This list of frequently asked questions covers some of the key issues around returning to performance work after Covid-19 lockdown, but if you have other queries, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject Risk Assessment and we will put them to our team of experts and publish them. If you are an employer, a workplace or contract performers and would like support from our Occupational Health service, please contact email@example.com.
We have also produced a Risk Assessment for freelance performers returning to work during COVID-19.
As a recording studio, what is my responsibility for people vulnerable to COVID-19?
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 Section 4 places a duty on those who control premises to ensure:
- they are maintained and
- they do not pose a health and safety risk to people (including people other than employees) who may work there.
You should therefore do a thorough Risk Assessment, identifying
- who might be harmed
- people considered vulnerable to COVID-19
- how they may be harmed
- exposure to coronavirus, a biological hazard, on the premises (inadequate space for social distancing, lack of ventilation, shared instruments etc)
- how to reduce the risk of exposure to this hazard as low as reasonably practicable
- provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitiser, ensure social distancing is maintained at all times, limit the number of people sharing a space, avoid sharing equipment or instruments, ensure natural or artificial ventilation
Consider a policy of using a screening question before anyone enters the premises to ensure that people who are potentially unwell with COVID-19 do not enter. Remember that people do not have to disclose their medical history to you if they do not wish to do so, but you do have a duty to identify vulnerable people by asking them, so consider appropriate methods to achieve this, and what precautions you may wish to take for those in vulnerable groups.
How should we plan to manage particularly playing wind, percussion and string musical instruments in large studios as well as smaller practice rooms and ensemble rooms?
The UK Government have issued specific guidance for the performing arts sector:
There is a lot of work being carried out on this topic at the moment. Preliminary data suggest that ensemble playing while maintaining appropriate social distance apart does not increase the risk of spreading coronavirus. In addition to good hand hygiene and social distancing, minimising time spent together in a shared space, good ventilation and avoiding sharing equipment or instruments will help, but hand hygiene and social distancing are the key players at the moment.
When can we safely perform for outside engagements?
Current government guidelines suggest that as much performing arts activity as possible should take place outside, including performance. However, outdoor performances do also require risk-managing with an emphasis on social distancing and hand hygiene.
What is the guidance for rehearsing/performing with each other in enclosed spaces?
Any enclosed space should be configured to ensure sufficient social distancing between all performers (in line with current guidance). Ensure good hand hygiene and social distancing in all spaces including kitchens, green rooms and cloakrooms. Consider additional measures like ventilation, reducing rehearsal length to allow ventilation breaks, and avoiding sharing equipment or instruments.
What is the ideal spacing for a group of performers?
Ensure that the room size and ventilation are adequate and limit numbers so that sufficient distancing can occur between members of different households, or household bubbles. Other ways of mitigating risk might include Perspex sheets to separate individuals but these may interfere with ventilation within the space.
- Positioning side-to-side or back-to-back where possible
- Face to face should be avoided where possible
- 2 metres, wherever possible, or 1 metre with robust risk mitigation (where 2 metres is not viable), are acceptable. You should consider and set out the mitigations you will introduce in your risk assessment. (Mitigation does not include basic measures such as good hand and respiratory hygiene, the compliance with which should be universal and is assumed).
Performing Artists in England should use this guidance as a minimum and also consider rehearsing/performing at lower (quieter) volume or using amplification. Adequate ventilation is important.
Is there any information on the effect of aerosol projection of air from musical instruments blown, or the effect of air changes in a studio where there is no air con, but forced air?
There is a lot of research ongoing on this topic. Wind and brass instruments do produce aerosol according to a US study. Preliminary results suggest this varies with dynamics: louder music produces more aerosol. The authors of this study strongly recommend sufficient social distancing, limiting duration of time in a shared environment to 30 minutes, ensuring adequate air change, good ventilation, proper hygiene and mask use.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have issued guidance on air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus outbreak.
Are there any guidelines on hygiene/cleaning regimes for playing?
- Good hand hygiene at all times is the most important thing.
- You should avoid sharing equipment or instruments if at all possible. If you can ‘quarantine’ shared equipment for 72 hours between users, it is unlikely that coronavirus will still be present.
- You should be keeping all instruments clean using standard methods, including mouth pieces
- Keyboards and other shared equipment can be disinfected using 70% isopropyl alcohol or a standard detergent spray with a contact time of 20 seconds. Consider how you will dispose of cloths or kitchen paper used for cleaning.
- Brass players should avoid discharging condensation onto the floor, but collect it in a container that can be sealed.
- Do not blow through wind instruments to clean them, use a pull-through kept separately for each instrument. Remember to clean your mouthpiece.
For more details please see these NAMM Instrument Cleaning Guidelines.
What is the best practice on loading trucks for transporting instruments/equipment/music stands etc?
It is difficult to carry and load heavy equipment whilst maintaining 2m distancing, so try to ensure as much distancing as possible as well as rigorous hand hygiene. Disinfect chairs, stands and equipment before use, once in the venue. If you share a vehicle with someone from another household, travel with the windows down and consider the use of face coverings.
What is PPE advice for performers?
“Personal Protective Equipment” (PPE) protects the user against health or safety risks at work. In different environments, it can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment, such as face masks. COVID-19, or any other infectious disease, needs to be controlled with social distancing and hand hygiene. PPE should be the last thing to consider, after every other method of controlling exposure has been implemented. PPE is not a substitution for hand hygiene and social distancing.
Government guidelines state you must wear a face-covering (by law) in some public places, including, in England, shops, public transport and some other enclosed public spaces including entertainment venues. You are also strongly encouraged to wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing may be difficult and where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
Face masks may be part of the venue risk management for communal areas inside places of work such as recording studios and performance spaces, and you should check with venue management.
How can I get hold of PPE?
Disposable gloves are easily available on-line and cloth face-coverings can be made at home. Medical-grade PPE including medical-grade masks and visors should not be needed outside professional settings.
We are a choir, is there any advice on how we get back to performing?
There have been concerns that the production of aerosol during singing makes it a particularly high-risk activity. Preliminary research indicates that singing at low volumes produces roughly the same amount of aerosol as speaking at low volumes. As volume increases, both singing and speaking/shouting produce more aerosol, with singing generating 1.5-3 times more than talking at max volume.
The latest advice is that both professionals and non-professionals can now engage in singing in line with general guidance relating to hygiene, social distancing, and ventilation. Try to ensure that 2m distancing applies wherever possible, and prioritise sufficient ventilation, including ventilation breaks. You may need to rehearse and perform in smaller groups than usual and limit the amount of loud singing or consider the use of amplification. Hand hygiene is essential, especially in communal/rest areas and in moving chairs and equipment.
I am planning getting my group together to practise in my home, what are my responsibilities?
In this situation you should consider your home to be a workplace, and carry out a risk assessment in advance, informing your fellow performers of how you will be managing rehearsals and practice sessions.
Is the risk of transmitting coronavirus increased by the physical exertion involved while performing/conducting?
Again, research into transmission risk during exercise or physical exertion is ongoing. Social distancing, ventilation, hand and respiratory hygiene are the most important factors to reduce transmission.
I heard that high ambient temperatures kill the virus – is that true?
There is no clear evidence to suggest that the virus is killed by warmer weather and it has been spreading internationally in a wide variety of different climates.
Can we get into the recording studio?
It is important to complete a risk assessment for the activity you will be doing and have an open discussion with the studio about their risk management protocols before booking a session. Some of the things that you should ask about include:
- What arrangements do they have in place for social distancing, cleaning and hand hygiene, both in the studio and in circulation, toilets and rest areas?
- What ventilation is possible in the studio?
- How big is the studio and how many people will be present for the session?
- Does equipment need to be shared and if so how will it be disinfected?
- If possible, book 30 minute sessions, with 20 minute ventilation breaks (minimum one air change) in between.
What considerations are important for teachers returning to work?
You should consider your own individual risk before making this decision. See BAPAM Risk Assessment.
If you are working in a school or institution ask about how the workplace has been made Covid-secure and ensure you are satisfied with the arrangements for things like social distancing, cleaning, hand hygiene and natural ventilation. There should be a 20 minute break between each lesson to ventilate the space to allow for one air change. Teaching spaces should be big enough to allow 2m distancing if possible, and students being taught in groups should be in a space large enough to allow distancing. Do not share instruments, especially mouthpieces. Keyboards will need to be disinfected between lessons. If you need to tune an instrument for a student, or demonstrate using their instrument, make sure that you sanitise your hands before and after.
If you work in your own home or in students’ homes, advice is available from the Musicians Union: https://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/Home/Advice/covid-19/music-teaching.
What about festivals?
The outdoor environment is certainly safer in terms of aerosol spread of the virus, but risk management will depend on the nature of the festival/performances/activities. Social distancing and hygiene will be an issues once large gatherings are allowed again. No doubt festivals will look different post-Covid, but we are hopeful for 2021.
What about the risk to audiences and from audiences?
Under current Government guidelines, audience members must wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces including concert halls and entertainment venues. Venues will want to consider how to keep audiences safe by ensuring social distancing, hand hygiene, ventilation and cleaning of auditoriums and circulation spaces/cloakrooms. However, each member of the audience is free to choose whether or not to attend (unlike the performers or other staff).
There is evidence that the aggregate aerosol produced by performers and audience combined should be considered when assessing the risk of a performance: ventilation, distancing the audience from performers and limiting the length of performances/allowing ventilation breaks will all help to reduce the risk to everybody concerned. The argument for checking audience members’ temperatures on arrival is unconvincing as COVID-19 appears to be asymptomatic in a large percentage of cases.
Where can I find advice for TV and media production companies?
The BBC have produced some useful guidance: Close Contact Cohorts and increased screening for COVID-19 – protocol for TV production.
What is RIDDOR and how am I responsible?
The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) places a duty on the responsible person to report if
- An unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
- A worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.
- A worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus.
You are the responsible person if you are the employer, the contractor, or if you manage the place of work.
Guidance for the person reporting: www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/riddor/index.htm.
I am concerned about long-term symptoms post-COVID infection or following the start of symptoms that were suggestive of COVID. Where can I find more information?
While most people recover from COVID 19 quickly, some people report prolonged, debilitating and sometimes serious symptoms following infection with suspected or confirmed Covid-19.
The long.covid.org website collects useful health information resources and patient stories.
The BMJ (British Medical Journal) have published resources, primarily for healthcare practitioners, including Management of post-acute covid-19 in primary care and Long covid: How to define it and how to manage it (webinar video).
The UK Government advice is here.