Much of what we do in art brings us in contact with hazardous equipment and materials that require proper safety procedures. This safety guide provides basic information on the primary hazards associated with different artistic mediums along with the safe use of tools and equipment.

View, Download, and Print the Theater, Art, Graphic and Animation Design Safety Manual (pdf)

Theatre Specific Safety Rules

The Theatre Specific Safety Rules were established to assist University faculty, staff, students, and non-University personnel in developing safe productions that will not endanger the cast, crew, vendors, attendees, or the audience of performances and special events.

Each person involved with the event should be familiar with the potential hazards and associated corrective actions.

The Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) staff is available to review safety procedures for any event and provide recommendations to reduce the risk of injury or illnesses. 

Notification Required

Weapon props, including knives, guns, and swords, used outside of an established theater must be approved by LUPD. Call 395-2091 and ask to speak to a Lieutenant.

Consult the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) at the earliest phase of production for the following concerns:

  • Open flames or pyrotechnic devices (e.g., flashpots, flash paper, luminaries,) require a state fire marshal permit. Applications must be submitted 30 days prior. A fee is required.
  • Temporary Stages and Tents require a permit from the state Bureau of Capital Outlay Management (BCOM). Applications must be submitted 30 days prior.  A fee is required.
  • Exit lighting or egress path modification is planned.
  • Scenery designs beyond standard set construction (such as flying actors)
  • Unusual stage effects that pose safety or health concerns relating to but not limited to: egress, fire safety, or electrical safety.

Electrical Hazards

Many students have never worked with electricity directly before working on stage.


Training is essential in working with lighting circuitry, dimmers and instruments. 

A Professor will oversee the initial training of students on:

  • Proper & safe use of the department’s electrical equipment
  • Fall protection & protection from fall object procedures
  • Safe use and cleanup procedures for hazardous chemical products

Senior students will conduct refresher training for each show.

Electrical Standards Manual 2021 (pdf)

Electrical Repairs

Cords, Cables, and Equipment that malfunctions or causes shocks must be immediately removed from service and set aside for repair.

 Repairs must be conducted by a Virginia Licensed Electrician:

  • Emergency repairs - submit a work order to the Longwood Electrical Shop
  • Scheduled repair sessions – The Longwood Electrical Shop will schedule with the Theater Technical Director one supervised repair session each semester

Students are only allowed to conduct electrical repairs under the direct supervision of a Virginia Licensed Electrician

Electrical Cords and Cables

To prevent tripping and wear exposed electrical cords or wire on the floor must be:

  • Taped
  • Placed under an electrical chase
  • Protected by a floor guard

Strain relief must be installed on equipment plugs.

Inspect for frayed or split cords, cables, or plugs before use.

Extension Cords

Electrical power extension cords are for temporary use only.

For the purposes of theater shows, temporary is agreed to be from load-in to load-out.  Otherwise, this typically means day-of-use only.

Make sure extension cords have an adequate current capacity for the equipment being used. The wire must be a minimum of 14 gauge.

Never use more than one extension cord in series.

Circuit Protection Devices

Always use a ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, in high-risk areas such as wet locations or outdoor sites.


Only trained and University-authorized personnel are permitted to work with lighting equipment, circuitry, dimmers, and controls.

Lasers or strobe lighting require a posted notice at the entrances and in the program.

Never use ordinary paper, cellophane, or other combustible materials to cover light bulbs or lighting fixtures.

Ensure that lighting equipment is secured and separated from combustible screens or scenery.

Do not obstruct exits or egress paths.

Lighting dimmers have limits to the lamp loads they can handle. The total wattage of the bulbs used may not exceed the rating of the dimmer they are plugged into.

Light and Sound Control Area

Keep beverages away from electrical equipment.


Flammable Liquids

Flammable Liquids must be stored in flammable storage cans or containers and be disposed of properly via the EH&S Chemical Waste Disposal Program.

Flammable Liquids

  • Oil-based paints
  • Lacquers
  • Thinners
  • Solvent-soaked rags 

Spray painting is to be done outside or in a spray booth.


Ensure that hazardous materials are properly labeled and disposed of via the EH&S Chemical Waste Disposal Program.

Follow the University recycling and waste disposal policies and procedures from Facilities Management.

Keep workspaces clear and clean.

Surplus excess/old equipment and materials via Material Management.

Tools, Power Tools, and Equipment

All persons operating power equipment must be trained in the safe operation of that equipment and the potential hazards involved:

  • Become familiar with the safe operation and limitations of the tool being used.
  • Only use the tool for its designed function.

Students must be authorized by a Professor to use each piece of power equipment.

Before use, inspect each tool for:

  • Broken pieces
  • Frayed cords
  • Exposed wires
  • Missing ground plugs

Discontinue the operation of defective or unsafe equipment as soon as the defect becomes known.

Damaged equipment should be handed to the person in charge to be marked ‘out of service’ and sent for repair.

Required PPE such as safety glasses and hearing protection.

Scaffolds, Ladders, and Work Platforms

Commercial products must be in good working condition and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

The use of “makeshift” extensions to a standard scaffold, ladder, or work platform is not permitted.

Do not build or construct scaffolds, ladders, or work platforms “from scratch” without the approval of EH&S.

Scenery beyond standard set construction requires EH&S approval.

Exits (Means of Egress)

The means of egress is the continuous and unobstructed path of travel from any point in a place of assembly to an exit or public way (e.g., sidewalk, street, etc.). 

There must always be a minimum of two working exits.

All parts of the means of egress must be available for immediate, emergency use.

The Technical Director must inspect:

  • The means of egress immediately prior to any event 
  • Remove any obstructions immediately


Aisles and corridors must be unobstructed and kept free of flammable or combustible materials.

The egress pathway cannot be used for any other purpose other than a means of egress. 

Spaces within a stairway enclosure are not to be used for storage of any materials.

The width of a means of egress cannot:

  • Be blocked 
  • Be reduced below 44 inches wide

Exit doors must be unlocked.

Ensure that the exit discharge is unobstructed (e.g., not blocked by dumpsters or vehicles, no materials stored against the exit door, all snow removed, etc.).


All exit signs must be clearly illuminated and unobstructed (on same level) at all times. 

Catwalk exit signs may be obstructed from a lower-level view.


Draperies or similar decorative hangings cannot obstruct the view or access to an exit.

Audience seating 36 Aisle width (fire code and ADA agree)

Procedure for making an exit out of use: 

When the planned occupancy is below the posted occupancy limit, it is possible to take an exit out of use. 

  • Submit the layout, planned occupancy, and the revised exit plan to EH&S for approval 

Crowd Management & Security

Events expecting an attendance of 1000 or more persons must follow the EH&S Crowd Manager program.

One crowd manager is required for every 250 people.


Catwalks are designed with fall protection in the form of guardrails. Guardrails may not be removed, climbed or defeated in any way without additional fall protection practices in place.

A minimum of 44-inch aisle width is required at all times unless the catwalk is narrower.

Electrical wiring, cables, & cords (including low voltage) must be elevated off of the catwalk floor and may not cross the pathway.

A fall protection harness connected to a proper anchor point is required any time your shoulder passes the plane of the guardrail.

During rigging, lighting setup, or other work at height, persons on the lower (stage) level must wear hard hats or otherwise be protected from falling objects.

Dust Collection Systems

Before use, make sure that the filters and collection bags have sufficient capacity.

If there is a port, connect the exhaust hose to the tool.

  • Turn on the exhaust system
  • Check to make sure that the air is flowing