Health and Safety in Photography
For use when working on location or in the photographic studio.
By Michael Wayne Plant, this originally published on the 9th February 2013 at portrait photography website mwplant.com
Now republished here and last updated on 27th January 2015, all the links where rechecked and are working when I last updated this page. If you are reading this page and any of the links do not work please email me, as I will not always be able to check that they are working.
I have removed the original website that this page was originally posted on because I am concentrating on developing the work on this website and do not want distractions of maintaining another area of work as a photographer. I originally wrote this page, because I had students who did not write enough to get good grades when completing their assignments on accredited courses, I hope you find it helpful.
I am amazed at how little there is written about health and safety for photographers working in photo studios or on location. When, I have read books on photography looking for Health and Safety information, frequently the writing only refers to chemicals and darkrooms. So I decided, to write something that is relevant for the photographic studio and when location shooting for photographers.
I found the website for the Health and Safety Executive invaluable in writing this article, on health and safety in the photographic industry.
Health and Safety for Photographers.
Essentially, I have taken some extracts from various HSE leaflets, to produce this article and modified them, in relation to specific applications in the area of photographic practice.
If you want specialist help with Health and Safety, I recommend that you visit the HSE website here it is the introduction page, to the guidelines for HSE is a good entry into the HSE website.
The Health and Safety Executive, has a list of booklets you can download for free, from the following web link: Health and Safety Executive guides.
“What health and safety law requires
The basis of British health and safety law is the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
The Act sets out the general duties, which employers have towards employees and members of the public, and employees have to themselves and to each other.
These duties are qualified in the Act by the principle of ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’. In other words, an employer does not have to take measures to avoid or reduce the risk if they are technically impossible or if the time, trouble or cost of the measures would be grossly disproportionate to the risk.
What the law requires here is what good management and common sense would lead employers to do anyway: that is, to look at what the risks are and take sensible measures to tackle them.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (the Management Regulations) generally make more explicit what employers are required to do to manage health and safety under the Health and Safety at Work Act. Like the Act, they apply to every work activity.
The main requirement on employers is to carry out a risk assessment. Employers with five or more employees need to record the significant findings of the risk assessment.
Risk assessment should be straightforward in a simple workplace such as a typical photographic studio or location. It should only be complicated if it deals with serious hazards such as those in a darkroom using chemicals.”
The above is modified from to reflect photographic needs or requirements: Health and Safety Executive. Health and safety regulation… a short guide on the HSE website or Health and safety regulation… … a short guide
In creating an environment in the photo-studio or photographic location you will need to consider the following points in creating a health and safety framework.
“The HSW Act and supporting regulations require employers (photographers) to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of their employees so far as is reasonably practicable. It also places a general duty on employers (photographers) to conduct their business in such a way as to ensure that others (ie non-employees and members of the public) are not exposed to risks to their health or safety. Employees (assistants) are required to co-operate with their employers (photographers) in complying with health and safety law. They are required to take reasonable care to ensure they do not endanger themselves or anyone else using the premises, which could include assistants, models, make-up artists, hairdressers, stylists, models (etc), and visitors. They should:
- Follow the instructions and training given by their employer (the photographer) in the safe use of particular items of equipment such as photographic equipment, studio lights, darkroom and computer equipment as appropriate.
- Inform their employer (the photographer) of any work situation which is a serious and immediate danger to health and safety, for example broken equipment.
- Inform their employer (the photographer) of any shortcomings in the arrangements for ensuring the health and safety of employees. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, as amended (the Management Regulations), employers need to assess the risks to the health and safety of employees and others who may be affected by their activities. This may require employers their employer (the photographer) taking advice from other professionals on specific risks.
Who is responsible for the assessment?
- It is the employers’ (photographers) responsibility to ensure risk assessments are carried out. In practice, competent employees who have the relevant training, knowledge and understanding of the issues may undertake them. It is also important to involve key decision makers in the process (as appropriate) especially where there are significant resource implications. To be fully effective, they need to consider how other issues, such as environmental conditions, restricted workspace, and the risk of violence.”
The above content has been modified from: Health and Safety Executive. Health and safety matters for special educational needs: Legal issues including risk assessment. Which is no longer available on the HSE website.
We all know that we need to do some form of risk assessment but what is involved in doing this. Why if we are freelance photographers should we consider doing one. For a start, if you have public liability insurance you can claim to being aware of any issues before they arise and you have some paper work that shows you where aware of any issues if something should happen. Apart from this it is good practice to do a risk assessment as it shows you clients, subjects and co-workers that you do care about providing a positive and safe working environment for everyone. The Health and Safety Executive has the following guide you should download and consider using: “Five steps to risk assessment “ on the HSE website or Five steps to risk assessment.
You can download the form only from here Photographers Risk Assessment
You need to follow these five steps, to not only be aware of risks but, also to do something about them.
- Identify hazards.
- Decide who might be harmed and how.
- Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions.
- Record your findings and implement them.
- Review your assessment and update if necessary.
Working on Location. The Health and Safety Executive has a useful guide in Buildings used for locations or temporary studios in film and television. That covers things like working in buildings, control measures, fire, responsibilities, hazards, Utilites, Vermin, hazardous materials, rubbish and debris to name a few of the details it goes into.
In the guide it refers to ‘must’ as being a legal obligation and words like ‘do’ should’ as advice on good practice. I would recommend that you download this guide from the link below as it is an in-depth look at things you should consider when working on location.
See link below for a form, that will help in checking the location for any health and safety issues that you may encounter. (which is also in the guide from the listed here). Health and Safety Executive, Buildings used for locations or temporary studios in film and television on the HSE website or Buildings used for locations or temporary studios in film and television or download the modified one that I have created based on the one for television. Here: Location photography Health and Safety
One area that photographers need to consider is the possibility of people tripping or slipping over.
“Slip and Trip Hazards Control measures
In order to effectively control slip and trip risks, employers should:
- Identify the hazards – look for slip and trip hazards around the location or photo studio.
- Decide who might be harmed and how – look at who comes onto the location or photo studio, and whether they are at risk.
- Consider the risks and decide if precautions already being taken are enough, or if more needs to be done.
- Record the findings.
- Review the assessment regularly and revise it if necessary.
Location or photo studio premises are varied and often complex sites. The measures to control the risks will vary according to the different areas of the location or photo studio and the different activities being undertaken. Each will need to be assessed separately and a range of practical measures adopted to control the risk depending on the assessment. The risk factors to consider include:
- Environmental (floor, steps, slopes etc).
- Contamination (water, food, litter etc).
- Organisational (task, safety culture etc).
- Footwear (for example, footwear worn for photographic sessions may not always be in line with sensible shoes for work).
- Individual factors (eg information and training, supervision, pedestrian behaviour etc).”
The points above have been modified for the photographic studio and come from: Health and Safety Executive. Preventing slip and trip incidents in the education sector on the HSE website or Preventing slip and trip incidents in the education sector.
If you are asked to write a health and safety policy for your business then the Health and Safety Executive has a template that you can download from their website (www.hse.gov.uk) or by following the link year to: risk-assessment-and-policy-template (this link will download the attached file to your computer).
Health and Safety Executive. 2012 Buildings used for locations or temporary studios in film and televison (online) Available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/etis18.pdf (Accessed 9th February 2013).
Health and Safety Executive. 2012 Five steps to risk assessment (online) Available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg163.pdf (Accessed 9th February 2013).
Health and Safety Executive. Health and safety matters for special educational needs: Legal issues including risk assessment. (online) Available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/edis3.pdf (Accessed 9th February 2013). This guide seems to be currently no longer available.
Health and Safety Executive. 2003 Health and safety regulation..… a short guide. (online) Available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hsc13.pdf (Accessed 9th February 2013).
Health and Safety Executive. Preventing slip and trip incidents in the education sector. (online) Available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/edis2.pdf (Accessed 9th February 2013).
Health and Safety Executive. Publication links (online) Available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/regindex.htm (Accessed 9th February 2013).[printfriendly]