OSHA General Industry Rules and Live Entertainment

The OSHA publishes standards and guidelines for general health and safety for employees working in a wide range of industries. The ‘general industry’ standards cover all jobs, and then there are some specific standards that apply to environments, places or substances that may be particularly high risk.

The entertainment industry is covered by OSHA, just as any other industry, and there are some rules that relate to live performances, but the rules are not comprehensive. This is easy to understand given that the environment, circumstances and demands placed upon workers in the entertainment industry can vary massively. Take, for example, a theatre performer �” some may simply walk onto a stage, deliver a few lines, and then walk off. Some may fall through trap doors as a part of the performance, or be suspended on wires. There is a huge difference between the work that a singer may do (even one who engages in adventurous performances with extensive pyrotechnics), and the work of, say, a professional wrestler.

For the most part, the entertainment industry is able to make its own rules with the application of common sense. OSHA do not have specific rules for fall prevention to apply to the entertainment industry, for example. When the WWE Wrestler Owen Hart died after falling from a great height during a failed stunt, rather that OSHA stepping in the WWE implemented their own rules to limit the height at which performers could do stunts.

The OSHA did investigate the death of a Cirque du Soleil performer in 2016. The crew of the Cirque du Soleil’s LUZIA suspended performances for a time after a maintenance worker died in an accident during a performance in San Francisco. The worker was struck by a falling aerial device, and fatally injured. Prior to the accident, the Cirque du Soleil had enjoyed a clean safety record in California for five years. There had been an accident in Las Vegas in 2013, which led to the death of a performer, however the company takes safety very seriously, and has exacting standards for performers and crew. They reviewed the performance and the tools that they used, and did everything they could based on the outcome of those reviews to protect their crew and cast.

There are federal OSHA regulations and there are also individual state and municipality rules. In Nevada, the Assembly Bill 190 covers entertainment industry workers, and as of the start of 2018 certain workers in that sector are required to complete OSHA 10 or OSHA 30 training. The requirements cover those who work with scenery, props or rigging, people involved with wardrobe, hair and makeup, and those who work with audio, lighting, projection or camera equipment. The entertainment industry includes live entertainment, film making, photography, TV and sporting events.

Workers in Nevada that are required to undertake the training will be required to refresh or renew that training every 5 years. Upon completion of the course, workers are given a OSHA DOL card which shows that they are qualified. The hope is that by having a large number of workers trained in the importance of health and safety, and in the avoidance and reduction of workplace hazards, the entertainment sector will become a safer place for all. There are a lot of live shows in Nevada, so it makes sense for the performers there to be protected. Other states may have similar requirements. It is important for every business to take the time to understand the regulations where they are, and to educate their employees as well. Even in states where the OSHA 10 or 30 training is not a requirement, it can be beneficial for senior employees to undertake it so that they can pass on the knowledge to other workers.

OSHA training is not Federally mandated, but complying with the general industry regulations is. Training is a good way of highlighting potential issues in your workplace, and can help to impress upon people the importance of having a good heath and safety policy. In the live entertainment world, the policy of “the show must go on” often means that health and safety is overlooked, and this is unfortunate.