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Risk Assessments During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Guidance on returning to working during the Covid-19 outbreak, for freelance musicians working in the live sector

Please note that this guidance only covers the health & safety aspects of a return to work. For concerns on contractual relationships please talk to your regional office.

The guidance that we’ve provided is in relation to the Government’s advice on social distancing, and you can read more from the NHS and on the Government’s website.

See our basic guidance for on you should look out for when returning to work. The below covers this in more detail, but again the below is for general guidance only and does not represent any instruction, encouragement or advice to return to or begin work.

A Risk Assessment must be carried out

The main thing that must be done in all work situations is a Risk Assessment (RA).

For any workspace you are entering, the organisation you are working for should have carried out a RA. 

Every existing Risk Assessment has to be re-done taking into account the effect of Coronavirus (Covid 19). As well as the RA covering Covid-19, all aspects of your work should be covered also, e.g, fire, evacuation, trip hazards, noise etc. If not, a separate RA should be in place.

If you are working in a venue owned by another organisation, the owner of those premises, should have carried out a Risk Assessment (RA). Both the venue and the owner of the premises need to have integrated their findings. 

Accessing the Risk Assessment

If you are a self-employed worker, you are in essence a sub-contractor and the engager or venue owner has to share their RA with you.

The situation for those working in London’s West End and around the UK on touring or static theatre touring shows is different. Advice has been provided to our MU safety reps, so contact them. If you are engaged on a show that does not have a safety rep in place please contact your MU Regional Office.

A Risk Assessment may conclude the work can not be done

A RA will reference the medical and governmental advice and legislation. However, a RA needs to look at all the aspects being presented. This may result in conclusions going beyond the official advice (which is geared to the general situation).

Some RAs have concluded that the balance of risk against the need for the work to be done tips the balance over to not carrying out the work. The RA must calculate whether the risk is acceptable. If the conclusion is to do the work/tasks, there must then be a plan developed to minimise risks.

We accept this is all a difficult area and recognise that many of the problems identified are complex. This means there must be full and open discussion involving you and other workers/sub-contractors.

It must also be recognised that this situation affects all those working whether musicians, support staff, admin or management.

Some issues must be resolved before returning to work

Some Areas the RA must consider are:

  • Touring
  • Travel
  • Going out to work in premises or areas not directly controlled by the organisation/body that contracts you e.g. theatres, concert halls, pubs & clubs, schools, open air events, studios
  • Other artists and support staff
  • Deps and extras

Many of the suggested measures in official advice raise practical problems for most musicians, e.g. wearing face masks, use of screens, keeping distance from work colleagues, travelling to work, working from home.

All suggested new measures must look at how they interact with existing hazards. Spacing raises difficult problems which must be looked at in detail.

These issues must be resolved before starting work. If you need advice in any situation contact your MU Regional Office.

Hazards specifically affecting musicians

There are some specific potential hazards for musicians (to be assessed by a competent person) such as:

  • Airborne transmission from wind/brass instruments.
  • Similar transmission by vocalists and choirs.
  • Orchestra and band layouts.
  • Provision of adequate backstage facilities (e.g. toilets, washing areas, changing areas, resting areas) to ensure best safeguarding standards.
  • Air quality considerations – including extraction and air conditioning systems.
  • Any audience.
  • Problems for those involved in teaching, particularly of children, whether in groups or individually e.g. preparation/cleaning of instruments to be used raises special considerations.
  • in studios balancing the technical requirements for recording whilst applying the safety measures to minimise exposure.

Some additional factors must be part of a RA such as – those most at risk e.g. age, ethnicity, existing medical conditions, pregnancy, the effect on stress.

Dealing with reasonable concerns for your safety

We can assist freelance workers in dealing with the specific circumstances they face.

If you are not happy with the situation you are asked to work in, you can always say you do not wish to start work until your reasonable concerns have been rectified.  We advise you take advice from your MU officials about the implications this may have around your contract and being paid.

Any return to work process takes place in the context of any legislation passed by Government, both across Britain and by the devolved Governments.

As, at present, the exact nature of the virus is not totally understood, then big questions arise about whether further waves of infection will be seen, whether having had infection you are immune, about how, in the longer term, to contain infection and how it may be transmitted etc.