Health and Safety in the Live Performance Industry
Health and Safety gets such a bad reputation as it is mocked and belittled by the media and in casual conversation, but we definitely feel that it is important to create awesome shows which are also safe for everyone. Shows and tours that are safe to attend, to perform at and to work in. The “red tape” may not be glamorous or rock and roll, but it’s as important as any other part of the show.
Some of the excuses we’ve heard over our many years in the ‘biz as to why health and safety corners have been cut or accidents allowed to happen are these:
1. It doesn't pay
This is the most absurd excuse for not adhering to safety practices in the workplace. No, having someone onsite who can prevent accidents and ensure you’re working within the law doesn’t make you any money. Then again if you think health and safety costs a lot, you should try having an accident. Equipment can be irreplaceable and expensive performers take their value seriously. Court cases for damages cost money, time, and stress whether you win or not, so best to avoid them if at all possible. Exercising common sense and safe practice in venues is less costly in the long term. Trust us.
2. We haven't got time
Such a common one, you would not believe. Set up, performance and striking all take time and things don’t always go to plan. When it’s live, things can go wrong, equipment can break within minutes of curtain up and just about anything can delay set up, but none of this is an excuse for deliberately risking someone’s health or even their life. Tour schedules in particular, are tight. We of all people know that! But do you know what’s even harder to make time for? A trip to A & E between shows, that’s what.
3. No one will ever know
Is that right? Well, we reckon someone might just notice if an untested piece of electrical equipment malfunctions and sets fire to the set mid show. We acknowledge that some people aren’t very observant, but eventually, someone is going to notice that the venue is aflame, right? Seriously though, what gives anyone the right to play Russian Roulette with people’s lives who are their responsibility? “no one will know” can easily turn into “how do we tell his family?” and “what do we say to the police?”
Health and safety procedures and training on how to adhere to them have become commonplace in almost every other workplace. If you worked in a kitchen then you’d need to pass a basic food safety and hygiene course, so you don’t give anyone food poisoning. It’s common sense to train your staff appropriately to ensure both customers and employees are safe. For some reason the creative industries have been notably slower in adopting or implementing similar practices and prioritising workers’ safety.
We’ve written about how undervalued and under-appreciated the crew can be at large (or small) events on our blog before, but it adds a whole new level of insult when you think of how slow the industry was to show a care for their health and even their lives while working.
After so many talented individuals had to retrain during the pandemic, it wasn’t exactly a surprise to witness a crew shortage, but it falls to us to convince those crew, roadies and techies who are still working in the live performance sector that we have got your backs, we care for you, and we do value you. That is one of the reasons why House of Tours takes health and safety so very seriously and tries to consider every risk in each individual situation.
Another reason we’re talking about this is because of the sheer number of talented people who through stress, poor mental health or for other reasons have taken their own lives during the pandemic. This has deeply affected us and although we mourn those we knew, we also want to look forward to the future and to keep those who are still with us safe.
The loss of a life is always tragic, and suicide can be particularly difficult to understand, but we are motivated by our aspiration that no performer, crew, or audience member should be in danger on our watch. This is also why House of Tours is actively campaigning for more live performance venues to install defibrillators. We’ve lost too many colleagues to heart attacks in recent times, some of which may have been avoided if a defibrillator had been nearby. We hope that one day even tour busses will have life-saving facilities such as these as standard.
The world of live performances, tours, and events is all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Every tour manager and venue’s nightmare is a fatality which could have been prevented. So, we’re making a stand as a preventative measure. We’re not saying health and safety is a bundle of laughs, we’re just saying it’s important. That doesn’t make us square, just right.