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Health & Safety at Work for Makeup Artists

Health and safety rules at work are vital to keeping the workplace as safe as possible. This is, of course, no different for the film, television and theatre industries. Health and safety policies are designed to minimise the risk of harm, damage or illness to the cast and crew. So, who is responsible and what do we need to think about?

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – this act requires your employer to provide you with information, instruction, training, and supervision to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of their employees.
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – this identifies situations where health and safety training is particularly important. For example, new starters or where new skills are needed in a changing workplace. This regulation also obliges employers to carry out risk assessments. It includes implementing appropriate measures to protect the health and safety of their workforce.

Who is Responsible for Safety?

  • Production company – the overall health and safety of the crew and cast is the production company’s responsibility. The designated competent person will likely be the producer. Other named people will also be responsible for monitoring health and safety on a day-to-day basis.
  • Studios, theatres and other premises – owners, landlords or management of a building have some responsibilities. For example, a theatre has to adhere to strict fire codes, including having appropriate fire safety measures in place, such as clearly marked evacuation routes.
  • Specialists – a production company might hire a safety specialist to oversee all aspects of health and safety. Likewise, stunt coordinators, firearms experts, animal handlers and pyrotechnic providers are knowledgeable about their particular activities and the risks involved.
  • Vehicles such as trailers – have facilities staff responsible for ensuring they are set up safely, following the hire company’s policies.
  • Head of makeup – has a responsibility for their team. For example, they should ensure the right working environment is provided, breaks are taken, and flammables are stored correctly.
  • Employee or freelancer – individuals have a responsibility to follow the workplace’s health and safety procedures. They also have to act sensibly, use the equipment correctly and take reasonable precautions to prevent incidents.
  • Self-employed makeup artist – if work activities pose no potential risk to the health and safety of other workers or members of the public, then health and safety law will not apply to you. However, if you are carrying out activities like bleaching or airbrushing, then it is likely health and safety rules apply.

In summary, the overall responsibility for health and safety lies with the production company. However, it is not just down to them. Everyone working on the production has to act with safety in mind at all times.

health and safety on a film set
Sets are busy places with cables, equipment and people all over the place!

Risk Assessments

  • A risk assessment is a procedure that identifies potential hazards and how likely they are to cause harm. Hazards could be a substance, activity or process. Policies and procedures are then put in place to reduce the risk as much as possible.
  • The film industry is full of hazards and risks. For example, there are many trip hazards like cables, equipment, and uneven ground at locations. Additionally, some equipment or props are heavy to move, or items can fall over. Working in a theatre also has risks, such as navigating a dark and cramped environment full of trip hazards. The list goes on!
  • Risk assessments allow the production company to assess whether sufficient controls and measures are in place to prevent an incident, damage or injury.
  • The call sheet should always include any risk assessments relevant to the day’s filming. You must read, understand and follow it.
  • The head of makeup should also do risk assessments relating to the makeup team’s working environment and any hazardous substances used. Ideally, there should be regular briefings with their team that should also include health and safety matters.

Do’s & Don’ts For Makeup Team Safety

No matter what the legislation is in your country, here are a few things that the makeup department should do. It is simply a matter of good working practice. We’ve also listed things best not to do. Stay safe!


  • Read the call sheet – all risk assessments for that day’s filming will be attached, so read them thoroughly. It should also list the heads of departments, emergency contact numbers, and first aiders.
  • Wear sensible shoes – that are flat, comfortable and enclose your toes and feet properly.
  • Have a good posture – be careful of leaning, having to bend and picking up heavy items. Ensure the chairs the actors sit in can be adjusted to suit your height to prevent you from bending.
  • Store flammable makeup items correctly – for example, acetone and IPA are flammable substances and must be stored according to instructions provided on the packaging. Also, keep them away from heat sources and naked flames. Dispose of all waste materials correctly.
  • Clean up all spills and cut hair immediately – to prevent anyone from slipping.
  • Work hygienically – to prevent cross-contamination. Good working practices are essential. It is even more important now that Covid-19 is part of our lives for the foreseeable.
  • Ensure good ventilation – especially when using things like solvents, hairsprays or airbrushing equipment.
  • Know who the First Aider is – they should be listed on the call sheet. Large shoots also have a unit nurse, doctor or paramedic on set to deal with any accidents.
  • Know how to act in an emergency – for example, identify where the fire escape route is. Similarly, know who to contact first in case of an emergency or accident.
  • Report any safety concerns immediately – if you see anything of concern, report it as soon as possible to your head of department, one of the AD team or another appropriate person.


  • Run on set – no matter how pressed for time, running is never a good option.
  • Block fire exits – with kit, bags, or anything. Likewise, keep all evacuation routes clear.
  • Leave kit or bags lying around – put things to one side out of the way. Better still, put stuff under your section or in a cupboard. Trip hazards cause many accidents at work. Put your stuff away!
  • Smoke on set – there will be a designated area for smokers. If you are working in a fragile environment, smoking might be banned altogether. Only leave the set during official break times – don’t just wander off.
  • Drink alcohol or take illegal drugs – this is a big no-no. You should not be at work under the influence of any alcohol or an illegal drug. Speak to your head of department should you need to take a medication that could make you drowsy.
  • Plug appliances in without getting the OK – it is fine to use plug sockets in the trailer, once it has been set up by the facilities crew. However, if you are at a new location and need to use extension leads or old-looking plug sockets are present, ask one of the electricians for clarification.

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7 thoughts on “Health & Safety at Work for Makeup Artists”

  1. Hello!! Thank you for this page, it’s been very helpful!

    I’m writing an essay about working with legislation under certain conditions. I was given a question regarding legislation for young actors under the age of 16, along with their health and safety.

    Is there anything you would suggest I mention regarding working with young actors and how I can ensure their safety if I was to be the head of makeup in this scenario?

    Thank you ?

    1. Hi Eva, There is plenty of internet information about the legislation that protects child actors in general. From a MU view – their welfare and dignity must be protected at all times, and they must not be caused any undue stress/anxiety. Communication is the first thing, so involve the child and their parent/guardian right from the start. However, the makeup look and design is the director’s/MU designer’s job, but communicating the MU process and designs is key. Anyone coming into regular direct contact with those under 18s might need a DBS check (production will sort those). Makeup/hair products must be suitable, skin testing is vital (keep records) and do MU tests in pre-production if possible. The child must have a parent/chaperone with them at all times. Ensure the makeup area/trailer is child-friendly and anything that could potentially cause harm is locked away, turned off, monitored etc. while the child is there. Good luck.

  2. I am writing an essay on health and Safety, I had a quick question about health and safety on night shootings as a mua. What would the key points for health and safety be during this situation

    1. Hi Becky – apart from everything we cover in the article, night shoots involve people working against their body clocks in the dark/reduced visibility and (potentially) the cold (depending on where the shoot is located of course). So, health and safety for all – well-lit, marked and safe pathways to walk on around the area/set, appropriate food (easy to eat, digest and warming), plenty of hot and cold drinks, somewhere to shelter/warm up if cold, keeping warm on set (we used hot water bottles under coats and hand warmers in gloves/under hats), appropriate clothing, accommodation and travel/transport considerations, vehicle parking and security. Good communication is vital and having somewhere well-lit and warm to do makeup! Hope that helps ?

  3. Good morning I have a question about mua being asked to operate heavy equipment from production. Like a huge fan. If photographer asked us to are we even allowed to touch or operate it without insurance

    1. Hi Patrick, that is a really good question – and a situation we have never encountered before! We think a photographer should really have an assistant with them if they have kit that is part of their job and needs operating. With it being an electrical piece of kit too – of course, you have no idea how it has been handled or maintained. Without insurance, we would stay clear.

    2. I’d not touch it. And I think it’s rude of other departments (i.e. the photograher) to even ask you!! They shouldn’t put you in that spot x

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