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Theatre Safety Manual

Safety Policy


It shall be the policy of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh that a safe, healthy environment shall be maintained at all times within the Theatre Program and its environs, including performance spaces, rehearsal spaces, shop spaces and other work spaces. This includes controlling and minimizing hazards attendant with the creation of theatre. We recognize that many processes, techniques, materials and practices used in the theatre contain inherent risks to individuals; if those risks cannot be adequately minimized and controlled through proper training, equipment and use of appropriate precautions, THOSE THINGS MAY NOT BE USED WITHIN OUR PROGRAM.

Furthermore, ignoring precautions and restriction shall not be allowed. No production can ever be considered justification for risk to any member of our program and no production can be considered successful if someone is injured in its completion.

No activity in theatre is completely safe.

Safety procedures considered standard in any other industry may not be practical in a performance situation. We must therefore be especially diligent in following safety rules that do apply. FAILURE TO FOLLOW APPROPRIATE SAFETY RULES AND POLICIES MAY RESULT IN SERIOUS INQUIRY OR DEATH! Therefore, failure to follow required safety results may result in immediate temporary and possibly permanent expulsion from a given activity, production or class.

Handling Safety Issues

It is the policy of UWO Theatre that no safety concern is unimportant.

All personnel and students within the department are encouraged to bring such concerns to the faculty and staff and especially to the technical director. In no way will doing so reflect badly on or be held against the person making the report. Rather contributing to the health and safety of all personnel is everyone’s responsibility.

Restricted Access

A theatre space, especially the stage area, is essentially a large machine for producing plays. It contains many hazards, especially to those unfamiliar with the mechanical and physical aspects of a theatre.


  • No unauthorized personnel (i.e. anyone other than cast and crew) shall be allowed backstage during any performance, between call time and 15 minutes after final curtain.
  • No one is allowed access to the stage area unless supervisory personnel (faculty, staff or authorized student supervisors) are present.
  • No on shall be permitted to work alone in the theatre space. In case of an injury or incident, there must be another person present to render aid or seek assistance.
  • No one shall be permitted to operate any power tools in the shop spaces unless a paid staff or student supervisor are present — this includes scenery and costume shops.
First Aid, Accidents and Reporting

A First Aid kit is maintained in the office of the technical director, who is responsible for seeing that it is maintained and kept stocked. This kit is located in the wooden cabinet and may be accessed as needed. Keys to the the technical director’s office are issued to all faculty, professional and academic staff, and student stage managers, who are all authorized to access the first aid supplies.

However, this kit is intended for First Aid ONLY. In the event of anything other than minor incidents, accidents are to be reported IMMEDIATELY to the technical director if present and/or the supervisor in charge of the area, who call contact the University Police at (920) 424-1212, who are authorized to contact the proper emergency services.

If the incident is serious or life-threatening, you should call 911 immediately.

University Police should then be contacted as soon as practical. Render whatever first aid can be applied until emergency services arrive to relieve you.

All incidents must also be reported to the technical director after the fact.

Emergency Procedures



Your call will be answered by an officer at University Police. Public Safety personnel will respond and determine the need for additional assistance.

The following are recommended procedures for various types of emergencies:

Medical Emergencies
  1. If a SERIOUS INJURY occurs, immediately call the University Police at (920) 424-1212 or call 911. First Aid can be administered or medical transport can be arranged if necessary.
  2. Never move a person suspected of a serious injury unless it is a life-threatening situation such as a fire. Attempts to move an injured person can cause further injury, especially to the spine and neck. Try to keep the injured person warm and still.
  3. Persons with severe injuries or illnesses that require emergency department facilities for treatment are to be transported directly to Mercy Medical Center. Persons with less serious conditions should obtain treatment at the Student Health Center.
  4. Because of infection, minor cuts have the potential to become more serious. Wounds should be washed and dressed. Visit the Student Health Center if necessary.
Fire Emergencies

In the event of a fire, University Police should be notified immediately and the following actions are recommended:

  1. Activate the fire alarm.
  2. Put out the fire if you know how to do so without endangering yourself or others. University Police states that individuals are not required to fight fires. Those that choose to fight small, incipient stage (no larger than a waster paper basket) fires must be trained in the proper use of fire extinguishers. If a fire cannot be extinguished within in the first 10 seconds, leave immediately!
  3. If the fire is large and spreading, leave the fire area and prevent the fire’s spread by closing the doors behind you. If on stage, activate the “fire curtain” by breaking the glass cover on the curtain release behind either proscenium.
  4. Evacuate the building and await the arrival of fire officials. Try to account for everyone inside the building. Do not leave the area until you have been accounted for.
  5. Do no re-enter the building until you are told to do so by University Police or the municipal fire official.
Chemical Exposure
  1. If you spill a chemical such as paint thinners or fabric dyes on your skin:
    • Rinse the area with water for at least 15 minutes.
    • Remove any soiled clothing and jewelry while you are rinsing.
  2. If you get a chemical in your eyes:
    • Rinse with water for at least 15 minutes, rinsing from the nose outward to avoid contaminating the unaffected eye.
    • Remove contact lenses while rinsing — don’t wait to remove them before you rinse.
  3. If you inhale a chemical or are overcome by fumes:
    • Leave the room and move to fresh air.
    • Keep the door of room open to vent.
    • Do not re-enter a contaminated area.
    • If symptoms do not subside, seek medical attention at the Student Health Center or Mercy Medical Center.
Weather Emergencies

When conditions are right, a severe weather watch may be issued. Continue with normal activities, but monitor the situation. When severe weather is imminent, a warning will sound. If severe weather approaches, be prepared to move to shelter. The designated tornado shelter area for the Theatre Arts Center is in the basement hallways outside the Trap room and the dressing rooms.

Chemical Spills


The campus police chief functions as emergency coordinator. The general procedure in the event of a spill is to notify the supervisor (technical director if available) who will evacuate the immediate area if necessary. The supervisor then calls the campus security office. Campus security staff will consult with the EHS manager and with the campus facilities management director to make a determination on whether to call in the local hazmat team.

Fire Control and Use

Fire is always a hazard in the theatre. To minimize the problem, the following shall be adhered to at all times:

  • The Theatre Arts Center is equipped with a Fire Curtain, which is designed to lower automatically in case of fire. AT NO TIME IS THE PATH OF THE FIRE CURTAIN TO BE BLOCKED BY SCENERY, PROPS OR REHEARSAL PROPS OR FURNITURE.
  • All technical personnel and students MUST and all actors SHOULD be trained in the location and use of fire extinguishers in the backstage areas. HOWEVER, if a fire cannot be extinguished within the first 10 seconds or so, GETTING EVERYONE OUT SAFELY IS THE FIRST PRIORITY! This is the responsibility of the production stage manager and the technical director.
  • Activate the fire alarm immediately! If possible, the fire curtain lowering system (i.e. the “break glass” box) should be activated before leaving the stage. Fire alarm boxes are located at each exit to the building.
  • Pull an alarm switch to alert the fire department on the way out if it has not already been activated.
Open flames: 


That said, the use of open flames shall be permitted when necessary for production ONLY WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE TECHNICAL DIRECTOR who is responsible for training and overseeing personnel handling the effect. E

If necessary, the technical director shall consult with and obtain permission from the city fire marshal before effects can be permitted. IF EITHER THE TECHNICAL DIRECTOR OR THE FIRE MARSHAL DISAPPROVES THE FIRE EFFECT, NO MATTER HOW SMALL, IT SHALL NOT BE PERMITTED.

At any time open flames are in use, at least one crew person all stand by offstage with a fire extinguisher at hand the entire time the open flame is present and that shall be that PERSON’S SOLE DUTY AT THAT TIME!

Combat and Weapons


Actors and Directors

No stage combat shall be permitted in production or class without training and approval of the theatre faculty responsible and/or the faculty fight director.


Prop weapons are NOT toys. They are NOT to be handled EXCEPT by authorized persons and are the responsibility of the props master of each production and/or assigned weapons handler. NO ONE ELSE IS ALLOWED TO HANDLE ANY PROP WEAPON!

Prop weapons shall be secured when not in use and shall be issued to the actors using them only when required and shall be immediately turned back in to the props person responsible when finished; the weapon shall then be immediately secured until the next performance.

All prop weapons MUST ALWAYS BE TREATED AS REAL WEAPONS (which in fact they are). All guns used as props be handled as if loaded; all edged weapons must be treated as sharp. EVEN BATED WEAPONS CAN KILL!


Smoking Rules


It is State Law that SMOKING IS PROHIBITED in all State buildings, including the theatre facilities; in fact is illegal within 25 feet of the outside doors.

The single exception is smoking required by the business of a particular production. THIS SHALL NOT BE USED AS AN EXCUSE TO SMOKE IN THE THEATRE! Only such smoking as is absolutely necessary for a production is allowed,and if you push it, such permission will be withdrawn!

Safety Complaints and Hazards

Any perceived safety concerns or hazards, large or small, MUST be reported to the supervisor in charge of the area, and/or the technical director, who shall take steps to correct the problem or to report the problem to the appropriate University authorities for action.

Electrical or maintenance services to the building shall be referred to Buildings and Grounds at (920) 424-3466.

Scene Shop Safety Rules
Safety Notices and Bulletins


Safety bulletins will be posted on the crew bulletin board outside the technical director’s office, ACW 124.

Safety rules for each of the major power-tools in the Scene Shop are posted near each tool. NO PERSONS WILL BE ALLOWED TO OPERATE ANY POWER TOOL UNTIL TRAINED AND APPROVED BY THE TECHNICAL DIRECTOR. Likewise, personnel and students must be trained and approved before being permitted to operate any powered costume shop equipment. All required safety rules must be followed at all times.

Some guidelines for using tools include:

  • Inspect tools before use for any defects such as frayed wires, or damaged hand tools. Remove defective tools from service and have repaired or replaced.
  • Only use power tools that are properly grounded with a 3-pronged plug or that are double-insulated. A power tool with a missing grounding prong shall be considered damaged and be removed from use until repaired.
  • Never carry a power tool by its cord. Avoid wrapping cords too tightly around tools for storage to prevent damage to strain relief grommets.
  • Unplug power tools before loading them, changing blades or bits, making adjustments, or cleaning them. Follow all manufacturer’s instructions for handling and adjusting.
  • Defective, damaged or unsafe equipment must be removed immediately from service if damage occurs or is detected.
  • Dull tools are unsafe and can damage operator or work. Maintain your tools and always use sharp cutting blades.
Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

SDS for chemicals and materials used in the shops are maintained by the technical director and are available at any time to all persons in the theatre area. Workers in the shops, students and paid assistants are required to follow safety guidelines on each sheet for each material and chemical. If you do not understand or have questions about anything in any SDS, or about any process, see the technical director for clarification.

Work Requiring Training


Many of the processes and systems in the theatre complex pose hazards while in use. Before students and staff are permitted to use them, they must be trained and approved by the appropriate supervisor of the area. These processes include but are not limited to:

Use of power tools in the Scene Shop:
Table Saw
Radial Arm Saw
Power Miter Saw
Band Saw
Stationary Drill Press
Portable Drills and Drill Motors
Bench and Portable Grinders
Pneumatic-powered Nailers and Staplers
Electric and Gas Welders
Chop Saw
Circular Saw
Theatre Systems:
Stage Rigging and Fly systems
Lighting Control Boards
Sound Control Boards
Hydraulic Lift (Apron)



Ventilation Systems


The Scene Shop is equipped with certain ventilation systems, which shall be used at all appropriate times.

These include but are not limited to:

  • Spray paint use is only permitted in the spray booth of the Scene Shop, with ventilation system running, or with the use of ANSI approved filter masks. If such a mask is not available, painting cannot be done until appropriate equipment is obtained.
  • Dust collection system must be operating when table saw, band saw, or radial arm saw is in use. Training on these tools must include training on the ventilation system.
  • Welding shall be allowed only when room ventilation equipment is in use. The dust collection system and the spray booth are NOT considered part of this system.


Personal Protective Equipment

In addition to normal permitted work clothing (see Scene Shop Safety Rules) the shops are provided with personal protective equipment. Use of such equipment is not optional and shall be used at all times when performing associated activities.

Such personal protective equipment shall include but is not limited to:

  • EYE PROTECTION: safety glasses, goggles, or face shields shall be required when operating power tools.
  • Dust collection system and room ventilation systems shall be used at all appropriate times. See the section on Ventilation Systems for clarification.
  • HARD HATS are available and must be used while overhead rigging is taking place.
  • EAR PROTECTION: ear plugs or ear muffs shall be required when operating louder power tools, such as radial arm saw, table saw, circular saw, chop saw, or portable grinder at any time, or any percussive tool (pneumatic nail gun), at ALL times. Ear plugs or ear muffs shall be required when operating ANY power tool for extended periods of time.
  • BREATHING PROTECTION: Spray painting is only permitted in the spray booth with evacuation system running, or while wearing a ventilation mask rated for spray paint.
  • Dust masks are required for activities creating quantities of dust or of dust collection system is not practical for a given activity (i.e. portable tools.)
  • PROTECTIVE GLOVES are required when working with solvents or solvent based (non-water based) chemicals and materials. Extended exposure to water based chemicals (such as paint) shall also require the use of protective gloves. Refer to SDS for guidelines as to appropriate equipment.
  • WELDING: Proper eye protection goggles and masks, long sleeve shirts and long pants are required for welding. A leather welding tunic is available and should be used while arc welding.


Counterweight Loading and Unloading

With Flyman at the lock rail and loaders on the loading gallery:

  • Flyman calls “HEADS UP” and lowers batten to floor.
  • Flyman gives clearance to deck crew to place the load on batten.
  • AFTER load is on batten, Flyman estimates weight and directs loaders to load the arbor with appropriate weights equal to the load.
  • Loaders raise keeper nuts and spreader plates, leaving one on top of batten weight.
  • Loaders place required counterweights on arbor. If many “bricks” are needed, a spreader plate should be inserted between weights every two feet.
  • When finished, Loaders slide down remaining plates and keeper nuts, locking them in place with thumb screws. Only then do they call down: “Locked and Secured.”
  • Flyman calls to Deck crew to “Clear the Batten.”
  • Flyman removes keeper ring and opens lock handle, and tests load for balance.
  • If load is out of balance, repeat above procedure to adjust.
  • Once weight is correct, Flyman calls “Clear the Batten” and flies load to trim, locking rope lock and securing with Keeper Ring.

To unload, reverse the procedure:

  • Flyman calls “Heads Up” and flys batten to the deck.
  • Upon flyman’s command, Loaders remove all weight down to but not including batten weight.
  • Only after weight is off arbor, Deck crew removes goods from the batten.
  • Flyman calls “Clear the Batten” and flies batten out for storage.

Contact Us     

Jane Purse-Wiedenhoeft,
Department Chair
(920) 424-4425
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