Thursday, 24 March 2011 19:22

Scenery Shops

Rate this item
(0 votes)

Theatres, motion pictures, television, theme and amusement parks and similar entertainment enterprises all build and paint scenery and make props for their presentations. In many cases, these are made in-house. There are also commercial scenic shops that specialize in making large scenery which is then transported to the site. The major difference between making scenery backstage in a small theatre and building huge sets or even houses for a motion picture, for example, is the scale of the work and who does the work. In small theatres, there is little division of tasks, whereas in larger facilities, there would be a division of labour among carpenters, scenic painters, welders, prop makers and so on.

The scenery for a theatre play, motion picture set or television studio might look realistic, but is often an illusion. The walls of a room are usually not solid but are composed of lightweight flats (panels of painted canvas stretched on wooden frames). Background scenery often consists of backdrops (huge curtains painted to represent the background) which can be lowered and raised for different scenes. Other solid-looking props, such as trees, rocks, vases, mouldings, sculptures and so forth, might be made out of papier mâché, plaster, polyurethane foam or other materials. Today, a wide variety of materials are used to make scenery, including wood, metal, plastics, synthetic fabrics, paper and other modern industrial products. For scenery which performers will walk or climb on, the structures must be solid and meet proper safety standards.

The basic processes and chemicals used for making sets and props tend to be similar for the various types of entertainment facilities. Outdoor sets, however, can often use heavy construction materials such as cement on a large scale, which would be impractical inside due to smaller load-bearing capacities. The degree of hazard depends on the types and amounts of chemicals used, and the precautions taken. A theatre might use quarts of polyurethane foam resin for making small props, while the inside of a tunnel in a theme park set might use hundreds of gallons of the resin. Small in-house shops tend to have less awareness of the hazards, and overcrowding often creates additional hazards due to the proximity of incompatible processes such as welding and use of flammable solvents.


Wood, plywood, particle board and Plexiglas are commonly used in constructing sets. Hazards include: accidents with woodworking machinery, power tools and hand tools; electrical shock; fire from combustible wood dust; and toxic effects from inhalation of wood dust, formaldehyde and methyl methacrylate decomposition products from machining plywood, particle board and Plexiglas, and solvents used with contact adhesives.

Precautions include machine guards, proper electrical safety, housekeeping and adequate storage to reduce fire hazards, dust collectors, adequate ventilation and eye protection.

Welding, Cutting and Brazing

Steel and aluminium frameworks are commonly used for the construction of sets. These are often welded using oxyacetylene torches and arc welders of various types. Injury hazards include fire from flying sparks, fire and explosion from compressed gases, and electrical shock from arc welders; health hazards include metal fumes, fluxes, welding gases (ozone, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide) and ultraviolet radiation.

Precautions include removal or protection of combustible materials, proper storage and handling of compressed gas cylinders, electrical safety, adequate ventilation and personal protective equipment.

Scenic Painting

Paints, lacquers, varnishes, dye solutions and other coatings are used for painting scenery flats and fabric drops. The paints and dye solutions can be either solvent based or water based. Powdered pigments and dyes are usually mixed in the shop, with the use of lead chromate pigments still being common. Large flats and drops are often sprayed. Solvents are used for dissolving dyes and resins, thinning, removing paint and other coatings and for cleaning tools, brushes and even hands. Hazards include skin contact with solvents and inhalation of solvent vapours, spray mists and powdered dyes and pigments. Solvents are also fire hazards, particularly when sprayed.

Precautions include elimination of lead pigments, using water-based paints and dyes, adequate ventilation for use of solvents, respiratory protection for spraying, proper storage and handling of flammable liquids and proper disposal of waste solvents and paints.

Plastic Resins

Polyurethane foam resins, epoxy resins, polyester resins and other resins are commonly used to make large sets and props. Spraying of polyurethane foam resins containing diphenylmethane diisocyanate (MDI) is particularly dangerous, with hazards of chemical pneumonia and asthma. Epoxy resins, polyester resins and solvents have skin, eye and inhalation hazards, and are fire hazards.

Precautions include substitution of safer materials (such as cement or celastic instead of spray polyurethane foams, or water-based materials to replace solvent-based types), local exhaust ventilation, proper storage and handling, proper disposal of waste materials and adequate personal protective equipment.

Props and Models

Plastic resins are also used to make body armour, face masks, breakaway glass and other props and models, as are wood, plaster, metal, plastics and so on. A variety of water-based and solvent-based adhesives are also used. Solvents are used in cleanup. Precautions are similar to those already discussed.



Read 5710 times Last modified on Saturday, 30 July 2022 22:16

" DISCLAIMER: The ILO does not take responsibility for content presented on this web portal that is presented in any language other than English, which is the language used for the initial production and peer-review of original content. Certain statistics have not been updated since the production of the 4th edition of the Encyclopaedia (1998)."


Entertainment and the Arts References

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. 1991. Protective equipment. In Athletic Training and Sports Medicine. Park Ridge, IL: APOS.

Arheim, DD. 1986. Dance Injuries: Their Prevention and Care. St. Louis, MO: CV Mosby Co.

Armstrong, RA, P Neill, and R Mossop. 1988. Asthma induced by ivory dust: A new occupational cause. Thorax 43(9):737-738.

Axelsson, A and F Lindgren. 1981. Hearing in classical musicians. Acta Oto-Larynogologica 92 Suppl. 377:3-74.

Babin, A 1996. Orchestra pit sound level measurements in Broadway shows. Presented at the 26th Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association. New York, 20 November.

Baker, EL, WA Peterson, JL Holtz, C Coleman, and PJ Landrigan. 1979. Subacute cadmium intoxication in jewellery workers: an evaluation of diagnostic procedures. Arch Environ Health 34:173-177.

Balafrej, A, J Bellakhdar, M El Haitem, and H Khadri. 1984. Paralysis due to glue in young apprentice shoemakers in the medina of Fez. Rev Pediatrie 20(1):43-47.

Ballesteros, M, CMA Zuniga, and OA Cardenas. 1983. Lead concentrations in the blood of children from pottery-making families exposed to lead salts in a Mexican village. B Pan Am Health Organ 17(1):35-41.

Bastian, RW. 1993. Benign mucosal and saccular disorders; benign laryngeal tumors. In Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, edited by CW Cumming. St. Louis, MO: CV Mosby Co.

—. 1996. Vocal fold microsurgery in singers. Journal of Voice 10(4):389-404

Bastian, R, A Keidar, and K Verdolini-Marston. 1990. Simple vocal tasks for detecting vocal fold swelling. Journal of Voice 4(2):172-183.

Bowling, A. 1989. Injuries to dancers: Prevalence, treatment and perception of causes. British Medical Journal 6675:731-734.

Bruno, PJ, WN Scott, and G Huie. 1995. Basketball. In The Team Physicians’s Handbook, edited by MB Mellion, WM Walsh and GL Shelton. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Yearbook.

Burr, GA, TJ Van Gilder, DB Trout, TG Wilcox, and R Friscoll. 1994. Health Hazard Evaluation Report: Actors’ Equity Association/The League of American Theaters and Producers, Inc. Doc. HETA 90-355-2449. Cincinnati, OH: US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Calabrese, LH, DT Kirkendal, and M Floyd. 1983. Menstrual abnormalities, nutritional patterns and body composition in female classical ballet dancers. Phys Sports Med 11:86-98.

Cardullo, AC, AM Ruszkowski, and VA DeLeo. 1989. Allergic contact dermatitis resulting from sensitivity to citrus peel, geriniol, and citral. J Am Acad Dermatol 21(2):395-397.

Carlson, T. 1989. Lights! Camera! Tragedy. TV Guide (26 August):8-11.

Chasin, M and JP Chong. 1992. A clinically efficient hearing protection program for musicians. Med Prob Perform Artists 7(2):40-43.

—. 1995. Four environmental techniques to reduce the effect of music exposure on hearing. Med Prob Perform Artists 10(2):66-69.

Chaterjee, M. 1990. Ready-made garment workers in Ahmedabad. B Occup Health Safety 19:2-5.

Clare, PR. 1990. Football. In The Team Physicians’s Handbook, edited by MB Mellion, WM Walsh, and GL Shelton. St. Louis, MO: CV Mosby Co.

Cornell, C. 1988. Potters, lead and health—Occupational safety in a Mexican village (meeting abstract). Abstr Pap Am Chem S 196:14.

Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association. 1983. Brain injury in boxing. JAMA 249:254-257.

Das, PK, KP Shukla, and FG Ory. 1992. An occupational health programme for adults and children in the carpet weaving industry, Mirzapur, India: A case study in the informal sector. Soc Sci Med 35(10):1293-1302.

Delacoste, F and P Alexander. 1987. Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry. San Francisco, CA: Cleis Press.

Depue, RH and BT Kagey. 1985. A proportionate mortality study of the acting profession. Am J Ind Med 8:57-66.

Dominguez, R, JR DeJuanes Paardo, M Garcia Padros, and F Rodriguez Artalejo. 1987. Antitetanic vaccination in a high-risk population. Med Segur Trab 34:50-56.

Driscoll, RJ, WJ Mulligan, D Schultz, and A Candelaria. 1988. Malignant mesothelioma: a cluster in a Native American population. New Engl J Med 318:1437-1438.

Estébanez, P, K Fitch, and Nájera 1993. HIV and female sex workers. Bull WHO 71(3/4):397-412.

Evans, RW, RI Evans, S Carjaval, and S Perry. 1996. A survey of injuries among Broadway performers. Am J Public Health 86:77-80.

Feder, RJ. 1984. The professional voice and airline flight. Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, 92(3):251-254.

Feldman, R and T Sedman. 1975. Hobbyists working with lead. New Engl J Med 292:929.

Fishbein, M. 1988. Medical problems among ICSOM musicians. Med Prob Perform Artists 3:1-14.

Fisher, AA. 1976. “Blackjack disease” and other chromate puzzles. Cutis 18(1):21-22.

Frye, HJH. 1986. Incidence of overuse syndrome in the symphony orchestra. Med Prob Perform Artists 1:51-55.

Garrick, JM. 1977. The frequency of injury, mechanism of injury and epidemiology of ankle sprains. Am J Sports Med 5:241-242.

Griffin, R, KD Peterson, J Halseth, and B Reynolds. 1989. Radiographic study of elbow injuries in professional rodeo cowboys. Phys Sports Med 17:85-96.

Hamilton, LH and WG Hamilton. 1991. Classical ballet: Balancing the costs of artistry and athleticism. Med Prob Perform Artists 6:39-44.

Hamilton, WG. 1988. Foot and ankle injuries in dancers. In Sports Clinics of North America, edited by L Yokum. Philadelphia, PA: Williams and Wilkins.

Hardaker, WTJ. 1987. Medical considerations in dance training for children. Am Fam Phys 35(5):93-99.

Henao, S. 1994. Health Conditions of Latin American Workers. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association.

Huie, G and EB Hershman. 1994. The team clinician’s bag. Am Acad Phys Asst 7:403-405.

Huie, G and WN Scott. 1995. Assessment of ankle sprains in athletes. Phys Assist J 19(10):23-24.

Kipen, HM and Y Lerman. 1986. Respiratory abnormalities among photographic developers: A report of 3 cases. Am J Ind Med 9:341-347.

Knishkowy, B and EL Baker. 1986. Transmission of occupational disease to family contacts. Am J Ind Med 9:543-550.

Koplan, JP, AV Wells, HJP Diggory, EL Baker, and J Liddle. 1977. Lead absorption in a community of potters in Barbados. Int J Epidemiol 6:225-229.

Malhotra, HL. 1984. Fire safety in assembly buildings. Fire Safety J 7(3):285-291.

Maloy, E. 1978. Projection booth safety: New findings and new dangers. Int Assoc Electr Inspect News 50(4):20-21.

McCann, M. 1989. 5 dead in movie heliocopter crash. Art Hazards News 12:1.

—. 1991. Lights! Camera! Safety! A Health and Safety Manual for Motion Picture and Television Production. New York: Center for Safety in the Arts.

—. 1992a. Artist Beware. New York: Lyons and Burford.

—. 1992b. Art Safety Procedures: A Health and Safety Manual for Art Schools and Art Departments. New York: Center for Safety in the Arts.

—. 1996. Hazards in cottage industries in developing countries. Am J Ind Med 30:125-129.

McCann, M, N Hall, R Klarnet, and PA Peltz. 1986. Reproductive hazards in the arts and crafts. Presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for Occupational and Environmental Health Conference on Reproductive Hazards in the Environment and Workplace, Bethesda, MD, 26 April.

Miller, AB, DT Silverman, and A Blair. 1986. Cancer risk among artistic painters. Am J Ind Med 9:281-287.

MMWR. 1982. Chromium sensitization in an artist’s workshop. Morb Mort Weekly Rep 31:111.

—. 1996. Bull riding-related brain and spinal cord injuries—Louisiana, 1994-1995. Morb and Mort Weekly Rep 45:3-5.

Monk, TH. 1994. Circadian rhythms in subjective activation, mood, and performance efficiency. In Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine, 2nd edition, edited by M. Kryger and WC. Roth. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 1991. Environmental Tobacco Smoke in the Workplace: NIOSH Current Intelligence Bulletin 54. Cincinnati, OH: NIOSH.

Norris, RN. 1990. Physical disorders of visual artists. Art Hazards News 13(2):1.

Nubé, J. 1995. Beta Blockers and Performing Musicians. Doctoral thesis. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam.

O’Donoghue, DH. 1950. Surgical treatment of fresh injuries to major ligaments of the knee. J Bone Joint Surg 32:721-738.

Olkinuora, M. 1984. Alcoholism and occupation. Scand J Work Environ Health 10(6):511-515.

—. 1976. Injuries to the knee. In Treatment of Injuries to Athletes, edited by DH O’Donoghue. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders.

Pan American Health Organization, (PAHO). 1994. Health Conditions in the Americas. Vol. 1. Washington, DC: PAHO.

Pheterson, G. 1989. The Vindication of the Rights of Whores. Seattle, WA: Seal Press.

Prockup, L. 1978. Neuropathy in an artist. Hosp Pract (November):89.

Qualley, CA. 1986. Safety in the Artroom. Worcester, MA: Davis Publications.

Ramakrishna, RS, P Muthuthamby, RR Brooks, and DE Ryan. 1982. Blood lead levels in Sri Lankan families recovering gold and silver from jewellers’ waste. Arch Environ Health 37(2):118-120.

Ramazzini, B. 1713. De morbis artificum (Diseases of Workers). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Rastogi, SK, BN Gupta, H Chandra, N Mathur, PN Mahendra, and T Husain. 1991. A study of the prevalence of respiratory morbidity among agate workers. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 63(1):21-26.

Rossol, M. 1994. The Artist’s Complete Health and Safety Guide. New York: Allworth Press.

Sachare, A.(ed.). 1994a. Rule #2. Section IIC. In The Official NBA Basketball Encyclopedia. New York: Villard Books.

—. 1994b. Basic Principle P: Guidelines for infection control. In The Official NBA Basketball Encyclopedia. New York: Villard Books.

Sammarco, GJ. 1982. The foot and ankle in classical ballet and modern dance. In Disorders of the Foot, edited by MH Jahss. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders.

Sataloff, RT. 1991. Professional Voice: The Science and Art of Clinical Care. New York: Raven Press.

—. 1995. Medications and their effect on the voice. Journal of Singing 52(1):47-52.

—. 1996. Pollution: Consequences for singers. Journal of Singing 52(3):59-64.

Schall, EL, CH Powell, GA Gellin, and MM Key. 1969. Hazards to go-go dancers to exposures to “black” light from fluorescent bulbs. Am Ind Hyg Assoc J 30:413-416.

Schnitt, JM and D Schnitt. 1987. Psychological aspects of dance. In The Science of Dance Training, edited by P Clarkson and M Skrinar. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Press.

Seals, J. 1987. Dance surfaces. In Dance Medicine: A Comprehensive Guide, edited by A Ryan and RE Stephens. Chicago, IL: Pluribus Press.

Sofue, I, Y Yamamura, K Ando, M Iida, and T Takayanagi. 1968. N-hexane polyneuropathy. Clin Neurol 8:393-403.

Stewart, R and C Hake. 1976. Paint remover hazard. JAMA 235:398.

Tan, TC, HC Tsang, and LL Wong. 1990. Noise surveys in discotheques in Hong Kong. Ind Health 28(1):37-40.

Teitz, C, RM Harrington, and H Wiley. 1985. Pressure on the foot in point shoes. Foot Ankle 5:216-221.

VanderGriend, RA, FH Savoie, and JL Hughes. 1991. Fracture of the ankle. In Rockwood and Green’s Fractures in Adults, edited by CA Rockwood, DP Green, and RW Bucholz. Philadelphia, PA: JB Lippincott Co.

Warren, M, J Brooks-Gunn, and L Hamilton. 1986. Scoliosis and fracture in young ballet dancers: Relationship to delayed menarcheal age and amenorrhea. New Engl J Med 314:1338-1353.

World Health Organization (WHO). 1976. Meeting on Organization of Health Care in Small Industries. Geneva: WHO.

Zeitels, S. 1995. Premalignant epithelium and microinvasive cancer of the vocal fold: the evolution of phonomicrosurgical management. Laryngoscope 105(3):1-51.