Health & Safety
This page is about health and safety - not 'elf 'n' safety' - as it has become known in the tabloid press in the UK. That is to say, it matters to you, the people you work with and your prospects of carving out a career in the creative and media sectors.
What is health and safety about?
Health and safety legislation exists because of the inherent dangers people face in their working environments from hazards and risks that can threaten life, limb and well-being. Legislation covers many aspects of work, the materials and processes used, how people go about their work and how they ensure that hazards are minimised, risks properly assessed and measures taken to ensure safety is promoted.
A hazard is something with the potential to cause harm. Risk describes the likelihood of harm being caused by a hazard and the extent of the damage or injury that might result.
Why does it matter to me?
Under the terms of the Health & Safety at Work Act, 1974 everybody at work has a duty to ensure they work safely and do not put at risk of harm either collegues or members of the public. The 'general duties' contained within the 1974 Act specify the responsibilities of employers, employees and self-employed workers - this covers just about everyone who works!
Breaches of health and safety legislation are criminal acts rather than civil acts and the penalties and legal remedies can reflect this.
All employees will receive training from their employer to enable them to work safely, this may take the form of briefings, training courses and instruction in how to protect yourself and others from common hazards. For freelancers the situation is more complicated and many employers will require proven competence of safety awareness before contracting for work. In other words (and this increasingly the case) employers across the creative sectors will require proof that you are able to work safely.
The new Skillset 'Production Safety Passport' and the Theatrical Management Association (TMA) new Induction Code of Practice training are efforts to ensure that all workers have proven levels of relevant training to demonstrate the capacity to work safely.
What are the main things I need to know?
You need to understand the the general duties imposed on you by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 - in particualr the requirement to familarise yourself with the local procedures, precautions and guides to working safely.
You will also need to understand the requirement to assess risk contained in the Management of Health & Safety at Work regulations 1999 - this can be downloaded as a PDF from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The critical thing to understand is that emoployers are responsible for carrying risk assessments and communication the action that must be taken - including prevention/eradication of the hazard where possible, reduction if necessary and protection when all else fails (i.e. protection from a hazard is the final step not the first).
You will be expected to know how to carry out what are known as 'dynamic risk assessments' as a method for working safely - this does not replace the legal duty of the employer/producer to employ a 'competent person' to carry out formal (sometimes known as a generic risk assessment) risk assessments and inform you of the results.
For reference we have produced a list of important safety regulations and it is for you personally to identify which of them is relevant to the particular job that you do.
You do not have to be an expert but you must know what the hazards are where you work, what to do about them, how to report concerns and how to find out more information.
Where can I find out more?
There are numerous great resources for you to find out more information or just to check your facts. The most comprehensive online resource is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which covers all legislation, codes of practice and advice of every kind. There is also a a dedicated space on the site detailing the rights and responsibilities of workers.
In particular, the HSE pages on the film, TV and theatre sectors are a great resource that everyone working in the media and entertainment sectors should know about.
If you looking to get work as a rigger, grip, special effects or stunts then the Joint Industry Grading Scheme website will be a critical place to check out!
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is another great resource containing information and advice of every kind. Other similar websites with a similar perspective are the London Hazards Centre and the UK National Work-Stress Network.
There are also some very useful websites owned by professional organisations, including the British safety Council, the Institute for Occupational Safety & health (IOSH), Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) and the Occupational Road Safety alliance (ORSA).
....But don't forget that trade unions are a great resource for everything to do with health and safety at work - and they are likely yo have an experience Union Safety Representative close to hand and if not then a full-time union official.