Can You Spot The Stage Danger?

Each year the Sydney Festival stages 90 productions in 30 days. John Bayley, the Head of Production, is in charge of keeping the cast, crew and audience safe. He shared his tips on Stage Safety during a Stage Whispers TV live webinar sponsored by The Association of Community Theatre and Marsh Insurance.

“The first thing is to take responsibility that there will be a risk,” John Bayley warns, “so you need to plan for the risk and identify it. This happens particularly during Bump In, where the risks should be recorded in writing.



“At the Sydney Festival we have what we call a ‘toolbox talk’, where at the beginning of the day everyone gets together to talk about risk.”

“When you first bring a cast on stage they are thinking about other things,” John explains. “The microphone is there temporarily, but if it was a fixture the cable should have tape over it to reduce the trip hazard. There are also loose chairs. They should always be taped or cable tied together in groups of at least four, in case the audience has to leave quickly.”

Image:  Bump In at the Roslyn Packer Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company.

“The dangers include getting up ladders using tools and machinery,” John warns. “People on stage may not be aware of the live edge. If you see that orange line, that is the top of a fence that the STC puts in. If you step off, you would have something to grab onto. This is worth doing at a Bump In, even if it is just a line as a visual prompt to the danger.”

Image: A lighting rig is under way.

“We require people at Sydney Festival to wear a high vis vest, whether they are inside or outside,” John says. “As you can see, people are not visible. High vis vests are very cheap and we use them at the Sydney Festival because it reminds them of the situation they are in.”

John explains a production specific safety measure for Manifesto.

“The designer wanted a nice row of curtains behind nine drummers on raised platforms. We installed a railing behind the platforms so that the drummers would have something to hold onto when they stepped back.”

“The other thing to remember is that the show does not have to go on. All companies should rehearse a show stop if an imminent threat to safety is identified during a performance.”

Marsh Insurance, which offers a public liability insurance scheme in conjunction with The Association of Community Theatre recommends, all on stage watch out for the following.


Personal Injuries – Slips, trips and falls
  • Spilled drinks, food, water leaks and wet floors.
  • Wires and cables running along the ground.
  • Props and other items in thoroughfares.
  • Steps are lit, have contrasting edges and handrails.
  • Overhead props, lighting and sound
  • Make sure equipment is properly secured, and check danger areas before raising/lowering.

Fire hazards

  • Heat sources near flammables, including heat from lighting and sound.
  • Electrical components tested and tagged. Connections are secure and fitted correctly.
  • Pyrotechnics, flares, and other naked flames are a fire hazard.