fight scenes can involve performers in fistfights or other unarmed combat or the use of knives, swords, firearms and other combat equipment. Many film and stage fights do not involve the use of stunt performers, thus increasing the risk of injury because of the lack of training.
Simulated weapons, such as knives and swords with retractable blades, are one safeguard. Weapons should be stored carefully. Training is key. The performer should know how to fall and how to use specific weapons. Adequate choreography and rehearsals of the fights is needed, as is proper protective clothing and equipment. A blow should never be aimed directly at an actor. If a fight involves a high degree of hazard, such as falling down a flight of stairs or crashing through a window, a professional stunt double should be used.
Falls in stunts can range from falling down a flight of stairs to falling off a horse, being thrown through the air by a trampoline or ratchet catapult system, or a high fall off a cliff or building (figure 3). There have been many injuries and fatalities from poorly prepared falls.
Figure 3. High fall stunt.
Only experienced stunt performers should attempt fall stunts. When possible, the fall should be simulated. For example, falling down a flight of stairs can be filmed a few stairs at a time so the stunt performer is never out of control, or a fall off a tall building simulated by a fall of a few feet onto a net and using a dummy for the rest of the fall. Precautions for high falls involve a high fall coordinator and a specialized fall/arrest system for safe deceleration. Falls of more than 15 feet require two safety spotters. Other precautions for falls include airbags, crash pads of canvas filled with sponge rubber, sand pits and so on, depending on the type of fall. Testing of all equipment is crucial.
Animal scenes are potentially very hazardous because of the unpredictability of animals. Some animals, such as large cats, can attack if startled. Large animals like horses can be a hazard just because of their size. Dangerous, untrained or unhealthy animals should not be used on sets. Venomous reptiles such as rattlesnakes are particularly hazardous. In addition to the hazards to personnel, the health and safety of the animals should be considered.
Only trained animal handlers should be allowed to work with animals. Adequate conditions for the animals are needed, as is basic animal safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, fire hoses, nets and tranquilizing equipment. Animals should be allowed adequate time to become familiar with the set, and only required personnel should be permitted on the set. Conditions that could upset animals should be eliminated and animals kept from exposure to loud noises or light flashes whenever possible, thus ensuring the animals will not be injured and will not become unmanageable. Certain situations—for example, those using venomous reptiles or large numbers of horses—will require special precautions.
Water stunts can include diving, filming in fast-moving water, speedboat stunts and sea battles. Hazards include drowning, hypothermia in cold water, underwater obstructions and contaminated water. Emergency teams, including certified safety divers, should be on hand for all water stunts. Diver certification for all performers or camera operators using self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) and provision of standby breathing equipment are other precautions. Emergency decompression procedures for dives over 10 m should be in place. Safety pickup boats for rescue and proper safety equipment, such as use of nets and ropes in fast-moving water, are needed.
Health and Safety Programmes
Most major film studios have a full-time health and safety officer to oversee the health and safety programme. Problems of responsibility and authority can occur, however, when a studio rents facilities to a production company, as is increasingly common. Most production companies do not have a health and safety programme. A health and safety officer, with authority to establish safety procedures and to ensure they are carried out, is essential. There is a need to coordinate the activities of others charged with production planning, such as stunt coordinators, special effects operators, firearms experts and the key grip (who is usually the individual most responsible for the safety of sets, cameras, scaffolding, etc.), each of whom has specialized safety knowledge and experience. A health and safety committee that meets regularly with representatives from all departments and unions can provide a conduit between the management and employees. Many unions have an independent health and safety committee which can be a source of health and safety expertise.
Both non-emergency and emergency medical services are essential during film production. Many film studios have a permanent medical department, but most production companies do not. The first step in determining the degree of on-location medical services to be provided is a needs assessment, to identify potential medical risks, including the need for vaccination in certain countries, possible local endemic diseases, evaluation of local environmental and climate conditions, and an evaluation of the quality of local medical resources. The second, pre-planning stage involves a detailed analysis of major risks and availability of adequate emergency and other medical care in order to determine what type of emergency planning is essential. In situations where there are high risks and/or remote locations, trained emergency physicians would be needed on location. Where there is quick access to adequate emergency facilities, paramedics or emergency medical technicians with advanced training would suffice. In addition, adequate emergency transportation should be arranged beforehand. There have been several fatalities due to the lack of adequate emergency transportation (Carlson 1989; McCann 1989).
There are few occupational safety and health regulations aimed specifically at the film production industry. However, many general regulations, such as those affecting fire safety, electrical hazards, scaffolding, lifts, welding and so on, are applicable. Local fire departments generally require special fire permits for filming and may require that standby fire personnel be present on filming sites.
Many productions have special requirements for the licensing of certain special effects operators, such as pyrotechnicians, laser operators and firearms users. There can be regulations and permits required for specific situations, such as the sale, storage and use of pyrotechnics, and the use of firearms.
Theatres, motion pictures, television, theme and amusement parks and similar entertainment enterprises all build and paint scenery and make props for their presentations. In many cases, these are made in-house. There are also commercial scenic shops that specialize in making large scenery which is then transported to the site. The major difference between making scenery backstage in a small theatre and building huge sets or even houses for a motion picture, for example, is the scale of the work and who does the work. In small theatres, there is little division of tasks, whereas in larger facilities, there would be a division of labour among carpenters, scenic painters, welders, prop makers and so on.
The scenery for a theatre play, motion picture set or television studio might look realistic, but is often an illusion. The walls of a room are usually not solid but are composed of lightweight flats (panels of painted canvas stretched on wooden frames). Background scenery often consists of backdrops (huge curtains painted to represent the background) which can be lowered and raised for different scenes. Other solid-looking props, such as trees, rocks, vases, mouldings, sculptures and so forth, might be made out of papier mâché, plaster, polyurethane foam or other materials. Today, a wide variety of materials are used to make scenery, including wood, metal, plastics, synthetic fabrics, paper and other modern industrial products. For scenery which performers will walk or climb on, the structures must be solid and meet proper safety standards.
The basic processes and chemicals used for making sets and props tend to be similar for the various types of entertainment facilities. Outdoor sets, however, can often use heavy construction materials such as cement on a large scale, which would be impractical inside due to smaller load-bearing capacities. The degree of hazard depends on the types and amounts of chemicals used, and the precautions taken. A theatre might use quarts of polyurethane foam resin for making small props, while the inside of a tunnel in a theme park set might use hundreds of gallons of the resin. Small in-house shops tend to have less awareness of the hazards, and overcrowding often creates additional hazards due to the proximity of incompatible processes such as welding and use of flammable solvents.
Wood, plywood, particle board and Plexiglas are commonly used in constructing sets. Hazards include: accidents with woodworking machinery, power tools and hand tools; electrical shock; fire from combustible wood dust; and toxic effects from inhalation of wood dust, formaldehyde and methyl methacrylate decomposition products from machining plywood, particle board and Plexiglas, and solvents used with contact adhesives.
Precautions include machine guards, proper electrical safety, housekeeping and adequate storage to reduce fire hazards, dust collectors, adequate ventilation and eye protection.
Welding, Cutting and Brazing
Steel and aluminium frameworks are commonly used for the construction of sets. These are often welded using oxyacetylene torches and arc welders of various types. Injury hazards include fire from flying sparks, fire and explosion from compressed gases, and electrical shock from arc welders; health hazards include metal fumes, fluxes, welding gases (ozone, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide) and ultraviolet radiation.
Precautions include removal or protection of combustible materials, proper storage and handling of compressed gas cylinders, electrical safety, adequate ventilation and personal protective equipment.
Paints, lacquers, varnishes, dye solutions and other coatings are used for painting scenery flats and fabric drops. The paints and dye solutions can be either solvent based or water based. Powdered pigments and dyes are usually mixed in the shop, with the use of lead chromate pigments still being common. Large flats and drops are often sprayed. Solvents are used for dissolving dyes and resins, thinning, removing paint and other coatings and for cleaning tools, brushes and even hands. Hazards include skin contact with solvents and inhalation of solvent vapours, spray mists and powdered dyes and pigments. Solvents are also fire hazards, particularly when sprayed.
Precautions include elimination of lead pigments, using water-based paints and dyes, adequate ventilation for use of solvents, respiratory protection for spraying, proper storage and handling of flammable liquids and proper disposal of waste solvents and paints.
Polyurethane foam resins, epoxy resins, polyester resins and other resins are commonly used to make large sets and props. Spraying of polyurethane foam resins containing diphenylmethane diisocyanate (MDI) is particularly dangerous, with hazards of chemical pneumonia and asthma. Epoxy resins, polyester resins and solvents have skin, eye and inhalation hazards, and are fire hazards.
Precautions include substitution of safer materials (such as cement or celastic instead of spray polyurethane foams, or water-based materials to replace solvent-based types), local exhaust ventilation, proper storage and handling, proper disposal of waste materials and adequate personal protective equipment.
Props and Models
Plastic resins are also used to make body armour, face masks, breakaway glass and other props and models, as are wood, plaster, metal, plastics and so on. A variety of water-based and solvent-based adhesives are also used. Solvents are used in cleanup. Precautions are similar to those already discussed.
Occupational safety and health in the theatre and opera comprises diverse aspects, including all the problems of industry in general plus specific artistic and cultural aspects. More than 125 different professions are involved in the process of making theatre or opera performances; these performances can take place in classrooms and small theatres, as well as large opera houses or convention halls. Very often theatre and opera companies tour around the country and abroad, performing in diverse buildings.
There are the artistic professions—artists, actors, singers (soloists and choirs), musicians, dancers, coaches, choreographers, conductors and directors; the technical and production professions—technical directors and managers, lighting manager, chief electrician, sound engineer, chief machinist, armourer, wigmaster, dyeing and wardrobe director, property maker, costume maker and others; and the administrative professions—chief accountant, personnel managers, house managers, catering managers, contracts managers, marketing personnel, box office personnel, advertising managers and so on.
The theatre and opera involve general industrial safety hazards such as lifting of heavy objects and accident risks as a result of irregular working hours, combined with factors specific to the theatre, such as the layout of the premises, complex technical arrangements, bad lighting, extreme temperatures and the need to work to tight schedules and meet deadlines. These risks are the same for artists and technical personnel.
A serious attitude towards occupational safety and health demands taking care of the hand of a violinist or the wrist of a ballet dancer, as well as a broader view of the situation of theatre employees as a whole, including both physical and psychological risks. Theatre buildings are also open to the public, and this aspect of safety and health must be taken care of.
There are many types of potential fire hazards in theatres and opera houses. These include: general hazards such as blocked or locked exits, inadequate number and size of exits, lack of training in procedures in the event of fire; backstage hazards such as improper storage of paints and solvents, unsafe storage of scenery and other combustibles, welding in close proximity to combustible materials and lack of proper exits for dressing rooms; on-stage hazards such as pyrotechnics and open flames, lack of fireproofing of drapes, decorations, props and scenery, and lack of stage exits and sprinkler systems; and audience hazards such as permitting smoking, blocked aisles and exceeding the legal number of occupants. In case of a fire in the theatre building all aisles, passages and staircases must be kept entirely free from chairs or any other obstructions, to help evacuation. Fire escapes and emergency exits must be marked. The alarm bells, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems, heat and smoke detectors and emergency lights must function. The fire curtain must be lowered and raised in the presence of each audience, unless a deluge sprinkler system is installed. When the audience must leave, whether in an emergency or at the end of a performance, all exit doors must be open.
Fire safety procedures must be established and fire drills held. One or more trained fire guards must be present at all performances unless the fire department assigns firefighters. All scenery, props, drapes and other combustible materials present on the stage must be fireproofed. If pyrotechnics or open flames are present, fire permits must be obtained when required and safe procedures established for their use. Stage and backstage lighting equipment and electrical systems must meet standards and be properly maintained. Combustible materials and other fire hazards should be removed. Smoking should not be allowed in any theatre except in properly designated areas.
Grids and Rigging
Theatre and opera stages have overhead grids from which lights are hung, and rigging systems to fly (raise and lower) scenery and sometimes performers. There are ladders and overhead catwalks for lighting technicians and others to work overhead. On the stage, discipline is required from both the artists and the technical staff because of all the hanging equipment above. Theatre scenery can be moved vertically and horizontally. Horizontal movement of scenery at the side of the stage can be done manually or mechanically through the ropes from the grids in the rope house. Safety routines are very important in rope and counterweight flying. There are different kinds of rigging systems, using hydraulic and electric power. Rigging should be done by trained and qualified personnel. Safety procedures for rigging include: inspection of all rigging equipment before use and after alterations; ensuring load capacities are not exceeded; following safe procedures when loading, unloading or operating rigging systems; maintaining visual contact with a moving piece at all times; warning everyone before moving any rigged object; and ensuring no one is underneath when moving scenery. The lighting crew must take appropriate safety measures while mounting, connecting and directing spotlights (figure 1). Lights should be fastened to the grid with safety chains. Safety shoes and helmets should be worn by personnel working on stage when any work is proceeding overhead.
Figure 1. Arranging lights in a lowered lighting grid.
Costumes and Makeup
Costumes can be made in the theatres’ own ateliers by the wardrobe attendants. It is a heavy job, especially the handling and transportation of old classical costumes. Body aches, headaches, musculoskeletal strains and sprains and other injuries can result from operating sewing machines, dryers, irons, ironing boards and electrical equipment; dust from textiles is a health hazard. Cleaning and dying of costumes, wigs and shoes can use a variety of hazardous liquid solvents and aerosol sprays.
Wearing heavy costumes can be hot under stage lights. Frequent costume changes between scenes can be a source of stress. If flames are present, fireproofing of costumes is essential.
Precautions for wardrobe attendants include proper electrical safety; adequate lighting and ventilation for solvents and spraying; adequate adjustable chairs, work tables and ironing boards; and knowledge of textiles health hazards.
Performers usually have to wear heavy layers of makeup for several hours for every performance. Application of makeup and hair styling is usually done by makeup and hair artists in commercial theatre and opera. Often the makeup artist has to work on several performers in a short period of time. Makeup can contain a wide variety of solvents, dyes and pigments, oils, waxes and other ingredients, many of which can cause skin or eye irritation or allergies. Special effects makeup can involve the use of hazardous adhesives and solvents. Eye injuries can result from abrasions during application of eye makeup. Shared makeup is a concern for transmission of bacterial contamination (but not hepatitis or HIV). The use of aerosol hair sprays in enclosed dressing rooms is an inhalation hazard. For makeup removal, large quantities of cold creams are used; solvents are also used for removing special effects makeup.
Precautions include washing off the makeup with soap after every performance, cleaning of brushes and sponges or using disposable ones, using individual applicators for makeup and keeping all makeup cold. The makeup room must have mirrors, flexible lighting and adequate chairs.
Setting Up and Striking Sets
Scenery at a theatre may require one standing set, which can be constructed of heavy materials; more frequently there can be several changes of scenery during a performance, requiring movability. Similarly, for a repertory theatre, changeable scenery can be constructed which is easily transportable. Scenery can be built on wheels, for mobility.
Stage crews risk injury when building, disassembling and moving scenery, and when moving counterbalances. Hazards include back, leg and arm injuries. Accidents often occur when breaking down (striking) the set when a show’s run is over, due to fatigue. Precautions include wearing hard hats and safety shoes, safe lifting procedures and equipment, banning of unnecessary personnel and not working when fatigued.
For scene decorators or painters painting, nailing and laying out backdrops, paint and other chemicals are also health hazards. For carpenters, unsafe worksites, noise and vibration as well as air contamination are all problems. Wig and mask makers generally have problems with working postures as well as health risks associated with the use of resins—for example, when working on bald heads and false noses. Health risks include toxic chemicals and possible allergies, skin irritation and asthmatic complaints.
There are often national laws, for example, building codes, and local regulations for fire safety. For grids and rigging, directives from the European Economic Commission—for instance, on machinery (89/392 EEC) and on lifting appliances for persons—may influence national legislation. Other countries also have safety and health legislation that can affect theatres and opera houses.
Acting involves placing your mind in the world of fantasy and bringing forth a character for a performance. Actors are involved in many arts and entertainment areas, including theatre, film, television, amusement and theme parks and so on. Hazards faced by actors include stress, physical hazards and chemical hazards. Stage fright (performance anxiety) is considered in a separate article.
Causes of stress include the fierce competition for scarce jobs, the pressure of performing shows daily or even more frequently (e.g., theme parks and matinee days), working at night, touring shows, filming deadlines, frequent retakes (especially while filming television commercials) and so on. There are also psychological pressures involved in adopting and maintaining a character role, including the pressure to express certain emotions upon demand, and the tactics often used by directors to obtain a given reaction from an actor. As a result, actors have higher rates of alcoholism and suicide. The solution to many of these causes of stress involves improved working and living conditions, especially when touring and on location. In addition, personal measures such as therapy and relaxation techniques can also help.
Many costumes are a fire hazard near open flames or other ignition sources. Special effects costumes and masks can create problems of heat stress and excess weight.
The costumes of all actors working near open flames must be treated with an approved fire retardant. Actors wearing heavy costumes or costumes not suitable to the climate should be given adequate work breaks. With heavy metal or wood framework costumes, supplying cool air inside the costume might be necessary. Provision should also be made for easy escape from such costumes in case of emergency.
Theatrical makeup can cause allergic skin and eye reactions and irritation in some people. The widespread practice of sharing makeup or applying it to many people from the same container can create risks of transmitting bacterial infections. According to medical experts, transmission of the HIV and other viruses is not likely through shared makeup. The use of hair sprays and other spray products in unventilated dressing rooms is also a problem. Special effects makeup can involve the use of more hazardous materials such as polyurethane and silicone rubber resins and a variety of solvents.
Basic precautions when applying makeup include washing hands before and after; not using old makeup; no smoking, eating or drinking during application; using potable water and not saliva for moistening brushes; avoiding creation of airborne dust; and using pump sprays instead of aerosol sprays. Each performer should have his or her own makeup kit when practical. When applying makeup to several individuals, disposable sponges, brushes and individual applicators, individual lipsticks (or sliced and labelled lipsticks) and so on should be used. The least toxic materials possible should be used for special effects makeup. The dressing room should have a mirror, good lighting and comfortable chairs.
A stunt can be defined as any action sequence that involves a greater than normal risk of injury to performers or others on the set. In many such situations, actors are doubled by stunt performers who have extensive experience and training in carrying out such action sequences. Examples of potentially hazardous stunts include falls, fights, helicopter scenes, car chases, fires and explosions. Careful preplanning and written safety procedures are necessary. See the article “Motion picture and television production” for detailed information on stunts.
Other hazards to actors, especially on location, include environmental conditions (heat, cold, polluted water, etc.), water scenes with possible risk of hypothermia and special effects (fogs and smoke, pyrotechnics, etc.). Special consideration must be given to these factors before filming starts. In theatres, scenes with dirt, gravel, artificial snow and so on can create eye and respiratory irritation problems when hazardous materials are used, or when materials are swept up and reused, resulting in possible biological contamination. An additional hazard is the growing phenomenon of stalking of well-known actors, actresses and other celebrities, with resultant threats or actuality of violence.
The use of children in theatre and motion picture production can lead to exploitation unless careful procedures are enforced to ensure that children do not work long hours, are not placed in hazardous situations and receive adequate education. Concern has also been expressed about the psychological effects on children participating in theatre or motion picture scenes involving simulated violence. Child labour laws in many countries do not adequately protect child actors.
Performance anxiety is, like fear, joy or grief, an emotion which includes physical and psychological components. Motor responses, autonomic reactions, memories, ideas and thoughts continuously interact. Performance anxiety is no longer thought of as an isolated symptom but rather as a syndrome comprising attitudes, traits and unconscious conflicts that become activated in particular circumstances.
Nearly every person must deal with performance anxiety in one form or another at one time or another. By the nature of their profession, however, performing artists, or those for whom public performance is an important part of their profession, have to deal with performance anxiety more frequently and often more intensely than do others. Even those with years of experience may still have a performance anxiety problem.
Performance anxiety is mainly characterized by an irrational situational anxiety accompanied by unwanted physical symptoms which can lead to dysfunction and/or uncontrolled behaviour. It occurs especially in those situations in which a task has to be done that could subject the performer to possible criticism from others. Examples of such situations include public speaking, giving a concert, writing exams, sexual performance, etc. Performance anxiety can cause a broad range of possible physical symptoms of distress, such as trembling hands, trembling lips, diarrhoea, sweating hands and palpitations of the heart. These symptoms can not only affect the quality of a performance but may also negatively influence the sufferer’s future and career.
Some experts believe that the causes of performance anxiety include improper practice and preparation habits, insufficient performance experience, having an inappropriate repertoire and so on. Other theories view performance anxiety as mainly caused by negative thoughts and poor self-esteem. Still others are of the opinion that the stress and fear of performance anxiety is closely related to so-called career stress, which includes feelings of inadequacy, anticipation of punishment or criticism and loss of status. Although there is no agreement as to the cause of performance anxiety, and the explanation cannot be simple, it is clear that the problem is widespread and that even world-famous artists such as Yehudi Menuhin or Pablo Casals are known to have suffered from performance anxiety and fear all their lives.
Personal traits are undoubtedly related to performance anxiety. A challenge for one person can be a catastrophe for another. The experience of performance anxiety depends to a great extent on the personal perception of a fearful situation. Some introverted individuals may, for example, be more prone to stressful events and thus more likely to suffer performance anxiety than others. For some people, success can also cause fear and performance anxiety. This in turn reduces and undermines the communicative and creative aspects of the performer.
To achieve an optimum performance a bit of fear and stress and a certain amount of nervousness may be unavoidable. The margin between the degree of (still) acceptable performance anxiety and the necessity of therapeutic intervention, however, can be set only by the performer.
Performance anxiety is a complex phenomenon; its various components lead to variable and changing reactions depending on the situation. Individual aspects, work situations, social factors, personal development and so on play a considerable role, making it difficult to give general rules.
Methods for diminishing performance anxiety include developing personal coping strategies or learning relaxation techniques such as biofeedback. Such approaches are directed towards transforming task-irrelevant negative thoughts and worrisome anticipations into task-relevant demands and the positive task-orientated self. Medical interventions, such as beta-blockers and tranquillizers are also commonly used (Nubé 1995). The taking of drugs however, remains controversial and should be done only under medical supervision due to possible side effects and contra-indications.