I. General Theater Safety Concerns

Many areas of the CPAC are restricted and only accessible to trained staff members, trained student employees and students enrolled in technical theater courses. The CPAC houses many useful tools and materials for the construction and finishing of scenery and props, the rigging of scenery and soft goods for flying, and the illumination of stage areas; unfortunately these same materials and pieces of equipment can be life threatening to those not familiar with their safe usage and handling. Likewise the fly rail and catwalks can be dangerous spaces to the untrained.

  1. Mental preparation
    Being aware of the rules and guidelines of the CPAC is really only the tip of the iceberg. To be truly safe is to be consistently aware of your surroundings and to be cognizant of potential hazards. Most theater accidents happen when we are doing repetitive tasks, are in a rush, or are not mentally alert and focused on the task at hand. Maintaining a respect for the potential hazards of equipment may save you from serious injury or death.
  2. Restricted use
    Although you may have been granted access to some of the restricted areas of the theater you will not be allowed to utilize the tools and equipment in these spaces without adequate training. Once you have been checked out on a piece of equipment you will be required to continue to use it correctly and safely. The use of any theater space or piece of equipment is a privilege that can be taken away if misused or used unsafely.
  3.  In case of injury
    If you or someone else is injured contact your supervisor immediately. Because the materials we work with are not hygienic, you should treat even minor injuries to protect yourself from infection. A first aid kit is available in many areas of the theater complex; you should become familiar with first aid kit locations. Not all of the kits are equal, some store more items than others. In the case of a serious injury you will be sent to either the health center or the hospital depending upon the seriousness of the injury and your student status. If you come upon or witness a serious injury or medical event, notify a staff member and/or call
    Cuesta Police 546-3205.
  4. Disclosure
    If you have medical issues that may affect your work here be sure to communicate those with your supervisor. If you are taking medication or have allergies be sure to mention that as well. If you have physical limitations this will also need to be noted. Explaining these issues is only the initial part of your responsibility; you should remain vigilant and protect yourself by reminding your supervisor that you are unable to complete certain tasks because of your condition. Disclosures of medical conditions are confidential and will not be shared with others unless you have given written permission to do so.
  5. A clean clutter-free work environment
    Accidents can happen to you even if you are not operating a piece of equipment. Don’t leave materials or tools on the floor unattended—even for a moment. Some of the floors in this complex are concrete and not very forgiving if you happen to trip and fall. If you need to use an extension cord or run a piece of cable, be thoughtful about its path and placement. Do not drape the cord over other work areas or power tools and do not run the cord across the main pathways without properly taping them down or placing them in a yellow jacket. Have the presence of mind to not trip over yours or anyone else’s cable. When laying out scenery pieces, pick areas that will not create conflicts for others. Do not, for example, use saw surfaces to work on props or scenery. Work tables are available for your use to help keep items from the floor and off tool surfaces. Do not leave anything on top of ladders or in overhead areas where it may fall. Clean up debris as you go, don’t wait until the end of the day to clean up unused materials and tools.
  6. Material Safety Data Sheets
    Some of the materials in the shop and the scenery yard pose health hazards if not handled properly. The hazards of these materials are published and available to users. MSDS sheets are available for consultation.
  7. The many ways of injury
  • Ingestion: This is a rare way to be injured but nonetheless you could eat something that is poisonous.
  • Inhalation: This is not so rare. Breathing in particulates or fumes can cause serious injury or death. What is worse is that you may not be aware that you were injured until moments, hours, and even years later. Some substances can cause liver damage and others can be carcinogenic. If you are working with such materials take precautions such as working in a ventilated area and wearing a dust mask or respirator. The fumes or particulates you create don’t hover just around you—they spread throughout your work area possibly affecting others. If you are cutting Styrofoam for example, you should alert those around you so that they too can take preventative measures.
  • Invasion : This is the most likely way that you may injure yourself. Parts of your body can be cut, sliced, smashed, crushed, pierced, pinched, pulled and burned. You can fall, be fallen onto, trip or slip. Some chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and cause a host of internal health issues as well as skin irritation and burning. This all sounds a little gruesome but nonetheless the possibilities are endless when we don’t take precautions and work conscientiously.

H. Personal Safety Equipment

You are required to wear safety equipment appropriate to the tool and / or operation you are performing. 

  • Safety glasses or face shields must be worn when in the scene shop when anyone is using the equipment.
  • Ear protection is required when working in an area where noise levels are high such as when working around power tools.
  • Dust masks are required when sanding material or when cutting hazardous wood products such as MDF. You should also wear a dust mask if you have sensitivities to dust or have health issues that would be aggravated by exposure to dust. Dust masks are also required when working with masonry products, dry pigments, or other solid particulates that can become airborne.
  • Respirators are required when working with plastics (which include Styrofoam), spray adhesives, or other products which emit toxic fumes that cannot be filtered by a dust mask.
  • Knee pads are available to anyone who is in need to them.
  • Work Gloves are a good idea when loading and unloading material and when working with material that is rough on your hands. Work gloves are also useful when working with hot items such as lighting instruments. Welding gloves are required when welding or cutting metal and well fitted gloves are required when operating the fly system.
  • Rubber gloves are required when working with chemicals. Latex gloves, although useful for keeping your hands clean such as when spray painting, are not a substitute for heavy rubber gloves when working with cleaners and other toxic chemicals.
  • Closed toed flat bottom shoes are required. Sandals and shoes with a slick sole are not allowed in the scene shop or other work areas.
  • Long pants are required. Shorts, skirts and dresses are not allowed.
  • Hair ties, hats, or other hair controllers are required if you have long hair.

I. Ladder Safety


  • Ladders are to be restacked after each use.
  • The ladder restraint chain must be re-hooked after a ladder is removed or returned.


  • Never stand on the top two steps of the ladder.
  • Position the ladder so that steps are perpendicular to work area.
  • When using taller ladders, seek assistance when moving and have someone hold the ladder while you are on it.
  • Only climb a ladder that is sitting with four legs resting squarely on a solid foundation.
  • NEVER leave anything on the ladder.

J. Fire Extinguishers

  • Access to fire extinguishers must be maintained at all times. (Tables, chairs, properties, scenery, lighting and sound equipment cannot block access at any time)
  • Sound and lighting cables must be routed clear of extinguishers. If cables must be routed near extinguishers or first aid kits, they should be neatly bundled and taped close to the wall.
  • Report missing or used extinguishers to your supervisor.