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.