Safety Handbook & Manual

In Case of Emergency

Always call 911 first if someone is injured or if a life is in danger.

On Campus

Call Emerson College Police Department Emergency Number: 617-824-8888

ECPD must be reported of any injury that occurs on an Emerson Production.

Upon securing the injured person in the hands of medical care, contact Emerson Production Safety Office:

Emergency Hotline: 617-939-1311 
Email: vma_production [at]

If in production on or near campus, the nearest medical facility is:

Tufts Medical Center, 800 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111 
Emergency Room: 617-636-5566
General Phone: 617-636-5000

Off Campus

Call 911

Call Emerson College Police Department Emergency Number: 617-824-8888

Contact Emerson Production Safety Office:

Emergency Hotline: 617-939-1311 
Email: vma_production [at]

If in production near campus, the nearest medical facility is:

Tufts Medical Center, 800 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111 
Emergency Room: 617-636-5566
General Phone: 617-636-5000


Empowering Excellence: Fostering Innovation, Depth, and Diversity

The Visual & Media Arts department is dedicated to educating and empowering media professionals. Our mission is to promote the best practices in safety and sustainability within the industry while fostering innovation, depth, and diversity. Through expert guidance, thoughtfully crafted policies, and comprehensive resources, we aim to create a safer, more sustainable future for media productions. We firmly believe that responsible and innovative media production goes hand in hand with protecting both our teams and the environment. Join us on this exciting journey towards a brighter tomorrow, where safety, sustainability, and diversity converge to shape the future of media. 

Contact Information

VMA Production Safety Office: vma_production [at]

Office Location: 180 Tremont Street; Ansin Building, Room 917

Office Phone Number: 617-824-3493

Schedule a meeting

General Safety Guidelines

Students must commit to being active participants in maintaining and growing a culture of safety and accountability in the VMA department.

Critical Policies

The following are strictly prohibited on all Emerson productions:

  • NO real weapons. 
    • Including but not limited to guns, knives, and swords. 
    • For prop weapons see the Prop Weapons section.
    • For questions about what qualifies as a weapon, contact the Production Safety Office.
  • NO pyrotechnics.
    • Including but not limited to fireworks, explosions, and squibs.
    • For questions about what qualifies as pyrotechnics, contact the Production Safety Office.
  • NO electrical circuit tie-ins.
    • Tying into an electrical panel is dangerous and illegal.
  • NO drugs and alcohol.
    • Including “wrap beer”. 
  • NO rooftop or balcony productions.
    • Contact the Production Safety Office to discuss alternatives.
  • NO productions on or from helicopters, airplanes, or active train tracks. 
  • NO productions in common areas of Emerson buildings. 
    • Especially lobbies, halls, or elevators that may impede an egress path.

High-Value Equipment

The importance of responsible stewardship over our high-value film production equipment cannot be overstated, and it is imperative that every student exercise the utmost caution. Under no circumstances should the equipment, especially the ARRI Alexa 35 kits, ever be left unattended in a vehicle, apartment, or any other setting. The fragility and irreplaceable nature of these tools necessitate constant vigilance to prevent theft, damage, or loss. Furthermore, it is crucial to remember that the ARRI Alexa 35 is strictly prohibited from being shipped as baggage or checked onto any aircraft, bus, boat, or train. Its intricate components and delicate mechanisms demand specialized handling and care, and any negligence in this regard could result in loss or irreparable harm. Let this be a reminder that the responsibility of safeguarding our equipment rests upon each student's shoulders, and a firm commitment to its protection is paramount to the continued success of our academic and artistic endeavors.


1. Location Safety

Safety must always be considered when scouting locations.

A. General Location Guidelines

  • Permission from the property owner is required to film.
  • There is no smoking on the set of any Emerson College production. This is Massachusetts state law, which does not permit smoking in the workplace. 
    • Smoke only in designated areas.
  • Familiarize yourself with each location. Note all exits. 
  • Fire equipment (hydrants, extinguishers, sprinklers, hoses, etc.) must be accessible at all times.
  • Proper exit signs need to be posted. If there are no exit signs, you must post them.
  • Inform your professor and the Production Safety Office when working in a remote location.
    • When cell phone service is unavailable in a particular location, determine where you have to go for a reliable signal and find the nearest landline you can access in case of emergency.
    • Always be aware of people working above and below you.
    • Never run on set. Don’t rush and never panic. It is important to stay poised in order to make clear and safe decisions.

B. International Productions

All international productions must be approved by the Production Safety Office.

C. Housekeeping Essentials

  • Keep work areas neat and organized. Preplan use of your space on the location scout: figure out production areas, staging areas, and holding space.
  • When filming in a public location, be sure all equipment is in a secure place or someone is watching it.
  • Do not obstruct doorways, business access, driveways, or walkways with gear or people.
  • Use courtesy lights to illuminate a hazard, stairway, platforms, cables, and an exit door.
  • Do not put liquids in or on equipment cases. Equipment should be stored in a safe, dry place. Do not leave equipment unattended or in unlocked vehicles.
  • Do not leave gear in a vehicle overnight.
    • Clasp all cases when shut. The next person to come along and pick up that case could easily assume the case is clasped.

D. Structural Damage

  • Check for structural damage when scouting a building that may be picturesque and perfect for your scene. The following list contains some warning signs of structural damage.
    • Rotted floors
    • Crumbling pilings
      • Rickety staircases
    • Sagging floors
  • Even sound buildings can be rendered dangerous if they are altered by removing walls or parts of walls, beams, or other support structures.
  • If there are doubts of the building’s integrity, seek out another location.

E. Trip Hazards

  • All trip hazards must be identified, then removed or marked in an obvious manner.
  • All holes should be guarded or covered.

F. Garbage/Mold/Pests/Toxic Waste

  • If you find a location that contains animal or human excrement, dead animals, rodent nests, discarded needles, used condoms, moldy and mildewed materials, and similar unsanitary substances, do not film at this location.
    • Do not remove these substances or clean it yourself. Only professional waste handlers can safely remove the refuse that is listed above.
    • There are many diseases one can get by being exposed to such substances; do not take any chances by working in a toxic environment.

G. Lead Paint

  • Buildings built before 1978 should be assumed to contain lead paint.
  • Lead paint is most dangerous when air-borne  
  • Even well-painted-over or encapsulated lead paint can be made air-borne if renovation occurs or if paint becomes damaged.
  • Paint that leaves a chalky residue on your hands or is chipping and flaking off walls is a source of lead and lead dust.
  • Windows and sliding doors that create dust could send lead air-borne.

H. Asbestos

  • The inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause serious diseases, including cancer.
  • Even a brief exposure to asbestos can cause illness.
  • When a building is old and in disrepair or abandoned, it may have old exposed asbestos. It is difficult to know if some of these materials have asbestos.
    • If there is any suspicion of asbestos, it is better to seek a new location.
  • The following is a list of potential places to find asbestos.
    • Insulation around pipes, furnaces, and beams in the form of paper, cardboard, a powdery material under a cloth covering, cord and rope blown onto beams, and in many other forms.
    • Fibrous-looking insulation is sometimes packed around lighting fixtures or electrical equipment.
    • Fire curtains in old theaters.
    • Old ceiling tiles.
      • Roofs were made of asbestos until the mid 1970s.
    • Old plaster.
  • If unidentified dust is being disturbed during the scout or filming day, it may contain asbestos. Filming should stop immediately and premises vacated. 

I. Ventilation

  • Mold on a ventilation system is an obvious hazard. A location with mold on or in a ventilation system is toxic and therefore not acceptable.
  • A certain amount of fresh air is needed for good health, especially in hot locations.

2. VMA Production Portal

A safety form must be completed before being able to make a gear reservation at the EDC. Students are required to enter the approved safety form number at time of gear reservation.

The VMA Production Portal is the online platform through which the students are required to submit location safety forms, apply for Emerson on campus production permits and submit their insurance certificate requests for all productions. It is mandatory to present an all approved location safety form at the time of equipment pick up or to obtain insurance for public and private properties. Please contact the Production Safety Office with any questions or concerns regarding the use of the portal.

You can review production portal information or take a look at our instructional video for accessing and using our production portal.

Emerson follows a production portal workflow in which many parties are required to review your requests, planning ahead in order to obtain all necessary permits is essential. These parties are illustrated in the adjacent chart for Location Forms.

By logging in with your Emerson credentials, the portal pulls in your academic information from Banner. You can select a class or organization you are actively registered in from the drop down menu.  The next step is to set up a project, for each project you can make as many location forms as needed. For your academic projects we recommend creating a project per class and then submitting locations forms for different assignments under that class. The form will gather basic information such as your name, student ID, email, project name, course, project dates, and professor. The form will then ask your location type, this will be either on campus, public property or private property. 

On Campus

To film on campus students must first reserve a room on Spacebook. Once the room is reserved, the location form can be filled out. Depending on the location, students will be required to watch a video and confirm their project meets the requirements for the space. The form will be reviewed by the space managers and the Production Safety Office. It is important to allow time as reviewers may send notes back requesting more information or advising students of availability/limits of the space. Students must enter the approved safety form number into their EDC gear reservation. 

Public Property

Listing the use of public property (in the city of Boston or a DCR property) will alert Emerson’s Government Relations Office, the office will assist with obtaining any permits needed. The form will also be reviewed by the faculty advisor, Production Safety Office, and risk management department if any extra insurance is needed. It is important to allow time as reviewers may send notes back requesting more information or advising students of availability/limits of the space.  Students must enter the approved safety form number into their EDC gear reservation. 

Private Property

For productions on private property, the Production Safety Office, faculty advisor, risk management team, and location manager will review the form. Insurance may sometimes be requested by the owner of the private property. Students must provide the full name and contact information of property owners. For third party rentals, an official replacement quote document must be provided.  Students must enter the approved safety form number into their EDC gear reservation.

Insurance Notes

Emerson college provides liability insurance for student productions on public and private property. You can apply to obtain a COI through the VMA Production Portal. 

  • Insurance may sometimes be requested by the owner of the private property. Students must provide the full name and contact information of property owners. For third party rentals, an official replacement quote document must be provided.
  • Students must inform the Production Safety Office of foreign and domestic air travel with equipment, so that casing and insurance documents are provided. 
  • Emerson College policy does not provide rental vehicle insurance.Emerson College does not provide workers compensation insurance policy.

In case of loss or theft of equipment, an insurance claim will be submitted and an investigation will determine the final judgment on each party’s liability. 

3. Call Sheets

All call sheets must have the following information. If the production does not use a call sheet, then the producer must have this information.

Production title.

  • Date and general call time of the production.
  • Emerson Safety Hotline Number: 617-939-1311.
  • Producer and location manager contact information.
  • Weather forecast.
  • Nearest hospital address and phone number
  • Address of the filming location.
  • Any special rules for the particular location.
  • Scene descriptions
  • Special equipment, special effects, props, stunts, and any other  needs.
  • Names and individual call times  of all cast and crew on the set that day
  • Directions to location should be attached.

Resources for making call sheets:

  • StudioBinder
  • Set Hero
  • Research templates online

4. Working with Talent

Particular care must be taken with talent. Performers are not as aware of the possible hazards on a set as crew members are. 
It is the AD’s responsibility to get the performers to the set and make them aware of any hazards. If there isn’t an AD, this task falls on the producer.

Every production is required to list all their cast and crew members on the location safety form on the VMA portal. 
In case of working with minors, a signed copy of the release form and Emerson College minor agreement must be attached to the location safety form. 

  • Have someone escort the performer from the holding area to the set.
  • Working with the elderly or disabled also takes more care and attention. 
    • Exp. An unbalanced person is much more likely to trip over something on set and is also more susceptible to injury.


Safety becomes a larger issue when young children are on the set and extra care must be taken when working with minors. 

  • Crew should be aware of all hazards on set, how they may affect minors and how to protect minors.
  • The chaperone who accompanies a minor to the set is not permitted to do any other work on the set. The chaperone’s only job is to watch over the minor.
  • A parent or guardian, not the chaperone accompanying the minor to the set, must sign a talent release form.

When working with minors (age 17 years or younger), Emerson College mirrors the SAG minor workday rules.

Workday Rules

  • Minors may not work before 5:30 am or after 12:30 am. 
  • A minor’s final work day must be concluded at least 12 hours before the beginning of their next regular school day.
  • On a school day (determined by the school where the child is enrolled), school-age minors must receive three hours of education between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:00 pm.
  • A parent or guardian must accompany minors through age 15. Minors age 16 and 17 may work without a parent or guardian present. The parent or guardian is entitled to be within the sight and sound of the minor at all times.
  • Minors who are high school graduates are exempt from the child labor laws and may work on the same basis as adults.
  • You should never be alone with the minor. If the guardian has left the set for any reason always make sure there are other crew and/or cast around.

School-Age Minors

On a school day, school-age minors may work these hours:

  • Ages 6 to 8: 4 hours of work time with a maximum of 8.5 hours on the set.
  • Ages 9 to 15: 5 hours of work time with a maximum of 9.5 hours on the set.
  • Ages 16 and 17: 6 hours of work time with a maximum of 10.5 hours on the set.
  • On days when school is not in session, school- age minors may work an additional two hours.
  • On all days, minors must have at least one hour of rest and recreation and one half-hour meal break.

Preschool Age Minors

Minors who are 6 months through 5 years do not attend school on the set, even though they may attend preschool or kindergarten on a regular basis. Preschool age minors may work these hours:

  • Ages 6 months to 2 years: 2 hours of work time with maximum of 4 hours on set.
  • Ages 2 to 5 years: 3 hours of work time with maximum of 4 hours on set.
    • Minors 6 months to 5 years must have at least one hour of rest and recreation.


Infants under the age of 1 month are not permitted to work on set. Infants under 6 months of age are limited to the following schedule:

  • Infants can only be on the set between the hours of 9:30 am and 11:30 am or 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm.
  • Infants under 6 months but over 1 month of age are only permitted to work 20 minutes (maximum of 2 hours on set.)


Nude shots/scenes call for the utmost care, consideration and discretion for the performer.

  • If a performer is feeling uncomfortable with the nude scene and has reconsidered the decision on the day of filming, the performer must not be forced or coerced into performing.
  • Anyone performing nude should have a safe person of their choice present for the scene.
  • It is necessary to film with a closed set when performers are nude. That means the minimal amount of crew needed should be on the set.
  • Provide a bathrobe (coverup)  in between takes if necessary.


Dealing with intimacy in a production is a delicate matter. Whether performers are nude or not, they are in a very vulnerable position. The situation requires thoughtfulness and prudence. Above all there must be clear communication and understanding between the performers and the director. 
It is recommended to work with an Intimacy Coordinator (IC) with any scene that contains nudity, hyper exposure, stimulated sexual scenes, and deep physical intimate contact that might not be sexual.

  • An IC works as an advocate for the performers. The IC works in consort with the director, the AD and any crew that might be involved with the intimate scene.
  • It is important to choreograph all intimate scenes in advance in order to make the performers comfortable with the interaction. 
  • The IC meets with the producer and director to discuss details of script breakdown and intimate scenes. The meeting(s) are to determine the degree of nudity, the specifics of the intimate scene and any other pertinent details.
  • The IC ensures clear communication with performers regarding any nudity, simulated sex or hyper-exposed situation.
  • The IC confirms consent from the performers to do the intimate scene during rehearsal and through live takes.
  • Performers have agency over their bodies and they are only expected to work to their levels of consent concerning nudity, hyper-exposure, stimulated sexual scenes, deep physical intimate contact that might not be sexual.
  • If a performer feels like the intimate scene is too much for them to handle and cannot perform, the performer should not be coerced into doing the scene.
  • All intimate scenes should be done on a closed set in order for the performer to be comfortable.
  • The implementation of these standards and protocols for the use of intimacy in productions, provide a safety net for performers.

Emerson College endorses the five pillars of performance and rehearsal practices as set down by Intimacy Directors International.

  1. Context: Before any choreography can be considered, there must first be an understanding of the story and the given circumstances surrounding a scene of intimacy. All parties must be aware of how the scene of intimacy meets the needs of the
    story and must also understand the story within the intimacy itself. This not only creates a sense of safety, but also illuminates the unexpected and ensures that the intimacy is always in service of the story.

  2. Communication: There must be open and continuous communication between the director, the Intimacy director, (if there is one) and the actors. This communication includes but is not limited to, discussion of the scene, understanding of the choreography, continued discussion throughout the rehearsal period, frequent check-in’s during the run, and an openness to
    discuss any actions in the process.

  3. Consent: Before any scene of intimacy can be addressed, consent must be established between the actors. Permission may be given by the director, script supervisor, or choreographer; however, consent can only be given from the person receiving the action. Starting choreography from a place of understanding consent ensures that all parties are clear about to which actions they are consenting, and provides actors with the agency to remove consent.

  4. Choreography: Each scene of intimacy must be choreographed, and that choreography will be adhered to for the entire production. Any changes to the choreography must first be approved by the actors. It is the job of the producer to ensure that the choreography is performed as intended. The producer must also address any discrepancies that may appear in the rehearsal process and the performances.

  5. Closure: At the end of every rehearsal or scene of intimacy, actors are encouraged to develop a closing moment between them to signify the end of the work. This small moment or simple ritual can be used between takes or upon the close of a rehearsal. We encourage this as a moment to leave the characters, relationships, and actions from the work behind, and walk back into our lives.


All Emerson College productions must follow the American Humane Association Guidelines for the protection of animals in films. A copy of the guidelines can be obtained from the organization (

  • The Production Safety Office must approve all wild or exotic animals (including reptiles) used in an Emerson production.
  • When filming domestic animals, students must notify their professor.
  • All animal stunts or potentially dangerous animal action used in an Emerson College production must be approved by the Production Safety Office.
  • Animals are unpredictable. When animals are used on productions, the animal handler must meet with cast and crew at the safety meeting at the beginning of the day and inform them of the safety procedures in effect and answer any questions.
  • Do not feed, pet, or play with an animal without permission and direct supervision of the animal handler.

5. Specialized Equipment

Using specialized film equipment often needs special training. Students are permitted to use special equipment upon approval from their professor and the Production Safety Office. There must also be a trained, certified, and qualified person to operate the equipment. Contact the Production Safety Office with any questions or concerns.


1. Safety Meeting

Regardless of where you are filming, safety meetings are held to share information and address all concerns at the beginning of the production. 

Additional Safety Meetings To Be Called When

  • When there is a new location.
  • When the current plans change.
  • When there are stunts. Everyone on set must be aware of the stunt and how it will be shot.
  • When there are prop weapons. Everyone must be made aware of any prop weapon on the set.
  • When there are any special effects. Everyone on set must be made aware of the special effect and how it will be implemented and shot.
  • When the production is on or in water. All protocol and safety issues must be discussed.
  • When there is a large change in the number of cast and crew.

Potential Agenda for a Safety Meeting

  • Discuss rules that apply to that specific location.
  • Discuss the day’s action and establish staging areas.
  • Discuss the use of any prop weapons, special effects, stunts, animals, specialized equipment, sensitive subject matters,  etc.
  • Identify any potential hazards and make the cast and crew aware of them.
  • Establish safe work areas and off-limit areas. 
  • Provide guidelines for working with any safety concern.
  • Point out sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers to the crew. Make sure equipment is not set up near sprinkler heads. 
  • Discuss emergency procedures. Point out all fire exits and discuss an evacuation plan in event of fire or other catastrophe.
  • Create a meeting place outside the building in case of emergency.
  • Discuss company moves taking place during the day.
  • Let the cast and crew know they should feel comfortable to voice any safety concerns.
  • Let the cast and crew know that they need to report any injury to the producer.
  • At the end of the meeting, ask if anyone has any questions or concerns.

2. Safety Concerns

Drop Down Menu:

  1. Electricity
  2. Open Flames
  3. Stunts
  4. Elevation
  5. Prop Weapons
  6. Cars and Moving Vehicles
  7. Water
  8. Lifting
  9. Special Effects

A. Electricity

Incorrect application of electricity can result in serious injury or death. There should always be a heightened sense of awareness when working with electricity. When dealing with lights or electricity distribution DO NOT GUESS, get help. 

Electric Rules and Guidelines
  • There are no electrical tie-ins permitted on any Emerson College production.
  • Most high–voltage power lines are not insulated and are extremely dangerous. Always assume power lines are not insulated. Do not work or place any equipment within 12 feet of electrical power lines.
  • Do not reach for an electrical device that has fallen into water. Unplug the device immediately.
  • Do not place lights near sprinkler heads. Some sprinkler heads are very sensitive, especially some of the sprinkler heads on campus.
  • Do not leave hot lights unattended.
  • Do not plug in lights while light switches are in the “on” position
  • Do not change a bulb while the light is plugged in.
  • Always wear gloves when changing bulbs. Never touch a bulb with bare hands; it leaves residue that can shatter the bulb when it heats up. HMI bulbs are highly sensitive.
  • Always examine the condition of all plugs, cables, and equipment for exposed wire; excess wear; fraying, breaks, or cuts in the insulation. This should be done when checking out the gear from the EDC or other rental house. Do not use damaged equipment. Return this equipment for repair.
  • If you must lay electrical cables across doorways, you should tape them down. If rubber matting is available, it should be put over cables and taped down.
  • When working with lights, you should always wear leather gloves. Gloves will protect against burns, but not against electrical shock.
  • Always hold the cable connector or plug when disconnecting a cable. Never pull from the cable.
  • Do not use aluminum ladders when working with lights.
  • Make sure all connections are solid.
  • A faulty connection is the major cause of an electrical accident.
  • When an electric cable is hot, there is a problem. Check the connection; if the connection seems solid, then remove the cable or the light from usage.
  • Frequent interruption of power or flickering or dimming lights is a sign of a faulty electrical system.
  • When a light is on a stand, the power cord should fall straight to the ground at the base and have some slack coiled or in a figure eight at the base. It is a good practice to run the cable under the sandbag so that if someone trips on the stinger, the strain will be absorbed at the bottom of the stand and will not pull the whole light over.
  • One or more sandbags should be placed on each light stand depending on the light’s size.
  • Make sure there is strain relief on the cable coming out of the light and the cable is not being pulled from the back of the light.
  • Older locations which have only the two-prong type outlets must be avoided. These outlets are not grounded and present a significant risk of electrical shock. Also, if your location uses the old screw-in fuses, do not film there. If that location is essential to your film, you must provide electricity from a rented generator.

Circuit Breakers and Fuses

  • Do not obstruct circuit panels. Panels should have a minimum three-foot clearance.
  • Electric panel doors must be operable and remain closed.
  • All electric panels should have clear access; a blocked panel is a serious hazard.
  • Do not use the circuit breaker as an on and off switch.
  • If you blow a fuse or pop the circuit breaker, find the problem before changing the fuse or resetting the circuit breaker.
  • Never replace a fuse with a larger one. For example: If you blow a 15-volt fuse, you can’t replace it with a 20-volt fuse.
  • The circuit breaker panels must not be exposed. Keep the panel door closed.
  • Locate panels before filming, preferably during the location scout.

Calculating Electrical Capacity

It is important to calculate the electrical capacity at your location. The amount of amps (current) available to you on a circuit is displayed on the circuit breaker. If it is an older house, it will be on the fuse.

  • Use this formula when calculating amps:
    • Amps= Watts ÷ Volts.
      • An amp is the unit of electrical current.
      • Volts are the force of electricity.
      • Watts are the power outage.
  • Standard voltage in the United States is 120. Always use 120 for volts. This number changes outside the United States.
  • Watts are based on the power outage of the lights, tools, or devices you are using.
  • Add up the wattage on your lights, tools, and devices and you have the watts portion of your formula.
  • If you have several circuits, distribute the power usage.
  • Do not overload the circuit.
  • If lights must be used continuously for more than three hours, then use only 80 percent of available amperage.

Electric Shock

In the event that someone comes into contact with a live wire, completes a circuit, and goes into electric shock, the biggest danger is that the person’s muscles will contract and freeze. The person will not be able to pull away from the wire. The severity of an electrical injury and the likelihood of cardiac arrest and death are directly proportional to the length of time a person is shocked.

  • When someone is being shocked, a quick response is necessary. Turn the power off immediately.
    • Do not pull the victim away with your hands – you will be shocked, too. Use a broom, belt, towel, rope or other non-conductive material to separate the victim from the source of shock.
  • If a person has been shocked, call for emergency medical service. 
    • Once the victim is separated from the electrical source, if there is a CPR-certified person on set, begin CPR immediately and continue until the ambulance arrives.
    • If the person seems uninjured, it is still necessary for a doctor to determine if there is any internal damage.
  • After getting the person to the hospital, notify the Production Safety Office


Do not let your body become grounded. If you are grounded, you have the potential of becoming part of the electric circuit and open to having electricity pass through your body. This can result in serious injury or death.

The following is a partial list of the serious risks that could cause you to become grounded:

  • Wet hands, wet feet, wet or damp ground floor, wet cables.
  • Any place where there is water
  • Faulty circuits at your location
  • Touching two lights at the same time
  • Faulty wiring of your lighting equipment, devices, or cables
  • Insulation breaks or cuts in the cable
  • Touching electrical equipment and a grounded object

Power Tools

Power tools are dangerous, they should always be handled with care and respect.

  • Do not use a power tool you have not been properly trained on. If you have any questions about tools you are using, contact the Production Safety Office.
  • Power tools should never be carried by their cords and they should never be shut off by yanking the cord from the outlet. This puts too much stress on the cord and other connections.
  • If a power tool is treated roughly, dropped, banged around, or gets wet, the insulation may weaken and present the possibility of a shock hazard. If the operator is standing on a wet conductive surface, the shock can be fatal.
  • Insulating platforms, rubber gloves, and rubber mats provide an additional safety factor when working with power tools in damp locations.
  • Regular inspection and maintenance is important. Inspect a tool before using it. Make sure the cord is in good condition. Check the trigger. Make sure it works easily, that the trigger doesn’t stick, and the power goes off quickly when the trigger is released.
  • When using power tools during construction, Ground Fault Circuit-Interrupter (GFCI) protection is required. Test the GFCI device to see if it is functioning properly. Portable GFCI devices are available and should be used when operating tools while standing on an outdoor grade or damp concrete.

Electric Housekeeping

  • Do not place objects, food, or liquid on electrical equipment.
  • Maintain an organized staging area.
  • Always keep the set and staging area clean by picking up pieces of gel, clothespins, black wrap, and other lighting accouterments. Be neat and organized to avoid unnecessary trip hazards.
  • When lights are not being used, bring them back to the staging area. Coil unused cables and also return them to the staging area.
  • Turn off power whenever possible.

B. Open Flames

The use of fire, which includes any open flame, constitutes a potentially hazardous situation on any production. Fire can be used, but must be handled in a controlled, safe manner.

Fire Safety

  • The Production Safety Office must approve the use of fire on any Emerson College production.    
  • There are no open flames permitted on campus.
    • When an open flame is permitted (off campus), a crew member must be designated as the student safety officer. The designated student will be responsible for keeping the flame under control.
    • When filming in a public place in the City of Boston, permission must be obtained from the city. A full disclosure of any fire must be on your permit application.
  • Conduct a safety meeting when using fire:
    • Make sure there are fire extinguishers on set to handle any fire emergency Inform cast and crew of where fire extinguishers are located.
    • Test the fire extinguishers before igniting any open flame.
    • Note and point out all escape routes. 
    • There must be posted exit signs.
      • If there are no exit signs, the production team must post exit signs.
    • Fire exits should always be accessible and never chained or locked.
    • Never put anything in front of or behind a stairwell/fire exit door.
    • Identify and point out all overhead sprinklers
      • Find out if they are in working order, find out if they are in working order. 
  • When working with open flames such as fireplaces and campfires: those fed by propane tanks enable complete shut down between takes, as well as regulation of flame height during the shot. This allows for more control.
  • Be careful of loose clothing around open flame. Untreated fabric can ignite quickly and cause severe injury.
  • In some situations, the illusion of fire can be created with a lighting effect.

C. Stunts

There is a wide range of action on a movie set that can be considered stunts. Depending on the action, stunts can be highly dangerous and may require you to have a professional stunt person on the set.

  • The Production and Safety Office must approve all stunts.
  • Students must submit a proposal and risk assessment plan for any stunts- see here for Stunt Safety CheckList.
  • If approved: There must be a certified stunt coordinator on set to properly plan and rehearse all stunts.

D. Elevation


Although ladders are common in life and on set, they should not be taken for granted.  

Here are a few things to keep in mind when working with ladders:

  • Examine the ladder for damage or defects. If there is a problem with the ladder, do not use it.
  • When climbing the ladder, always face the ladder and maintain three points of contact on the ladder.
  • Use the appropriate size ladder for application. Don’t stretch or reach too far. If your navel is on the outside of the ladder, you are reaching too far. Either move the ladder or get a higher one.
  • Do not straddle between the ladder and another object.
  • Do not stand on the top two steps.
  • Only one person may use a ladder at a time.
  • Do not place the ladder on uneven surfaces. Always place it on level surfaces. If need be, stabilize the ladder with a sandbag
  • Do not reposition the ladder while you are on it.
  • Do not leave any tools or equipment on top of the ladder.
  • Do not place the ladder on boxes for extra height.
  • Do not use an aluminum ladder when working with lights.
  • When filming exteriors, beware of slippery surfaces, wind, and power lines.

Elevated Work Platforms

NO Rooftop or balcony filming. Contact the Production Safety Office to discuss alternatives.

These guidelines are applicable to vertically operated elevated work platforms or “scissor lifts” and boom mounted, telescoping and rotating, elevating work platforms, such as “condors.” 

  • Only persons trained in the safe use of these work platforms are authorized to operate these devices. 
  • Equipment shall be inspected prior to operation for satisfactory condition, damage and defects. This shall include all operational controls which shall be in proper functioning condition. 
  • Operators shall consider the job to be performed and  evaluate the job site location for potential hazards. 
    • a. This equipment should not be operated within 10 feet of an energized high voltage source unless danger from accidental contact with that source has been effectively guarded against. 
    • b. The operation of aerial devices/work platforms OVER energized, high voltage sources of any sort is prohibited at all times. 
  • Appropriate measures should be taken to ensure that the job site’s surface is stable and will support the equipment and that there are no hazardous irregularities or accumulation of debris which might cause a moving platform to overturn. 
  • Approved safety belts, with lanyard or safety strap, shall be worn when using these work platforms.
  • The basket, tub or platform shall NOT be loaded beyond its rated capacity. 
  • Ladders, planks, or other objects shall NOT be placed in, or on top of the platform or guard rail to gain greater height. Students shall NOT sit or climb on the edge of the basket/platform.
  • Filmmakers Shall NOT work from aerial work platforms when: 
    • Exposed to extreme weather conditions (thunderstorms, heavy rain, extreme heat or cold) unless provisions have been made to ensure protection and safety of the filmmakers. 
    • Winds exceed 25 miles per hour. 
  • Aerial baskets, tubs or platforms shall NOT be supported by, or attached to, any adjacent structure. 
  • Where moving vehicles or pedestrian traffic is present, the work area around the aerial equipment shall be marked by flags, signs, traffic cones or other means of traffic control. 
  • The braking system shall be set when elevating filmmakers and when wheel chocks are used. 
  • Outriggers must be on solid footing and must be equipped with hydraulic holding valves or mechanical locks at the outriggers. 
  • Operate all controls slowly to ensure smooth platform movement. 
  • Do NOT attempt to raise the platform/basket beyond its rated maximum height or reach. 
  • “TOWERING” (traveling with a worker in an elevated basket) is NOT permitted. 
  • Aerial platforms when in operation shall be solely under the control of the operator in the basket or on the platform. At no time shall the equipment be moved, lowered, or otherwise controlled from the secondary (ground control) panel unless the operator in the basket makes a request that it be done, or the operator is ill or otherwise incapacitated. 
  • Boom-mounted telescoping and rotating aerial platforms shall NOT be used as a crane (objects lung below the basket). 
  • When moving scissor lift-type platforms, operators shall first position themselves on board the platform and then conduct all moving operations from that position.

E. Prop Weapons

Real weapons are rare even on sets of major motion pictures because of the inherent danger they pose. Real weapons are strictly prohibited in all Emerson productions.

Real Weapons NOT ALLOWED

  • Real weapons, which include but are not limited to guns, knives, and swords…etc.
  • Non-guns, disabled guns, or any guns that can fire any type of projectile.
  • Live ammunition, blanks, or anything capable of being fired 

Prop Weapons

Even a prop weapon can cause an unsafe situation. Prop weapons are permitted within guidelines.

  • Prop weapons must be reported to your professor and approved by the Production Safety Office.
  • Prop weapons must be rubber, foam, or a toy, all which need approval from the Production Safety Office.  
  • When using a prop weapon in public, you must get a permit from the City of Boston. 
    • The City of Boston requires students to have a police detail if they are using certain prop weapons in public.
  • If filming in another town, you must go to the town hall or office that will approve your prop weapon. Observe all applicable local laws when using prop weapons.
  • When not in use, all prop weapons must be stored in a locked, secure space and must never be exposed when transporting.
  • Prop weapons are not allowed to be stored in the residence halls. All prop weapons that need to stay on campus must be stored with the Emerson police.
  • Notify neighbors and businesses in surrounding areas when prop weapons can be seen in public.

On Set with a Prop Weapon

At the safety meeting, everyone working on the film must be made aware that there will be a prop gun in use, who will be handling it, and how it will be used in the scene.

If the plan changes, hold another safety meeting to update the cast and crew.    

  • Only the props master or one designated person shall handle and be responsible for the prop weapon.
    • Crew and cast should never point the prop weapon at anyone or themselves.
  • The prop weapon should be treated like a real weapon. 
    • The props master will hold the weapon until the scene is ready to film.
    • Right before the camera is turned on, the prop weapon will be handed to the performer.
    • At cut, the props master will retrieve the weapon.
  • Never lay down a prop weapon unattended.
  • At no time should there be any horseplay with a prop weapon.

F. Cars and Moving Vehicles

Vehicles and Driving

Filming in a vehicle presents great challenges and brings up major concerns for the safety of cast and crew, as well as pedestrians and other vehicles.

  • The Production Safety office must approve all driving scenes.
  • The only time students are permitted to film in a moving vehicle: 
    • Documentary filming.
    • The shot must be handheld with a cellphone or a small DSLR camera.
    • No lights are allowed except with a process trailer.
    • Students are not permitted to have performers drive a car.
    • Everyone in the vehicle must use seat belts.

Car Mounts

  • Car mounts are only allowed when using a process trailer.
  • When using car mounts, you must have someone who is trained and qualified to rig car mounts.
  • Consider using a poor man’s process. A poor man’s process uses lights, flags, etc. on a stationary car to create the illusion of movement.

Tow Rigs

  • All tow rigs on any Emerson College production must be approved by the Production Safety Office.  
  • Tow rigs must be driven by a trained, licensed, and qualified professional.
  • A permit is required by the City of Boston to use any tow rig in conjunction with any production.
  • In most tow rig situations, you will be required to hire a police detail to accompany the production.

G. Water and Boats

Contact the Production Safety Office to discuss any and all work with water and/or boats.

Boating and filmmaking present distinct challenges with each new endeavor. Prioritizing safety becomes paramount when these two domains converge. 

Working on or in Water

  • The Production Safety Office must approve all student productions filming on any watercraft and/or underwater.
  • Producers must research the potential safety issues in the body of water where they are filming, such as swift currents, waterfalls, thick underwater plant life, rocks, etc.
  • A safety meeting must be held at the beginning of the day to go over safety issues while working on the water, as well as to discuss emergency procedures.
  • The cast and crew must be notified in advance of all boat and water shots.
  • All cast and crew working on or near water must wear life vests.
  • No student shall be pressured to work on/in water if they cannot swim or are not comfortable in that situation.
  • When using any watercraft, you must be aware of load and rider capacity limits. Only required personnel should be on the watercraft. All others should remain on land.


  • Stand clear of the boat and dock edge during docking procedures. Do not attempt to board until the watercraft is securely tied to the dock and a member of the boat crew gives the command to board.
  • Never under any circumstances place arms, legs, or other body parts between the boat and dock or between two boats.
  • When boarding, only a designated boarding area or device shall be used. Do not step over rails, gunwales (side of the boat), or lifelines.
  • Do not block access to the watercraft’s cleats or emergency access hatches. If you are unsure where to stow your gear, ask one of the watercraft crew members.

Once on Board

  • Keep one hand available at all times to hold onto the watercraft or its railing.
  • Operation of valves, switches, etc. is to be performed only by watercraft crew members.
  • No one should straddle the gunwale or sit with their legs dangling off the side of the boat.
  • Bring  sunglasses, sunblock, and a hat for personal protection.


  • Should there be rain, or the threat of rain, you need to provide shelter for both equipment and cast/crew. 
  • Wear rain gear, including correct gloves and rubber boots. Cast and crew should be notified to bring rain gear and alternate clothing should weather conditions change unexpectedly.
  • Using electricity of any kind in wet weather conditions is very dangerous and should not be done. 
  • Do not use generators in wet weather. 
  • All cameras and lights need to have proper covers. 
  • Rainy weather is often windy weather. Should it be windy, lights and stands should have additional sandbags. Rope can also be used to stabilize tall stands. 
  • Never stand in puddles of water or place equipment in puddles of water. Ideally all equipment is raised off the ground.

H. Lifting

Many back and neck injuries are caused by improper lifting. Taking a couple of seconds to get into the proper position to lift heavy equipment will prevent short- and long- term injury.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when lifting heavy equipment or anything else.

Lifting Guidelines

  • Assess the weight of the load.
  • Position yourself as close to the object as possible, position feet at least shoulder width apart, get a good grip, always bend at the knees. Keep your head up and back arched, lift smoothly with legs. Inhale and tighten your abdomen before lifting, exhale as you lift.
  • When possible, use dollies and hampers to move gear.
  • If something is too heavy, get help. If you have to strain to carry the load, it is too heavy.
  • Two person lifting: Communicate and time the lift, plan the lift and landing, clear the path and space where equipment will land. 
  • Make sure you can see where you are walking.

Things to Remember

  • Avoid overhead lifting when possible.
  • Do not reach on a ladder. Adjust the ladder to get closer.
  • Do not twist your body while lifting.
  • Do not rush; use slow and smooth movements. Hurried, jerky movements can strain the muscles in your back.
  • Do the work with your arms and legs, not your back.
  • Take caution on slippery and uneven surfaces.
  • Back and neck injuries are more likely to occur when you are fatigued.

I. Special Effects

The Production Safety Office must approve any use of special effects.

Special effects can range from simple to complicated to dangerous. Proper care must always be taken when performing special effects on set. 

NOT ALLOWED on Emerson Productions

  • Pyrotechnics 
  • Fireworks
  • Explosions
  • Squibs
  • etc.

Fog and Smoke

The use of fog or smoke is highly toxic, and even fog that is deemed acceptable can cause some people to have a physical reaction.

  • If you are going to use smoke, you must inform all crew members and cast in advance so they may decide if they want to be part of that production.

When smoke is created on an interior set, the set shall be periodically ventilated, or all personnel and animals shall be given a break away from the stage at appropriate intervals.

When using smoke or fog effects, utilize the minimum concentration necessary to achieve the desired effect.

The following substances should NOT be used:

  • Known human carcinogens including any particulates of combustion, including tobacco smoke (except when such smoke results from the smoking of tobacco by an performer in a scene)
  • Fumed and hydrolyzed chlorides
  • Ethylene glycol and Diethylene glycol
  • Mineral oils
  • Aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons including petroleum distillates
  • Hexachloroethane and Cyclohexylamine

The following substances may be used:

  • Propylene glycol, Butylene glycol, Polyethylene glycol, and Triethylene glycol. Other glycol products should not be used (see above).
  • Glycerin products.
    • Caution: Glycerin and Glycol should not be heated above 700 degrees Fahrenheit.

J. Working at Night

Special care must be taken when working at night. Safety issues arise due to the lack of light, with fatigue being a significant contributing factor.

  • Work lights should be set up when possible.
  • Trip hazards need more attention drawn toward them at night. 
  • Set work lights to illuminate trip hazards.
  • Students should always carry a flashlight on set.

Green Production Program

All VMA students are encouraged and able to participate in the Green Production Program, and commit to following program guidelines.

Capstone Projects (BA, BFA, MFA) are eligible for a reimbursement budget increase, in the case of approval.

Contact the Production Safety Office to learn more about participating in Emerson’s sustainability efforts.

Critical Reminders

  • Members of cast and crew should not be required to perform any activity that makes them feel unsafe.
  • Students who breach safety rules will be held accountable. 
    • Depending on the severity of the breach, students will come before a Review Board through the Office of Student Conduct that will decide the extent of the disciplinary action. 
  • Students must follow specific guidelines for the use of on-campus facilities.  
    • Contact facility managers. 

The student or students who are getting credit for a project are responsible for taking all precautions to protect the health and safety of the cast and crew. In co-curricular groups, the producer is responsible.
However, it is up to each crew member to act responsibly and work safely in compliance with all applicable rules and safety guidelines.

Set Protocol

These guidelines represent essential expectations for professional conduct.

All members of the production must be listened to and respected. Here are some guidelines for establishing an efficient and respectful production environment. 

  • Adhere to professional conduct and uphold the standards of on- and off-set behavior, maintaining professionalism at all times. 
  • Refrain from using offensive language that may create a hostile or uncomfortable work atmosphere.
  • Respect and follow the chain of command on the production set.
    • If there is a problem, consult your direct superior.  If you are the key to your department make sure you go to the right production team member. 
  • Familiarize yourself with the specific rules of each set. A lead crew member should inform the crew about these rules prior to filming. 
  • Read the call sheet carefully, as it contains vital information essential to the production. Consider it your comprehensive guide.
    • Look at the call sheet first to answer your questions. In most cases, many of your questions can be answered by looking at the call sheet.
  • Do not exceed a 12-hour production day limit, this is inclusive or crew call and wrap time.
    • A full meal must be served between the 5th and 6th hour after call time on each and every 10-hour production day. Water and snacks must be available at all times during each production day.
  • Work starts at call time. Be there before to settle in, prepare (go to the bathroom, eat, etc.) and be ready to start at the stated call time.
    • It is mandatory to have a minimum 10-hour turnaround between the wrap time of one production day and the start time of the next.
    • Be prepared for the day’s work. Have all the tools you need. Bring proper clothing for weather changes. Stay hydrated and fed.
    • All cast and crew members must be provided with safe and adequate means of transportation to and from all locations and for any production-related runs.
    • Wear clothes and shoes that are comfortable and suitable for the type of work and weather. 
      • It is important that footwear be sturdy sneakers or boots. There are no high-heeled shoes or open- toed shoes allowed on set. 
      • Do not wear loose jewelry or any clothing with fringe or hanging material that might get caught on equipment. The only exception is for performers in wardrobe.
      • It is easier to guard against frostbite, hypothermia, heat stroke, or heat exhaustion than it is to treat it. Always have water available on set and be prepared for changes in the weather. 
  • Always double-check with producers to ensure the equipment you need will be brought to set or arrive on set prepared with the tools you need.
  • When there are delineated departments, never touch another department’s equipment without permission.
  • Call out anytime you are turning on a light (striking), flying in gear, carrying gear that could hit someone (points)...etc.
  • When working with electricity, Always assume everything is hot. Never plug or unplug anything, ALWAYS ask a set electric.
  • Check the location for: production space, equipment storage, cast and extras holding, space for hair and make-up, rooms for wardrobe, restrooms, phones, local hospital, grocery store, hardware store, and any other vendor that you might need at the last minute.
  • Whether you are filming on private or public property, always investigate the local rules and regulations regarding film production. Laws vary from place to place, and it is always a good idea to have the support of the local authorities.
  • Consider reaching out to neighbors before filming if the production is going to have an impact on the area. Provide information to address any inquiries or concerns they may have, as well as listing contact information.
  • Write a ‘service list’ for each location that includes the name, address, phone, and hours of the nearest following services: hospital, police, fire department, hardware store, 24-hour deli, and several restaurants that are open during the hours you will be at the location.
  • When filming in a limited space, keep only the minimal amount of crew members and equipment.
  • When asked to perform a task and you are in the middle of another task, communicate that at the moment to determine which task takes priority.
  • Always communicate and make sure others acknowledge the change you make.
  • Watch your department head and be aware of what is going on in your department and around you.
  • When you need to leave the set be sure to tell your department head. Whether you are the department head or PA, let someone know where you are.
  • Know the roles of the production staff; it will get your issues dealt with more efficiently.
  • Always ask if you don’t know how to operate certain equipment.
  • When the AD shouts, “quiet on the set”, everyone on set needs to immediately stop talking.
  • Each department head must speak up at the end of the take if something was not satisfactory with the department.
  • When working on walkies:
    • Channel 1: General conversation relevant to everyone. 
      • Keep it short, five words or less. Go to another open channel if you need to say more or need to speak to a specific person.
    • When receiving information over the walkie be sure to acknowledge by saying “copy” or “copy that”. 
      • Do not copy if you do not fully understand the instructions. 
      • Feel free to repeat back, ask questions, or do whatever it takes to fully understand what you are being instructed to do.
  • Producers, First Assistant Director (AD), Production Manager (PM) are charged with the proper enforcement of all the above rules of production.
  • Respect performers; preparation time and stay out of their eye line while filming.

Exercise common sense:

  • If you don’t know, ask.
  • Understand what makes a set safe and do your best to act in a professional manner. 

If you ever have a question about safety, contact the VMA Production Safety Office.

Safety begins long before filming. It is the responsibility of each crew member to educate themselves about safety and to arrive on set on time, well-rested, and healthy.

Accidents are caused by negligence, lack of awareness, and lack of foresight. It is important to stay alert, understand the potential dangers, and be able to recognize the safety hazards in advance.

Follow your instincts. If it feels unsafe, it probably is. And if you think something is unsafe or someone is acting in an unsafe manner, say something. By calling attention to the safety hazard, it gives the director, producer, or DP a chance to reevaluate the situation.

Safety is no less a concern on small sets. Even on a two-person production, common sense and caution must be exercised at all times. Safety should be the first concern of every crew member involved in any film production. Everyone wants to make a good movie, but this goal is simply not worth risking the injury or death of anyone involved. If you have any safety concerns, questions, or confusion in regards to the process of the filming, please contact the VMA Production Safety Office.