The production of television and radio broadcasts involves camera shoots and recordings on location and in the studio, video- and audiotape editing, transmitting and receiving broadcasts, managing electronic information and graphics, and maintenance of equipment and tape. Broadcast engineers and technicians produce pre-taped and live broadcasts for major network and cable companies, local stations and production companies. Major occupations include: camera operator, sound person, tape editor, computer operator, maintenance engineer, news broadcaster and other television and radio artists.
Broadcasting and its support activities can take place in remote locations, in the studio or in various maintenance and specialty shops. Employees can be exposed to many hazards typical of the technological workplace, including poor indoor air quality, poor workplace design and low-frequency electromagnetic radiation (since microwave technology is used to transmit and receive broadcasts, and the density of electronic equipment produces relatively high levels of low-frequency energy fields). Proper shielding and placement of equipment are prudent measures to protect operators from these fields.
Hazards and Precautions
Roving camera and audio crews cover news and special events for networks and local stations. Crews carry to the site everything needed for the broadcast, including camera, sound recorder, lights, tripod and electrical cords. Since the advent of lightweight cameras equipped with sound recorders, a single person may be assigned to operate the equipment. The hazards can include trips, slips and falls and musculoskeletal stress. Violence in riots and wars can lead to injuries and fatalities. Bad weather, crowds, environmental disasters and rough terrain increase the potential for serious injuries and illnesses among the crew.
The danger can be reduced through assessing the location for the potential for violence and the securing of safe operating locations. Personal protective equipment, such as bullet-proof vests and helmets, may also be needed. Adequate staffing and material-handling equipment and safe lifting practices can reduce musculoskeletal stresses.
News and traffic reports are frequently recorded or aired from helicopters. Broadcast personnel have been killed and injured in crashes and unplanned landings. Strict adherence to proper training and certification of pilots, preventive maintenance of equipment and prohibition of unsafe flying practices (such as flying too close to other helicopters or to structures) are crucial for protecting these employees. See the article “Heliocopters” elsewhere in this volume.
Sporting events, such as golf tournaments and car races, and other special events are often shot from elevated platforms and scaffolds. Motorized lifts and cranes are also used to position equipment and personnel. These structures and machines are typical of those used in general building construction and motion picture production, and one may encounter the same hazards, such as falling off the structure, being struck by falling objects, being struck by lightning in open areas and being electrocuted from contact with overhead power lines and live electrical equipment.
Proper inspection and erection of platforms, full guardrails with toe boards to prevent objects from falling, access ladders, grounding and guarding of electrical equipment and observance of weather alerts, as in construction work, are some appropriate precautions to be taken.
Studio productions have the advantages of familiar surroundings where employees operate cameras, sound equipment and special effects equipment. The hazards are similar to those described in motion picture production and include: musculoskeletal stresses, electrical hazards, noise (especially in rock radio studios) and exposure to theatrical smokes and fogs. Appropriate ergonomic design of work spaces and equipment, electrical safeguards, control of sound levels, careful selection of smokes and fogs and adequate ventilation are all possible preventive measures.
Film editing, handling and storage
Before being broadcast, video- and audiotapes must be edited. The conditions will depend on the size of the facility, but it is not uncommon for several editing operations to be going on at the same time. Editing work requires close attention to the material, and editing rooms can be noisy, overcrowded and poorly lit, with poor indoor air quality and electrical hazards. The space and the equipment can have poor ergonomic design; tasks may be repetitive. There may be noise and fire hazards. Proper workspace design including space, lighting and ventilation, soundproofing and electrical safeguards are all necessary. Special inspection and handling procedures are required for old film storage. Some production companies have libraries that contain old cellulose nitrate (nitrocellulose) films. These films are no longer made, but those that are in storage are severe fire and life hazards. Nitrocellulose can combust and explode readily.
Computer graphics are common in taped programmes and require long hours at visual display units. Working conditions vary based on the size and layout of the facility. Workspace design requirements are similar to other computer workstations.
Technicians and engineers maintain cameras, recorders, editing machines and other broadcasting equipment, and their working conditions resemble those of their industrial counterparts. Low-residue organic solvents, such as freons, acetone, methanol, methyl ethyl ketone and methylene chloride are used to clean electronic parts and electrical contacts. Metal components are repaired using welding, soldering and power tools. The hazards can include inhalation of solvent vapours and metal fumes, skin contact with solvents, fire and machine hazards. The substitution of safer materials, local exhaust ventilation for solvent vapours and fumes from welding and soldering, as well as machine guards, are all possible safeguards.