The scenic studio is potentially a very dangerous place in which to work. The use of power tools, paints, chemicals, heights, and theater rigging demands that students be aware of the hazards and be trained in the use of equipment. The following policies are intended to minimize the dangers.

General Safety Rules
  • Smoking is not allowed anywhere in the building or on the loading dock.
  • Eating and drinking are not allowed in the scenic studio or performance spaces with the exception of water in a sealable container.
  • Eye and ear protection must be worn during all power tool use.
  • Closed-toed footwear and appropriate clothing are mandatory during work calls. Plan on whatever you wear to work in the studio will be ruined by glue, paint or other materials commonly used in production of scenery.
  • Saw guards should be used as often as possible.
  • Any person working in the catwalks and tension grid must empty his/her pockets and secure all tools to his/her person prior to entering the catwalk and tension grid system.
  • Paint or other chemicals must be disposed of properly, check with supervisor for appropriate disposal.
  • The scenic studio will abide by the University, City, and State recycling procedures.
  • All tools and equipment must be cleaned and/or put away prior to the end of shift.
  • All performance and studio spaces must be cleaned and swept prior to the end of the work day.
Power Tools

Tools are safe when properly used, but they can cause serious accidents when misused. Each power tool has its own set of safety rules. You are responsible for learning the proper use of each and may not use any power tools until you have been properly trained on usage and safety. Once approved, you and a supervisor must initial the Tool Approval list to indicate you have been trained and approved to use the tool.

In general, power tools have rotating parts that can wind you in like a fishing reel if they catch on clothes, hair, or jewelry. Power tools can throw debris at you, so eye or face protection is necessary. Ear protection from loud noise is also often necessary. Make sure the work surface and floors are clear, and get EVERYTHING ready before you hit the ON switch.

Safety Guards

Always use tool safety guards whenever possible. If you believe it is absolutely necessary to remove a guard, stop and ask the Technical Director. In cases where a guard must be removed, extra training may be required in addition to any jigs that will be put in place to allow for safe operation of the tool. 

Planning is crucial to proper use of power tools. Please ask for help if the material seems too unwieldy for a single person. If working together, decide before the tool is switched on as to which person is leading the cutting, drilling, nailing, screwing, etc. Communication is important in the use of teamwork! 

Pneumatic tools are also power tools. You must learn each one before use. They also have safety guards, with the exception of the smaller stapler.


Hands are most susceptible to injury. Watch the cutting edge of any tool, especially the power tools, and be aware of where your hands are in relation to it. Pay attention and do not get distracted. There is a dangerous temptation to hold parts together with one hand while shooting pneumatic tools with the other. Sometimes staples and nails turn inside the wood and poke out where you do not expect them. Always keep your fingers twice as far from the tip of the pneumatic tool as the length of the nails or staples being used. 

The number of bad cuts from matte knives is incredible. Chisels fall into this category also. The simple rule is to keep both hands behind the direction in which the sharp edge is going and never pull a blade towards your body. 

House Keeping
  • Clean up your work area at the end of your work shift.
  • Do not leave tools and supplies out unnecessarily.
  • Do not let your work area become too cluttered, this can lead to trip hazards. Clean as you go.
  • Flatten or remove nails in used lumber.
  • Do not leave long sticks in trash barrels. They can poke others in the eyes.
  • Do not block fire extinguishers, doors, or marked tool-safety areas.
  • Keep pathways to fire exits and for crossing the shop clear. It can be dangerous having to carry large items while walking over lumber and trash.
Handling Large or Heavy Objects
  • Lift correctly: bend your knees and lift with your legs
  • Communicate with others
  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially when walking through doorways and around corners
  • When moving a tall ladder or piece of scenery, keep one hand high and one hand low. This increases leverage to keep the object straight up and down.
  • When moving large objects with another person, mirror their hand placement.
Health Hazards

Ventilation is poor in the studio. We are continuously striving to make improvements with our equipment. The use of dust masks will help prevent dust particles from getting in the nose and your respiratory system. (Note: these are not for lung protection from vapors and fumes.)

Paint solvents, adhesives, and welding produce toxic fumes. Ask a supervisor for the best location for use of these products and wear a respirator whenever possible.

Safety Data Sheets for typical materials used in the scenic studio are on file with Campus Safety. Their extension is 6911.


Working on ladders and scaffolds presents a potential for a fall. If you must use a ladder, always have someone there to foot and hold the bottom for you. Do not stand on the top or any steps the safety labels indicate. Before you get on a ladder, make sure that all four legs are firmly on the floor. Remember not to leave tools and hardware or anything heavy on top of a ladder. This will lead to the next person who moves the ladder getting hit in the head by a falling object. When you are working above on a ladder you must take extra precautions. You need to be aware of overhead scenery and lighting instruments and the electrical cable. Do not have loose items in pockets that may fall and whenever possible, tools should be attached to you. If you can't attach tools, extra precautions must be made to keep people below aware of you and your work. When moving up or down a ladder, always maintain 3 points of contact (foot, foot, hand/hand, hand, foot/foot, foot, shin). 

Fire Safety

Most of the materials in the shop are combustible. Paper, sawdust, oil, and all flammable items must be moved away from the work area while welding and grinding.

  • Know where the fire exits are in the shop.
  • Know the locations and types of nearby fire extinguishers. 
Working in the Theater space

When raising and lowering scenery/equipment the safety of everyone in the room is your responsibility. Issue a loud verbal warning to indicate an object is moving up or down. (“ROPE COMING IN!”) And wait for a response indicating you have been heard before moving. (“THANK YOU ROPE”) This goes for lifting a bucket up to a scaffold to moving a one-ton wall on a counterweight batten.

Do not use any rope or hardware or cable that is worn or in questionable condition to fly anything that is heavy or could lead to a hazardous situation. If you have a question always ask a supervisor or the Technical Director. 

Working Above

Remove or secure all loose items whenever working on the catwalks, tension grid or ladders. Loose change and items in your pockets can cause serious injury if dropped from twenty feet. You are responsible for the safety of those working beneath you, and whenever possible they should be cleared from the area. 

If by chance an accident occurs and you do drop something, you should yell "HEADS!" State this clearly and loudly so people know where the warning is coming from and can scatter out of the way of danger. If you are below and hear "heads" yelled, get out of the way. Do not look up to see what is falling. 

If you need to work above in an area that does not provide railings and there is a possibility of a fall that could cause injury, you must wear proper fall protection equipment. You should also be trained in the correct use of this equipment. 

Set Strike

This is when the set is disassembled at the end of a run and the potential for hazards is commonly higher due to the greater numbers individuals and an increased effort to be done quickly. Make sure you are aware of all the things going on around you. The fast work pace and the extra enthusiasm you will find does not change the need to pay attention and follow all the rules for working in the theater and with power tools. Pay extra attention to nails in wood and debris on the floor. 

Injuries and Emergencies

We strive for a safe environment in the theatre. If an accident requiring emergency care should occur, please call 503.370.6911 and 911 immediately. After contacting Campus Safety and emergency services find your closest non-student supervisor. 

Do not attempt to move an injured person. All injuries whether major or minor must be reported to the Production Supervisor immediately. 

A first aid kit may be found in the Scenic Studio. Should you notice supplies missing, please contact the Production Supervisor.

I, the undersigned, have read the Lab Safety Rules and Regulations. I understand I will not use power tools, rigging systems, or hang and focus a light until I have been instructed the proper way to do so, have demonstrated my ability to correctly use the theater equipment, and have written approval by an authorized department representative.  

I will never come to work in the Scene Studio or theaters while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

I understand my failure to abide by the rules can result in lower grades, restrictions from scenic studio activities, or an end to my employment with the Theatre Department. 



Student’s Name (Please Print) 



Student’s Signature



Theatre Department Representative




Willamette University


M. Lee Pelton Theatre
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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