Accident & Injury at Work

Produced in consultation with Bates, Wells & Braithwaite, Solicitors

This helpsheet has been drafted in response to discussions with ITC dance managers. However, whilst dancers may be at particular risk of injury, this is an issue which affects all sectors and, indeed, all workers – not just performers.

What are an employer’s legal duties?

Employers have a duty under the law to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their workers at work, in so far as this is reasonably practicable. The main legislation dealing with this duty is the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. There is a wide range of Regulations that go into detail about every possible aspect of Health & Safety. The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 set out the basics which are that:

If you employ anyone you must

  • Take out Employers Liability Insurance & display the insurance certificate.
  • Display the Health & Safety Law poster.
  • Report some injuries and other incidents at work.
  • Assess the risks from work activities (self-employed people must do this too).
  • Provide health & safety training for employees.

If you have five employees or more you must:

  • Have a written health & safety policy statement.
  • Record the significant findings of risk assessment exercises and the arrangements for health and safety measures to combat the risks.

Recommended reading:
Health & Safety Regulations: a short guide at
Five steps to risk assessment at

What are a worker’s legal duties?

  • Take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by what they do or do not do.
  • Co-operating with their employer on health and safety.
  • Use work items provided by their employer correctly in accordance with training or instructions.
  • Not interfering with or misusing anything provided for their health, safety or welfare.

Preventing injury

Avoiding injury in the workplace means considering a wide range of areas, these include:


  • Assess risks and decide what precautions are needed.
  • Prevent or adequately control exposure to hazards.
  • Prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies.

Putting into practice

  • Ensure employees are properly informed, trained and supervised.
  • Ensure work equipment, plant and machinery and systems of work are safe.
  • Ensure dangerous articles and substances are moved, stored and used safely.
  • Provide workers with information, instruction, training and supervision; adequate first-aid facilities; protective clothing or equipment.
  • Make sure that the workplace satisfies health, safety and welfare requirements, eg for ventilation, temperature, lighting, and sanitary, washing and rest facilities.
  • Take precautions against danger from flammable or explosive hazards, electrical equipment, noise and radiation.
  • Avoid or minimise hazardous manual handling operations.

The main hazards – and how to avoid them

Slipping and tripping

This may sound obvious but according to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) these accidents account for 33% of all reported major injuries and 2 fatalities per year. Simple actions like fitting splash guards and anti-slip floorings in areas that can’t be kept dry and using cordless tools to avoid trailing cables can remove or minimise risks.

Relevant legislation:
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

Recommended reading:

Preventing Trips & Slips at Works
Slips Assessment Tool to help assess risk –

Work at heights

Obvious examples include using temporary access equipment such as scaffolding, tower scaffolds, ladders, step ladders, trestles and tallescopes. Raised scenery and raked stages will carry risks for those working on them, but so will a standard flat stage. Risks of working at height should always be assessed and appropriate measures taken to ensure safety. Workers should be trained in the use of any equipment required for working at height. Identified risks include:

  • Falls – work is 'at height' if someone could be injured by falling even at ground level.
  • Falls from collapsing structures.
  • Injury from falling objects.

Relevant legislation:

The Work at Height Regulations 2005

Recommended reading:
Falls from height – a range of leaflet
Equity’s Code of Conduct for the Use of Rakes in Theatrical Performances a separate ITC helpsheet in this section.


There is already a duty to assess risk from noise and to ensure that action to prevent damage to workers is taken where necessary. This will be made tighter by new regulations.

Relevant legislation:
Control of noise at Work Regulations 2005

Recommended reading:
Advice to employers on

Hazardous substances

Scene makers, scene painters and those dyeing costumes are obviously at risk from hazardous substances. Performers, however, may also be at risk from adhesives, paints, cleaning agents, fumes and naturally occurring substances in the costumes they wear and the sets they work on. Commonly used dangerous substances are listed in the HSE publication Approved Supply List. Information approved for the classification and labelling of substances and preparations dangerous for supply. Substances with workplace exposure limits are listed in the HSE publication EH40/2005 Workplace exposure limits. The HSE recommends basic measures that employers, and sometimes employees, must take.

Relevant legislation
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH)

Recommended website

Manual handling

Again this is not just a problem for the crew. Performers will also face the hazards of get-ins, get-outs and push and pull. Dancers, in particular, risk injury from having to lift and move each other. According to the HSE more than one third of all 'over three day' injuries are caused by manual handling.

Assessment of manual handling risks should consider:

  • What the task involves. e.g.: how loads are held, does this involve twisting, stooping or large vertical movements; are there long carrying distances, strenuous pushing or pulling or repetitive handling? Then consider whether lifting aids could be used, workplace layout could be changed or carrying distances could be reduced.
  • What is the nature of the loads e.g.: are they heavy, bulky, unwieldy, unstable or likely to move? How can these problems be alleviated.
  • The capacity of individuals consider if the job requires above-average strength or agility, might endanger those with a health problem or learning/physical disability or pregnant women, might need special information or training?

Relevant legislation
The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, amended 2002

Recommended reading
Getting to grips with manual handling: a short guide
A range of leaflets on Manual Handling can be found at


Legislation in this area is concerned with those operating display screen equipment e.g. computers and aims to minimise the risk of occupational ill-health, by ensuring that operators or users have:

  • Adequate training and information.
  • Proper breaks or changes of activity.
  • Work stations suitable for them which meet, where necessary, the standards in the schedule.
  • Eye tests if they request them.

Relevant legislation
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992

Recommended reading
Working with VDUs

Reporting after an Accident or Injury

Some work-related accidents, diseases and dangerous occurrences must be reported to the HSE, these are:

  • Death

  • Major injuries e.g.:
    a) Fracture other than to fingers, thumbs or toes.
    b) Amputation.
    c) Dislocation of the shoulder, hip, knee or spine,
    d) Loss of sight (temporary or permanent).
    e) Chemical or hot metal burn to the eye or any penetrating injury to the eye.
    f) Electric shock/burn or any other injury leading to hypothermia, heat-induced illness or unconsciousness, requiring resuscitation or a hospital stay of more than 24 hours.
    e) Unconsciousness due to asphyxia or exposure to a harmful substance/biological agent.
    f) Acute illness/loss of consciousness due to absorption of any substance.

  • Over three day injuries, i.e: where an employee or self-employed person is away from work or unable to work normally for more than three consecutive days.

  • An employee suffering from a reportable work-related disease, these include: certain poisonings; some skin diseases such as occupational dermatitis; lung diseases including occupational asthma, pneumoconiosis, asbestosis; infections such as leptospirosis, hepatitis, tuberculosis, anthrax, legionellosis, tetanus; other conditions such as: occupational cancer and hand-arm vibration syndrome.

  • Dangerous occurrence; something which does not result in a reportable injury, but which clearly could have done, must be reported immediately, these include: collapse, overturning or failure of load-bearing parts of lifts and lifting equipment; explosion, collapse or bursting of any closed vessel or associated pipework; electrical short circuit or overload causing fire or explosion; accidental release of a biological agent likely to cause severe human illness; collapse of: any building or structure under construction, alteration or demolition, where over five tonnes of material falls; explosion or fire causing suspension of normal work for over 24 hours.

Relevant legislation
Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regs 1995

RIDDOR reporting
Phone the Incident Contact Centre on 0845 300 9923 (local rate) or use the forms provided at

Compensation after an Accident or Injury

There is not an automatic right to compensation for injury or disease arising out of employment, however, most employers are required by the law to insure against liability for injury or disease to employees arising out of their employment in case claims are made. Employers’ liability insurance is compulsory once you have any employees; you can be fined if you do not hold a current policy. You must be insured for at least £5 million; in practice, most insurers offer minimum cover of £10 million. You must display a copy of your Certificate of Insurance where your employees can easily read it (and you must retained expired certificates for at least 40 years because claims for diseases can be made many years after a disease is caused). Injuries or illness relating to motor accidents which occur whilst your employees are working for you may, however, be covered separately by your motor insurance.

Relevant legislation
Employers Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969

Recommended Reading
Employers Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969: A Guide for Employers

Further information

Much of the information on this helpsheet has been sourced from the Health & Safety Executive website which has leaflets on all the areas above and more There is a specific section for the entertainment industry at

The Association of British Theatre Technicians have published Theatre Essentials on their website . This booklet (which has been produced in consultation with several industry health & safety bodies) covers general health and safety legislation likely to affect theatres. It also looks at who are the duty holders, and their suggested responsibilities throughout the production process and provides practical guidance on managing the health and safety documentation required in the production.

Jackie Elliman © Independent Theatre Council