The curtain fell on 'The King and I' at the Pavilion Theatre in Glasgow before a single audience member had the chance to enjoy the Apollo Players' interpretation of the Rogers & Hammerstein classic. The Glasgow-based music and theatrical production company had planned to stage the musical from 11-14 November 2015, however, due to safety concerns over the fire-proofing of the scenery, the theatre pulled the plug and fans have been left waiting in the wings for the production to be rescheduled.

It is crucial to have good health and safety practice in theatres to ensure the safety of the performers, the crew, the audience and the equipment used. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), most injuries in the theatre industry are related to work at height and manual handling. Theatre shows require considerable preparation, especially when the production is travelling around the country and individuals are working to tight timescales. For example, lights, scenery and sound equipment need to be set up, resulting in the moving of many awkward and heavy loads, and scaling heights to ensure that they are working correctly, raising the risk of injury.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 impose duties on employers, the self-employed and anyone else in control of work at height, in order to prevent injuries caused by falls. Employers, and those in control of any work at height, must ensure that it such work is properly planned and organised, and that the correct type of equipment is used. The risk must be assessed before the task is carried out, and this includes assessing, and then controlling, the risk of falling objects.

The HSE, in the first instance, recommends that work in theatres is not carried out at height. It suggests using auto focus or bounce lights, and bringing scenery items down to ground level for adjustment. However, this may not always be possible. As additional protection for theatre crew who do have to work at height, the HSE recommends the use of airbags, nets and inertia reel harnesses.

In short, to promote good health and safety in theatres and to reduce the risk of injury from working at height and manual handling, it is imperative that the risks are assessed and clear method statements are drawn up before the work is carried out. All employees should be familiar with the method statements and made aware of the risks. Only then will the show go on.


Alison Waddell