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Incorporating water into a theatre production

When incorporating water into a theatre production, safety should be a top priority. Here are some considerations for a theatre director planning to use water on stage for a production in accordance with relevant codes and standards:

  1. Perform a Risk Assessment: Conducting a risk assessment of the use of water on stage is essential to ensure the safety of performers and crew. The assessment should identify potential hazards and evaluate the risks associated with the use of water. It should also determine the safety measures necessary to prevent accidents. This is in line with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) General Duty Clause (29 CFR 1910.5), which requires employers to provide a safe and healthy workplace.
  2. Consult the Performing Arts Center: The Performing Arts Center may have specific rules and regulations regarding the use of water on stage. It is important to consult with them to ensure that all safety protocols are followed. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101 Life Safety Code provides guidance on safety requirements for performing arts facilities.
  3. Lifeguards: If performers are in the water, lifeguards may be necessary. (Check local codes and ordinances) The number of lifeguards required will depend on the size of the pool, the number of performers in the water, and other factors. The lifeguards should be certified and trained in water safety and rescue techniques. This is in accordance with the American Red Cross Lifeguard Training program, which provides training on water safety, rescue techniques, and emergency response.
  4. Use of Electrical Equipment: If electrical equipment is being used near water, special precautions need to be taken. All electrical equipment must be grounded and waterproof. A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) should also be used to protect against electrocution. This is in accordance with the OSHA Electrical Safety Standard (29 CFR 1910.303), which provides guidance on electrical safety in the workplace.
  5. Costume and Prop Considerations: Costumes and props used in or near the water must be water-resistant or waterproof. Water can damage some materials and cause safety hazards, such as slippery surfaces. This is in accordance with the ANSI/ISEA 101-2014 standard, which provides guidance on selecting and using personal protective equipment.
  6. Rehearsals: Rehearsals should be conducted with all safety measures in place, including the use of lifeguards if necessary. The rehearsal process should include a dry run of the water effects to ensure everything runs smoothly during the performance. This is in line with OSHA’s guidelines on rehearsal and production safety, which emphasize the importance of safety planning and practice.
  7. Emergency Procedures: Emergency procedures should be established in case of accidents, such as a performer getting injured or falling into the water. All crew members and performers should be familiar with these procedures and emergency equipment, such as rescue buoys and first aid kits, should be readily available. This is in line with the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code, which requires emergency procedures and equipment to be in place in performing arts facilities.

By following these considerations and guidelines, a theatre director can ensure the safety of everyone involved in the production while using water as an essential element of the show.

It should be noted what constitutes a swimming pool:

the definitions of a swimming pool according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and American National Standards Institute (ANSI):

  1. NFPA: The NFPA defines a swimming pool as “an artificially constructed basin, tank, or other structure intended for swimming, diving, recreational bathing, or wading, and containing water more than 24 inches (610 mm) deep” (NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, Article 680).
  2. ANSI: ANSI defines a swimming pool as “a man-made structure designed for swimming, diving, and other aquatic activities, and contains water more than 24 inches (610 mm) deep” (ANSI/ICC A117.1-2017, Accessible and Usable Buildings, and Facilities).
  3. OSHA: OSHA defines a swimming pool as “any structure, basin, chamber or tank which is intended for swimming, diving, recreational bathing or other human aquatic activity, including structures that are located indoors or outdoors, temporary or permanent, private or public, and includes municipal and hotel swimming pools, hot tubs, spas, wading pools, and baptismal pools” (29 CFR 1910.23(a)).

These definitions are important for safety regulations and standards related to swimming pools, such as those related to electrical safety, lifeguarding, and accessibility. Unfortunately, OSHA’s definition of a swimming pool captures “other human aquatic activity”

OSHA defines a swimming pool as “any structure, basin, chamber or tank which is intended for swimming, diving, recreational bathing or other human aquatic activity, including structures that are located indoors or outdoors, temporary or permanent, private or public, and includes municipal and hotel swimming pools, hot tubs, spas, wading pools and baptismal pools” (29 CFR 1910.23(a)).

While OSHA’s definition of “human aquatic activity” is not explicitly stated, it can be inferred to include any activity that takes place in or around a swimming pool or other body of water, such as swimming, diving, playing water sports, or simply wading in the water.

The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) defines “aquatic activity” as “any activity that takes place in or on the water, including swimming, diving, wading, playing water sports, or water aerobics” (Section 1.2.2). The MAHC is a national guidance document that provides a scientifically sound basis for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of public swimming pools and other aquatic facilities.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines “recreational water activities” as “activities in the water that are done for recreation, enjoyment, exercise, or relaxation” (CDC Healthy Swimming website). Recreational water activities may include swimming, diving, water sports, and other activities that take place in bodies of water, such as swimming pools, lakes, rivers, and oceans.

It is important to note that the specific definition of “human aquatic activity” may vary depending on the context and source. It is always best to refer to the specific regulations or guidelines applicable to a particular situation for the most accurate definition.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). 29 CFR 1910.23 – Guarding floor and wall openings and holes. https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.23

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Healthy swimming. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/index.html

Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code. (2020). Model aquatic health code: Third edition. https://www.cdc.gov/mahc/editions/current.html

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