ABTT and BAPAM launch first-of-its-kind guidance on physical health for backstage staff in theatre

7 June 2024

The first in a series of awareness raising resources was launched at the ABTT Theatre Show on the 6th June. A new Physical Wellbeing Guidance Note, to be incorporated as part of the Code or Practice for Theatre Industry, will follow in the coming months.

The Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT) and British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) announced the launch of a first-of-its-kind resource dedicated to fostering good physical health for backstage practitioners in the theatre sector.

The initiative champions healthy practices for backstage workers in the theatre and live production sector, where over 70% of the workforce identify as freelance workers . The two organisations, which have been collaborating since 2018, launched an infographic at the ABTT Theatre Show in London on 6th June, a specialist trade show connecting manufacturers, suppliers and service providers to the technical and production disciplines with a huge range of practitioners.

Drawing on the ABTT’s deep understanding of the sector and BAPAM’s clinical expertise in health and wellbeing, the infographic uses the mnemonic S.T.A.G.E. C.R.E.W. Each letter highlights key actions workers can take to maintain physical health and well-being and minimise the risk of injury or chronic conditions: Sleep, Training and Technique, Appetite and Diet, Good Hygiene, Environment (risk assessments), Clinical Support, Rest and Recovery, Exercise and Warm Up.

The resource will provide a greater level of support to backstage practitioners who, like performers, can face tiring and tough working conditions and experience a heightened risk of injury or occupation ill-health. Factors such as long hours, intense work with limited breaks, handling heavy equipment and separation from friends and family are commonplace challenges for lighting, sound, stage, flying, AV and automation technicians amongst others.

In addition to the infographic, a comprehensive Physical Wellbeing Guidance Note and accompanying videos addressing each element of the S.T.A.G.E. C.R.E.W. mnemonic, will be released in the coming months. Real-life case studies will be integrated to illustrate prevalent issues encountered by backstage workers. Guidance will offer insights on how managers can assist team members in prioritising their health and provide a healthy practice self-assessment tool to empower workers to evaluate their health and pinpoint areas requiring attention.

These resources, founded on evidence-based practices, will be added to the Code of Practice for the Theatre Industry and made available free of charge to theatre venues and on the ABTT website, ensuring accessibility for all and helping employers to meet their welfare obligations under the Health and Safety At Work etc. Act 1974.

Claire Cordeaux, CEO, BAPAM, said:
“As the largest provider of clinical services to the UK’s performing arts sector, and with over 40 years of experience working with performers and backstage professionals, we are proud to announce this latest partnership with our friends at the ABTT. The launch of this first of its kind guidance on physical health for live performances production staff marks a significant milestone for the emerging specialism of performance arts medicine in theatre. We recognise that a vibrant and healthy workforce is crucial for the future of the performing arts and this initiative acknowledges the vital role played by those working in the backstage disciplines in bringing live performances to fruition.”

Robin Townley, CEO, ABTT, added:
“The ABTT and BAPAM have enjoyed working closely together to support the wellbeing of the theatre workforce since 2018. We are aligned in our principles and share common goals aimed at promoting healthy practices for the benefit of backstage workers and the industry as a whole. With the Health and Safety at Work Act mandating employers to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of employees, collaborative initiatives such as the infographic and the Physical Wellbeing Guidance Note will serve as valuable tools in disseminating advice and advocating for the establishment of standards that enhance the wellbeing of production staff in the entertainment industry.”

The Physical Wellbeing Guidance Note will be integrated into the ABTT Welfare Guidance Notes section of the ABTT website and referenced in the Technical Standards for Places of Entertainment, published by the ABTT Safety Committee.