Workshops Safety

The USF STAGES shops house many different types of operations; functions as a wood and metal construction shop, costume shop, props shop, paint shop, graphics shop, and more.

STAGES shop operations have potential chemical exposures and injuries sustained from the use of power tools, tripping hazards, lifting, and other types of hazards. Adherence to all safety policies, training prerequisites, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is required and will be enforced. In addition, the Performing Arts Code of Safe Practices Matrix identifies which codes of safe practices you are required to read for prop shop operations.

We will review common operations within three primary shop rooms or work areas: the dirty room, the clean room, and the craft room. You  may have separate rooms for each of these operations, or all the activities may be conducted within one large shop divided into separate work areas. These primary work areas generate sawdust, paint spray, upholstery lint, wet glues, finishes, damp dyed fabric, noisy sawing, and gases released by drying castings.

To help reduce these exposures, the shop may be equipped with temporary barriers, mobile work tables, tools on rolling stands, and flexible systems for ventilation and dust collection. You may also have policies regarding the use of storing supplies in plastic containers with secure lids, providing dust covers over sewing machines or computers, or even rigging a physical barrier to temporarily divide the shop as needed.


Power Saws

Common within all work areas of the prop shop is the use of various types of saws, such as table saws, circular saws, jig saws, and hand saws. All employees must receive documented training before Wood lathe with guards in place. operating any type of saw. Using a saw can be extremely dangerous if safe and proper operating procedures are not learned and followed. In addition to the codes of safe practices for specific types of saws, here are some general safety guidelines:

  1. Always talk to your instructor or supervisor if you discover a faulty machine or tool or if you are not fully qualified to operate the machine or tool. 

  2. Wear the proper PPE: Safety glasses, goggles, and, when necessary, a face shield. Note: the use of a face shield by itself does not qualify as wearing appropriate eye protection. Hearing protection devices when power tools and woodworking machines are in use even if you are not the operator. Appropriate shop attire when using hand and power tools including full-length pants (or equivalent) and closed-toe shoes. Tight-fitting work gloves only for handling materials. Never wear gloves while working with power tools. Consult with your Campus EH&S Department and refer to the UC PPE Policy for more information. 

  3. Remove rings, watches, necklaces, other jewelry, and loose clothing and leave them in your locker or bag. 

  4. Restrain long hair to keep it away from machinery, tools, and points of operation. 

  5. Inspect tools and machinery prior to starting to ensure they are safe to use. 

  6. Immediately lockout and tagout damaged machinery and power tools, and report it to your supervisor. For additional information regarding lockout and tagout, read the Lockout/Tagout/Blockout section in the Set Construction chapter, the Code of Safe Practice on Lockout/Tagout/ Blockout, and the Campus Lockout/ Tagout/ Blockout Policy for more information. 

  7. Shut off and disconnect all power tools and machinery from their power source prior to making adjustments or changing out components; wait for the machine/tool to come to a complete stop. 

  8. Never leave machinery or power tools running unattended. 

  9. Sweep up and clean away sawdust and scraps as needed throughout the work process to keep the floor free of slip, trip, fall hazards and the work area clean. Sweep and clean again prior to leaving the area. 

  10. Keep saws in good condition. Keep them sharp and clean for optimal performance. Follow manufacturer instructions for lubricating and changing accessories. 

  11. Never operate the saw while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication that could impair your judgment or motor skills. 

The Set Construction section also contains valuable information on the use of power and hand tools, PPE, chemical handling, and lifting.


Dirty Room

The dirty room is primarily a wood and metal working space. Typical power tools include the standard table saw, radial arm, and band saw. It may also have tools more specific to furniture construction like a power miter saw, a wood lathe, a vacuum form, a shaper, a planer, a jig saw, and hand tools. A wide variety of clamps are also used for construction and furniture work.

Furniture construction, stripping, restoration, metal reinforcement, plastics and foam work, and many other activities generate dust, smoke, dirt, and fumes. Dirty rooms often have a dust collection system to keep the sawdust generated by the woodworking process to a minimum.

The metal working area may have a MIG welder for mild steel welding with an aluminum spool gun to allow for construction of lighter-weight structural or decorative items. For larger jobs an oxy-acetylene rig may be used for braising metals and cutting.

Smaller projects may involve the use of propane or map gas torches for sweating copper and tiny butane torches for hi-temp soldering. Cutting and finishing tools such as chop saws, portable metal cutting band saws, grinders, wire wheels, buffers, pneumatic nibblers for delicate or small scale grinding and metal shaping applications, benders for small scale steel stock, vices, etc., may be used.

Training on the safe operation of all tools and equipment is required. Good housekeeping practices are required for proper storage of plywood, lumber, metal, and plastics, as well as maintaining organized storage for fasteners and supplies such as staples, bolts, nails, screws, brads, hinges, glues, molding, sandpaper, etc.

Reduce fire hazards by ensuring metal working areas are well separated from woodworking areas. Use portable shields if necessary to separate the metal working areas from other areas. Use sawdust collection systems to reduce the risk of fire. Keep flame and other ignition sources out of the woodworking and lumber storage areas. Routinely sweep the floors in the woodworking area to clear wood scrapes and sawdust.

Housekeeping also includes proper storage of hand and power tools. While in use, power hand tools such as drills, sabre saws, or routers have cords that can run across the floor and cause tripping hazards. Take steps to reduce the trip hazard through cord placement and cord guards.


Clean Room

The clean room is designated for fabric lay-out, draping, upholstery tasks, paper goods, floral projects, graphics work, and other activities that require a space free from air-born contaminants or dust.

The graphics area will typically have a computer, scanner, printer, and drafting/light table. The upholstery and soft goods process requires tools that can handle drapery and upholstery weight materials. In addition to various types of sewing machines, the shop may have an ironing table with industrial steam iron, patterning tables, staple guns, tack pullers, saws, scissors, tack hammers, tufting needles, etc.

Upholstery and drapery supplies include batting, foam rubber, spray adhesives, thread, twine, decorative fringes, as well as various fasteners such as staples, webbing tacks, and nail strips.

Common exposures include burns, needle sticks, and significant lifting exposures. Good housekeeping practices are critical to a safe work environment.


Craft Room

The craft room supports a wide variety of craft work done in the shop. It may have a large steam vat for dye work, dye mixing area with a stove or hot plate for heating water for dye solutions, a ventilation grill to pull dye vapors away from the work area, a walk-in spray booth for exhaust of paint and curing materials, and a paint/ plaster sink. The spray booth and dye ventilation systems allow contaminated air to be removed from the work area and exhausted via a filtering system to the outside.

Any spray painting or work with finishes that emit a vapor (it may have an odor or may not, check to see if the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) says the material is volatile) or generate a fine mist should be done in this ventilated space. The prop shop utilizes spray paint and spray finishes more than any other area in the performing arts due to the highly detailed nature of many of the processed items.

Water-soluble latex or acrylic paint and glaze materials are standard for prop shop painting as well as the use of pure pigments for mixing into the glaze, dyes for French enamel varnish (FEV) work, bronzing powders, and gold leaf. Supplies will also include buckets and pails, brushes, wood combs, and sponges.

The crafts area usually has tables for working on the wide variety of projects. Hand tools include pliers, screwdrivers, hammers, saws, clamps, paint brushes, an airbrush for detail work, floral wire, tape, putty, markers, sealers, and paper. Molding and casting supplies might include mixing cups, stir sticks, a scale, pans, plaster, spray releases, a hot plate, spatulas, plastic tubs, and aluminum sheet pans. Standard supplies for this area include plaster, tape, glue, spray sealers, stamps, and seals.

One of the major exposures in the craft room is the use of chemicals. Training is required to ensure you know the physical and health hazards of the chemicals you are using, safe handling precautions, emergency/first aid procedures, and proper storage of flammable liquids. As stated in the Set Construction chapter, follow the specific manufacturer’s instructions for each product, as well as the following safety guidelines:

  1. Read the product labels and the SDS to help you identify the potential hazards of the product you are using. 

  2. Know the ventilation requirements of the products you are using. 

  3. Avoid ingestion of materials by not eating or drinking in your work area, and wash your hands before eating or drinking. 

  4. Keep containers closed except when you are using them. 

  5. Control ignition sources in areas where flammable liquids are used. 

  6. Never puncture aerosol cans or expose them to high heat. 

  7. Dispose of the product as directed by the manufacturer and in accordance with the Campus Hazardous Waste Management Program.

  8. Know and understand the chemical spill procedures for each of the products you are handling. 

For more information read the Set Construction chapter and consult your Campus Hazard Communication Program and the Code of Safe Practices regarding hazard communication.

The use of chemicals often results in the generation of hazardous waste. Dispose of waste as directed by the product manufacturer and in accordance with the Campus Hazardous Waste Management Program. You can contact the EH&S Department for more information and guidance regarding hazardous waste management. They will provide guidance regarding:

  • Proper storage of the waste until it is collected 

  • Proper labeling of the waste containers 

  • Special handling requirements based on the hazard characteristics of the waste 

Always be aware of the potential hazards you may create and the hazards around you and remember to talk to your supervisor if you have any questions about the policies, procedures, personal protection, or training requirements before working in any area of the prop shop.


Special Props

Some productions call for special props, such as weapons or live animals. These props pose unique risks that require special handling procedures to ensure the safety of performers, crew, and audience.


When we talk about prop weapons, we’re not talking about toys. Although props, stage weapons both real and mock-up can cause serious and life-threatening injury. Weapons come in many shapes, sizes, and varieties and might include firearms; stun guns; air guns; edged weapons; arrows and bows (cross and recurve); pitch forks; clubs; sling shots; grenades; whips; chemical weapons, such as pepper spray; and any object that could be used in stage combat, such as a mace (spiked ball on a chain) or a staff. Examples of firearms include hand guns, rifles, shotguns, and BB guns. Edged weapons are defined as knives, swords, spears, daggers, kunai, and axes.

General Safety For All Weapons

There are several rules and procedures in place to provide for the safe use of weapons regardless of the type of weapon.

Permission & Notification

  1. Obtain written permission from for the use of weapons before they are purchased, made, or used. This individual may be with the Campus Police Department, a Technical Director, Department Chair, Producer, etc. Check with your supervisor regarding your departmental procedures. 

  2. Notify Campus Law Enforcement when weapons will be used in any production. 

  3. Notify Campus Law Enforcement and other building tenants of the intended schedule for the use of weapons to avoid any confusion or problems. 

  4. Restrict access, as well as handling of weapons, to authorized stage management representatives, Performing Arts supervisors, performers, and crew. 

  5. Only weapons owned by UC or rented by authorized UC staff may be used in UC programs and productions. 

  6. No personal weapons may be used or brought on site. 

  7. Use of UC weapons is restricted to UC programs and productions; loaning, renting, or otherwise authorizing the use of UC prop weapons to other groups is prohibited. 


  1. Train stage management representatives, Performing Arts supervisors, designated employees, as well as all performers and crew who will handle the weapons. 

  2. Provide appropriate PPE such as hearing protection, eye protection, face protection, and body protection for all hands-on weapons training. 

Include in the training all weapons policies; how to handle the weapons in a safe manner; the use, care, and maintenance of weapons; weapons security; noise exposure from weapons discharge; and hazards of and procedures for firing weapons in controlled settings.

  1. Include the actual discharge of weapons in the training; ensure the required notification of discharge to Campus Law Enforcement. 

  2. Provide additional training regarding loading, cleaning, inspection, and repair to those employees responsible for those activities. 

  3. Document all training. 

  4. Provide adequate time during tech rehearsals to allow the performers to become comfortable using the weapons. 


  1. Store all weapons in locked cabinets or rooms. 

  2. Restrict access to the weapons storage areas to authorized UC staff. 

  3. Secure weapons used in rehearsals in their transportation cases or other secured areas when not in us. 

  4. Store all weapons in secure areas at the end of each performance. 

Use and Handling

  1. Only use weapons as intended by the choreography of the play. 

  2. Never play with the weapons or engage in horseplay onstage or offstage. 

  3. Never remove the weapons from the stage/backstage area. 

  4. Only stage management, designated Department staff, and designated crew members may maintain, load, handoff and receive, and store the weapons. 

  5. Store weapons in an unloaded state in a safe protected manner while they are backstage and not standing by for use onstage. 

  6. Immediately clean weapons post show, and store them in dedicated locked storage areas. 

  7. Use a checklist for each show to ensure all requirements are met. 

  8. Only UC personnel, students, performers, and crew members who have received documented training on weapons handling guidelines will be permitted to use, handle, maintain, or store weapons. 

Firearms Safety

Following the safety rules for the use of firearms is essential for the safety of the performers and crew. Injury and even death can be caused by discharged wadding of blank rounds. The noise levels produced by the discharge of firearms can cause hearing damage. Take firearms safety seriously.

  1. Notify the Campus Police Department when firearms will be used in a production. 

  2. Treat all firearms as though they are loaded. 

  3. Never use live ammunition. The use of live ammunition is prohibited. 

  4. Only use the blanks designated for each individual weapon. Never use substitutions. 

  5. Store blank rounds and shells in a separate container from the firearms. 

  6. Never load any firearm until actually ready to use it. 

  7. Never permit a performer to handle a firearm except during supervised training, supervised rehearsals, fight calls, and performances. 

  8. Always follow safe handoff procedures. 

  9. Maintain all safety devices in place until ready to use the firearm. 

  10. Never leave a firearm unattended. 

  11. Secure firearms when not in active use during rehearsals, performances, or inspection and cleaning activities. 

  12. Maintain a firing log to record which weapon was fired and to note any misfire or other problems with the weapon. 

  13. Read the Code of Safe Practice regarding special props for firearms for more detailed safety instructions. 

Edged Weapons

Piercing weapons are included in the category of edged weapons. Examples include, but are not limited to, knives, swords, rapiers, razors, arrows and bows (recurve and crossbow), pitch forks, mace, hatchets, axes, saws, spears, kunai, throwing stars, and darts.

  1. Dull the edges of edged weapons. 

  2. Blunt the tips of piercing/pointed weapons. 

  3. Only use edged weapons designed for stage combat. 

  4. Provide qualified supervision for all training sessions, rehearsals, and performances. 

  5. Inform performers and crew of safety precautions to be observed, including their positions during the action sequences. 

  6. Review and practice the choreography with performers and crew prior to the introduction of weapons. 

  7. Keep all protective devices, such as sheaths, in place until ready to use the weapon. 

  8. Use storage cases for kunai and throwing stars. 

  9. Never leave the weapons unattended. 

  10. Inspect weapons for damage after each use. 

  11. Repair weapons prior to their next use, including the removal of burrs along sharp edges 

  12. Read the Code of Safe Practice regarding special props for edged weapons. 

Other Weapons

Many other types of weapons appear as props in productions, such as whips, staffs/walking sticks, clubs, sling shots, and grenades.

  1. Only use weapons designed for stage combat. These weapons should be strong enough and constructed so as not to break into dangerous pieces during use. 

  2. Inform performers and crew of safety precautions to be observed, including their positions during the action sequences. 

  3. Review and practice the choreography with performers and crew prior to the introduction of weapons. 

  4. Never leave weapons unattended.