Setting the stage – how to safely set up scenery on school stages

Whether providing a backdrop to the Christmas nativity play or jazzing up the Sixth Form leavers’ assembly, scenery can really bring a school stage to life.

Though setting it up is often a low-risk activity, there are some Health & Safety considerations worth bearing in mind, particularly if pupils and contractors will be involved.

The risks

The associated Health & Safety risks are specific to the stage and scenery in question, which is why carrying out risk assessments is important so that you can implement specific control measures.

However, some common hazards include:

Manual handling – tall, awkward and unwieldy loads that are difficult to lift, transport and handle.Minor injury from moving and putting up scenery, properties and materials.
Using contractors – overlooking the additional Health & Safety considerations that come with this.Lives being put at risk, safeguarding dangers and pupil safety, and financial vulnerability.
Falling objects – due to unsecured items.Minor strike injury from items being used to set up stage scenery.
Wet/ slippery floors – e.g. from spills and leaks.Minor injury from slips and falls.
Poor lighting – activity may become difficult in low light.Contact and fall injuries due to poor visibility.
Unsecured edge – edge is exposed, leaving potential for falls from height and loss of goods.Potential injury from minor falls.

With the above in mind, what can you do to ensure scenery is set up safely?

1) First aid provisions

As with all activities in your school, it is vital to ensure that first aiders are available and everyone understands the correct procedures to follow in the event of an accident.

You might think you already have adequate first aid provisions in place. However, there are other things to consider. What if you are setting up scenery for an out-of-school-hours production? Have you considered how many first aiders will be available at that time?

To ensure your school is fully covered, you might decide that more employees need first aid training.

2) Contractors

Managing contractors is a Health & Safety challenge. If you’re using contractors to help put up stage scenery, some top tips include:

  • Choosing the right contractor after considering the appropriate safety and technical requirements
  • Checking that all contractors have the required Disclosure and Barring (DBS) checks, particularly if they’ll be engaging in regulated activity with children
  • Getting contractors to sign in and out as standard practice
  • Monitoring the subcontracted work and conducting a review after its completion.

3) Communication is key

Whether they’re a pupil, employee, volunteer or contractor, everyone involved in setting up your stage needs to be aware of how to do so safely.

To support with this, you should:

  • Embed Health & Safety awareness within your school’s curriculum
  • Highlight the stage edge to all stage users for maximum awareness
  • Advise employees, pupils and visitors on good manual handling techniques to make sure they have the correct training to carry out tasks safely
  • Ensure your Health & Safety handbook, policies and rules are communicated to all employees – as well as any third-party contractors

4) Setting up scenery

Before putting up scenery, carry out a dynamic risk assessment (this can be done visually and doesn’t need to be written). This allows you to consider if any extra control measures are needed.

During the actual set up, you need to make sure suitable equipment is used. For example, if you’re working at height, suitable step ladders must be used.Trolley trucks should be used to move items that are difficult to lift and transport.

Pupils must also be supervised for all activities they assist with.

5) Good housekeeping

Good Health & Safety management in a school often comes down to good housekeeping. Some general safety tips include:

  • Make sure fire exits and doors aren’t blocked by scenery, both during storage and once it’s been set up
  • Clean any spillages immediately
  • Make sure warning signs are clearly displayed
  • Keep all areas in your school clear, clean and tidy
  • If you’re using anything electrical, ensure that necessary testing has been carried out (e.g. PAT Testing and Fixed Wire Testing).

Citation can help

With over 20 years’ experience, Citation can support you to keep your school – and everyone in it – safe.

As well as getting access to more than 100 school-specific risk assessment templates, their Health & Safety experts are available to you 24/7 through their around-the-clock advice line, so that you can ask any questions that you might have, whenever they arise.

If you are not yet a Citation client and have any questions around your Health & Safety responsibilities, contact the Citation team on 0345 844 1111 or

Find out more about how Citation can support you with Health & Safety.

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