Material Handling

The materials used in the construction of productions are often heavy and can be hazardous when incorrectly handled.  The following is a list of guidelines for correctly handling heavy or hazardous materials.

Material Handling

Material Handling specifics below

Many materials are heavy or awkward to handle.  A few guidelines for safe lifting and material handling techniques:

  • When possible, use wheeled dollies, hand trucks, or other simple machines to manipulate heavy equipment.  Many of these are available in the loading dock area between the Scene Shop and the Hoerner stage.
  • When lifting heavy objects, warm up your body with exercise prior to lifting.  Warm back muscles reduce the stress of lifting heavy objects.
  • Lift heavy objects with a partner when possible.
  • Use PPE (non-slip gloves and non-slip shoes) to minimize the possibility of a heavy object slipping from your grip or causing you to slip and fall while carrying heavy objects.
  • Make a plan for moving heavy objects.  Decide if you can handle the load or if it would be best to have assistance.  Ensure that the object can fit through any doors between you and your destination.  Use elevators rather than stairs whenever possible.
  • Bend your knees and lift with your legs, not your back.  Your leg muscles are capable of supporting much more weight than your back.  Stand close to the load while lifting.
  • Grip the load securely before lifting.  If you feel the load beginning to slip, let it go – you can do yourself great injury trying to prevent a heavy load from falling while carrying it.  If you are lifting with another person or people, warn them when the load begins to slip and if letting go, tell them before you do so that they can get clear.
  • Set the load down carefully, in the reverse order that you picked it up.  Injury is just as possible while setting a load down as it is when picking it up.

Many chemicals, from paints and dyes to solvents and lubricants are regularly used in theatrical production.  Familiarize yourself with any chemicals you need to handle and protect yourself from exposure and injury.  Guidelines for working with chemicals:

  • Manufacturer’s Safety and Data Sheets (MSDS) are available for all chemicals (pigments, dyes, solvents, lubricants, etc.) used in the IC Theatres.  Familiarize yourself with the MSDS for any materials with which you’ll be working.  MSDS are available in the Costume Shop, the Scene Shop next to the flammables cabinets, or in the Technical Director’s office.
  • Pigments and dyes are most hazardous when in powdered form – they constitute an inhalation hazard.  Wear a respirator as well as PPE to protect the skin and eyes when handling powdered pigments and dyes.
  • Any work with dry pigments or dyes should be performed outside or in a local exhaust environment.
  • Avoid skin contact with pigments and dyes.  Gloves and barrier creams can be used to minimize skin contact with pigments.  Gloves must be used when working with dyes.  Never use chemical solvents to remove paint or dye from skin – baby oil followed by soap and water is an effective and safe method for removing paint from skin.  Non-irritating waterless hand cleaners are also an acceptable method.
  • Wear protective clothing when working with paints and dyes – a full length smock or coveralls are best.  Leave the smock or coveralls at work to prevent bringing dust into your living environment.
  • Perform paint and dye work on surfaces which are easy to clean.  Clean spills immediately by wiping up with absorbent rags or paper towels.  Clean spills on the floor with sponges and/or wet mops; do not sweep paint and dye spills. 
  • Avoid ingestion of pigments, dyes, or any other chemicals.  Do not eat, drink, or smoke in the workplace or while working with chemicals.  Do not place any part of paintbrushes in the mouth.  Do not use cooking utensils for dyeing, as dye can accumulate in the pores of the utensil material and later release into food.  Wash hands thoroughly after working with chemicals and before eating, drinking, or smoking.
  • To prevent spills and exposure, keep containers of chemicals closed at all times when not being used.
  • Whenever a chemical is transferred from its labeled, manufacturer-provided container to another container it must be labeled with:
    • The product name.
    • The names of all hazardous chemicals contained therein.
    • The Chemical Abstract Service number for each chemical.
    • Any appropriate hazard warnings.

Many paints and solvents are flammable and present an additional hazard to the already-present exposure and inhalation hazards.  There are many ways to limit the danger of fire or explosion from flammable paints and solvents.

  • Use water-based paints whenever possible.  Water-based paints are non-flammable, unlike oil-based paints.
  • Work with small quantities of flammable material at a time.  Do not leave open containers of flammable material unattended.
  • Work in ignition-source controlled environments.  Never work near open flame or smoking.
  • Aerosol cans are highly pressurized and are prone to rupture or explosion when exposed to high temperature or an ignition source.  Never puncture aerosol cans or expose them to high heat.
  • Flammable liquids must be dealt with correctly.  Never put flammable liquids in trash or pour down a sink.

Chemical spills must be dealt with immediately.  Unattended chemical spills can cause fire, injury, sickness, and/or property damage.  The individual(s) responsible for a chemical spill is responsible for the cleanup of the spill.

  • Call P-Safe at 4-3333 if a chemical spill occurs whereby:
    • A fire exists or medical attention is required.
    • The quantity of spilled material exceeds one gallon.
    • You cannot safely contain the spill.
  • MSDS can offer advice on correct procedure for containing or cleaning chemical spills.  In the event of a chemical spill, consult the MSDS for the spilled substance.
  • Immediately alert others in the vicinity to a chemical spill and evacuate the area if necessary.
  • Any contaminated clothing exposed to a chemical spill must be removed and any skin exposed to a chemical spill must be flushed with water for a minimum of fifteen minutes.  Exposed clothing must be laundered thoroughly before reuse or destroyed as per MSDS and the severity of the spill and the chemical involved.
  • If a flammable liquid is spilled, immediately warn everyone in the area, eliminate all possible ignition sources, and ventilate the area.

Proper storage of materials is essential to the safety of the backstage and shop areas.  Improperly stored materials can create a variety of hazards, particularly in an emergency situation.

  • All flammable and combustible materials must be stored in a flammables cabinet.  Flammables cabinets are located in the paint area of the Scene Shop and in the Sound Shop.
  • All stored materials must allow 18 inches of clearance from any sprinkler head and 24 inches of clearance from any ceiling.
  • Materials must never obstruct a building exit.
  • No materials may be stored within three feet of any heaters or duct furnaces.
  • No materials may be stored beneath seating risers or steps.
  • All electrical service panels must have a clearance equal to or greater than 30 inches in width, 36 inches in depth, and 78 inches in height.  No materials may be stored within this clearance at any time.
  • No materials may be stored in such a way as to obstruct any firefighting equipment (hoses, extinguishers), building monitoring equipment, or fire alarm pull stations.

Cleanup is a vital part of working backstage.  A messy, cluttered environment significantly increases hazards and potential for injury.

  • Dispose of trash and recyclables promptly and in assigned containers.
  • Replace all tools, hardware, and other project ephemera in their correct location at the end of each work period.
  • Work surfaces should be regularly cleaned, swept, vacuumed, and/or mopped to prevent buildup of dust and filth.
  • Never leave open beverage or food containers lying about your work area.  In addition to inviting dust or chemical contamination, you are creating a potential spill hazard and will be responsible for its cleanup.
  • Take pride in your work and your craft, and take the time to clean up after yourself.