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Live Performances: Singing, Music, and Theatre

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Introduction

This document is intended for employers, workers and customers/participants of live performances, as an overview of potential hazards in the workplace due to COVID-19.

In all cases, guidance from local public health authorities must be followed and general COVID-19 prevention practices should be implemented, as outlined in “Protect Yourself and Others from COVID-19”.

Workers

  • Stay informed, be prepared, and follow public health advice:
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19. If you have symptoms or you’re feeling sick:
    • stay at home and away from others.
    • contact your health care provider or local public health authority and follow their advice.
  • If you become sick while at work:
    • isolate yourself from others.
    • tell your supervisor or conductor that you are going home.
    • do not take public transit if possible.
  • Follow the advice of your local public health authority if you have been in contact with someone known or suspected to have COVID-19.
  • If you are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill, limit the time you spend outside of your home in the community and avoid crowds as much as possible.
  • Keep a physical distance of 2 metres from others when outside your home.
  • Practice good hygiene:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
    • Do not touch your face with unwashed hands.
    • Cough or sneeze into the bend of your arm or a tissue.
  • Follow advice from your local public health authority, local government, or employer about using a non-medical mask at work. Wearing a non-medical mask or face covering is recommended when you cannot keep 2 metres away from others, especially in crowded places.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched or shared surfaces and objects often.
  • Do not share personal items, personal protective equipment, or work tools that are for your use only.

Employers or Group Leaders

  • Actively encourage those who are sick to stay home:
    • Use a screening questionnaire from a public health agency and remind employees to stay at home if they have symptoms of COVID-19, even if mild.
    • Have a flexible attendance policy to allow workers to stay home if they are sick or need to care for a sick family member. Develop contact lists for events or productions which can be used to communicate requirements or changes to all members or the audience before attending.

Healthy Practices and Prevention Measures

  • Post signs to remind people to follow these practices and measures. Make sure that signs are suitable for their age, ability, reading level, and language preferences.
  • Encourage people to greet each other with a smile and wave, instead of direct person-to-person contact.
  • Provide increased hand hygiene facilities that are easy to access by everyone, including those with disabilities.
  • Promote physical distancing of 2 metres and set up physical barriers (e.g. plexiglass windows) when this is not possible.
  • Perform in spaces that have good ventilation:
    • Increase filtration efficiency to the highest level appropriate for the system.
    • Increase fresh air flow/percentage of outdoor air (increase % of outdoor air in HVAC air supply, open windows and doors, etc.).
    • Limit the use of demand-controlled ventilation (keep system always running at optimal performance).
    • Explore the use of portable HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration units where appropriate.
    • Allow time for the air to be exchanged between performances or other uses of the facility.
    • Consult a ventilation professional before making changes.
  • Involve your health and safety committee or representative when assessing workplace risks and determining personal protective equipment and training.

Occupational Health and Safety Obligations

  • Follow all federal, provincial, and municipal health and safety guidelines that apply.
  • Do everything reasonably possible under the circumstances to protect the health and safety of your workers and guests by providing information, training, cleaning, disinfecting, and personal protective equipment.
  • Perform a workplace hazard identification and risk assessment of your facilities and services to decide where and how to apply the recommended protection measures.
  • Consult with your local public health unit for location or site-specific recommendations.
  • Have a policy to protect workers from violence and harassment. Guests may react aggressively to new protection measures or limited services.

Live Performances

  • Conduct a risk assessment of the facility. Consider the type of event, where the performers will be, what is occurring onstage, if there are musicians, what instruments will be played, where they will be located, where the audience will be, and the location of off-stage workers. Look for points where people may congregate such as lounges, backstage, washrooms, coat rooms, warm-up areas, etc.
  • Where possible, hold the event outdoors. Do not forget to factor in the weather, insects, washroom accessibility and use, and traffic flow (both pedestrian and vehicle) when assessing risks.
  • Maintain physical distancing at all times, including backstage, on stage, in the lobby, and in the auditorium. Make sure that seating or standing arrangements allow for separation between performers, vocalists, musicians (and their instruments), the conductor, and between audience members. Block or mark off any unavailable seats.
  • Use floor markings, directional arrows and barriers to guide physical distancing and pedestrian traffic.
  • Limit the audience size according to your local guidelines. If the event is free, use a pre-registration or ticket system. If tickets are used, minimize contact between the guest and the ticket checker.
  • Consider using a timed entry system to stagger guest arrival. Similarly, have them leave by section, such as exiting back to front.
  • Consider using a “no bag” or “clear bag only” policy to reduce the need for contact during security checks.
  • Keep records and contact information for all persons on-site should contact tracing or follow-up be required. This includes all employees, guests, and contractors.
  • Maintain physical distancing when guests use the washrooms. Clean and disinfect frequently and keep stocked with soap and paper towels.
  • If concessions are available, make sure there is no shared use of utensils, condiments, etc.
  • Consider offering a shorter event, additional smaller events, or events with no intermission.
  • Consider alternative methods to deliver the performance, such as online or radio broadcasting, a mix of live performance and streaming, or having the audience remain in their cars.
  • Organize performers and off-stage workers into smaller groups. These cohorts should stay together and not mix with other cohorts.
  • Do not share equipment, song books, sheet music or devices. If they are shared, clean and disinfect using wipes or bleach solution.
  • Do not share uniforms or performance clothing, and launder after each use.
  • Make sure that physical distancing can be maintained while building, dismantling or moving equipment or stage props.
  • Consider lowering music volumes to help guests avoid talking louder or leaning towards each other.

Singers and Choirs

Singing indoors may transmit the virus due to the forceful breathing required to project the voice.

  • Maintain at least 2 metres between each singer and add more distance if possible.
  • Organize the choir so singers are not facing each other directly or standing directly behind each other.
  • Consider placing a physical barrier such as plexiglass in front or around each singer (both sides and back). The barrier must be cleaned and disinfected between users.
  • If singers are able to tolerate it, consider wearing non-medical masks or face shields.
  • Consider opting for performances with fewer performers or use a solo artist.
  • Singers from the same household are at less risk and could sing together while being distanced from others.
  • Singers from the same household are at less risk and could sing together while being distanced from others.
  • Encourage individuals to bring their own pre-filled water bottle.

Musicians

  • Adapt the rehearsal space, stage, or orchestral pit to allow for physical distancing. For musicians who play brass or wind instruments, include the length of the instrument and direction of airflow when determining spacing between musicians.
  • Encourage conductors to use a microphone when rehearsing, so they can keep their voices at a low conversational level.
  • Do not share instruments, including accessories (e.g., drumsticks, mallets, bows and guitar picks). If shared, clean as per standard protocol for the instrument after each use and between users. Use a disinfectant or alcohol wipe when possible. Do not share cleaning cloths or instrument brushes.
  • Do not share mouthpieces or reeds.
  • When cleaning individual instruments with condensate build-up (either by using spit valves on a brass instrument, or by swabbing out a woodwind instrument), stay at least 2 metres away from others. Brass players should dispose of condensate by blowing into a disposable cloth, placing it in a waste container, and then washing their hands. Do not blow the condensate onto the floor.
  • Woodwind players should never share swabs. Minimize their use in shared spaces, place swabs in a sealable container to bring home, and launder regularly.
  • If more than one person is needed to move a large instrument, ask both persons to wear a non-medical mask during the lift.
  • Minimize stage changes between musical works on the same program.
  • Wash hands after cleaning, moving, and safely storing instruments.
  • If playing in a pit orchestra, consider adding protection from those performing on stage, and make sure ventilation systems are operating well.

Theatre and Dance

  • Adapt stage space, dressing rooms, backstage etc. to maintain physical distancing, unless performers are from the same cohort or the same household. For example, designate an area for each member to safely deliver their performance.
  • Wash costumes after each performance.
  • Do not share props or items, unless they can be cleaned and disinfected between uses.
  • Wash hands promptly if a shared item must be touched.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

A touch point is any surface that can be touched by bare hands by multiple people, multiple times. In addition, shared spaces (including audience seating) must be cleaned and disinfected between users.

  • Use a checklist to track all surfaces that must be cleaned, such as shared equipment, and commonly used surfaces (e.g., handles, counters, equipment controls, touch screens, etc.).
  • Make sure that any person required to clean has received the appropriate training and uses any required personal protective equipment.
  • Clean visibly dirty or soiled surfaces with soap and water before disinfecting.
  • Use a disinfectant or bleach solution to destroy or inactivate the virus.
    • Use a disinfectant with a drug identification number (DIN). This number means that it has been approved for use in Canada.
    • If household or commercial disinfectant cleaning products are not available, hard surfaces can be disinfected using a mixture of 5 mL of bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) and 250 mL of water. Test surfaces before using a bleach solution. Bleach can be corrosive.
    • If liquids can be withstood, disinfect high-touch electronic devices (keyboards, tablets, smartboards) with alcohol or disinfectant wipes.
  • Follow the product manufacturer’s instructions, including any need for personal protective equipment.
  • Use a dedicated cloth for cleaning. Change the cloth daily or when it becomes visibly soiled.
  • Apply disinfectant to a clean cloth. Saturate the cloth before treating touch points. Reapply as needed. Apply enough disinfectant to leave a visible film on the surface. Allow the surface to air dry.
  • Determine the frequency of cleaning and disinfection based on your organization’s needs. Clean at least once per day but more frequent cleaning (every 2 to 3 hours) may be necessary.
  • Record when cleaning and disinfection has occurred.
  • Provide tissues and plastic lined waste containers throughout the building. Use disposable gloves to empty the garbage and wash hands after removing gloves.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Continue to use PPE for existing occupational safety hazards and emergencies, as directed by applicable laws and your employer.
  • Use PPE for COVID-19 if it is required or recommended by your local public health authorities.
  • Train workers on how to wear, remove, work with, and care for the equipment, and to understand its limitations.
  • Clean and disinfect any shared PPE before you wear it.
  • Wash hands before wearing and after removing PPE.
  • Provide uniforms that are laundered by a service or advise workers to change and wash their uniform after work.

Non-Medical Masks or Face Coverings

  • Follow the mask recommendations from your public health agency or other authority. Note that people may choose to wear masks regardless if there is a formal requirement.
  • A mask should not be worn by anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance (e.g., due to their age or ability).
  • Wear the mask correctly, making sure the nose and mouth are covered. Do not touch the mask while wearing it.
  • Be aware that non-medical masks have limitations, and improper mask use and disposal can increase the risk of infection.
  • Change your mask if it becomes wet or soiled. You may wish to bring a second mask in a clean paper bag, envelope, or container that does not trap moisture. Store reusable soiled masks in a separate bag or container. Do not touch the outside of the mask while removing it, and wash your hands when you are finished.
  • Consider using a transparent mask or face shield, if appropriate, for guests that may require that visibility.
  • Do not allow the mask to be a hazard to other activities, such as getting caught on moving machinery or equipment.

External Service Providers

  • Communicate procedural changes (physical distancing, use of non-medical masks and no-contact billing and payment options) in advance with any external service providers. Work with service providers to meet their requirements.
  • When an external service provider must visit:
    • minimize exposure to workers, performers, and guests.
    • maintain physical distancing as much as possible.
    • provide easily accessed hand washing facilities.
    • clean the work area before and after work is performed.

Human Resources

  • Notify workers in advance if there are changes to screening measures and policies.
  • Set a clear policy for what is expected of workers if they get sick, have symptoms, or if a venue guest exposure is reported.
  • On arrival each day, check-in and assess all workers using screening criteria from your local public health authority.
  • Minimize contact during sign-in. Have the supervisor sign in for people (or provide separate pens), or have people text the supervisor. Clean any sign-in devices between users.
  • Adjust worker schedules to reflect any necessary changes.
  • If there are fewer workers available, make sure essential roles such as trained supervision and first aid or emergency response persons are still present.
  • Encourage employees to only work at one location, and if possible, assign cohort groups of workers to the same shifts every week.
  • Encourage performers to minimize the number of venues they are performing at.
  • Make sure workers are trained to work safely, including when replacing the duties of others.
  • Submit documents electronically, or wash hands after handling papers.
  • Stagger meetings, breaks, mealtimes, and orientations.
  • Hold meetings in an outside or large space.
  • Hold verbal or electronic orientations.
  • Limit sharing of equipment where possible, and clean and disinfect between users.
  • Remove communal coat-check areas and shared footwear or clothing. Allow workers to store their personal items separately or in sealed bins or bags if they do not have lockers.

Coping with Social Isolation, Microaggression or Stigma

  • Provide reassurance, listen to others and their concerns, address concerns and misunderstandings, and help explain the situation in a way that is suitable for their age and abilities.
  • Understand that many people may be struggling to adapt to the new routines and requirements.
  • When helping others, encourage them to talk to someone trained in mental health first aid, or someone else they trust about what they are experiencing.
  • For an employee, ask them to contact their supervisor, employer, or employee assistance service, if available.
  • Contact your local public health or community resources that offer mental health services.
  • Check out organizations online:
  • If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact your local hospital, call 911 immediately, or contact a Crisis Centre in your area.

It is important that mental health resources and support are provided to all workers, including access to an employee assistance program, if available.

For further information on COVID-19, refer to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Note that this guidance is just some of the adjustments organizations can make during a pandemic. Adapt this list by adding your own good practices and policies to meet your organization’s specific needs.

Disclaimer: As public and occupational health and safety information is changing rapidly, local public health authorities should be consulted for specific, regional guidance. This information is not intended to replace medical advice or legislated health and safety obligations. Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.

Document last updated September 14, 2020