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Risk Assessment for Self-Employed Musicians

As a freelance musician there is an increasing demand for you to provide a RA from venues or events, and this is often being added into contracts.

Last updated: 26 July 2021

The easiest way to comply with this is to use the RA template for freelance musicians from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the adapted format we have provided.

Health & Safety law sets out a requirement for the self-employed whose work affects others to assess the risks involved.

We also regard it as good practice to do a RA for those times you are working alone - such as practice, rehearsal or working on a computer - to ensure your own health and safety and make sure you don’t fall into bad habits.

However, when you are working for a venue or production you are effectively a sub-contractor and, as such, you can be asked to provide an RA by the body/person booking you. Equally, you can ask to see the RA of the venue booking you. The theory is both parties are to discuss tying in each RA.

The main legislation covering this is the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations but there are other regulations which have more specific provisions, such as for manual handling or noise.

You do not need to know all the detail to start doing a RA.

It is a straightforward common-sense process of listing:

  • what you do,
  • the clear hazards and risks you may face (for example, electrical equipment, noise, carrying kit, interaction with audience, using vehicles), and
  • what you will do to eliminate or reduce the risks - an action plan of what you are going to do practically (for example, to have electrical equipment tested on a regular basis and for you to do a visual test as you set up).

What you need to do for yourself and fellow workers

You are looking to carry out a RA for yourself and how you interact with other freelance musicians. The most common elements most musicians have to look at are;

  • electrical equipment (including use of lights)
  • manual handling
  • vehicles used for transport
  • special effects
  • noise
  • musculo-skeletal problems (meaning looking at how you work physically and aches and strains that may result, seating, posture etc.)
  • working outside
  • working on temporary structures.

It’s all basic common sense – listing what you do, what you have to look out for and measures you take to deal with them.

This includes how you interact with others, which covers those you may work closely with such as in a band, but also those you may work with at a venue or on a programme of different acts. It also covers how you rehearse and practice.

The easy way to do this is to draw up your own list or use this HSE drawn-up template. Fill it out and keep it as a guide. Regularly check to see if it needs updating or, if you are going into a new or different situation, modifying.

By using the HSE-based form, you are showing that you are following HSE guidance. It is a very simple form and meets HSE requirements.

If you want to know more about the basic approach look at the short HSE document Five Steps to Risk Assessment.

What to provide to those booking or contracting you

It is okay for you to be asked to provide a RA by those booking you, but the information to be provided only needs to relate to how you are going to work for that contract.

You may find that your own RA does this, but generally it would be best to do a specific risk assessment for the situation of the contract. This may be based on your general RA but needs to cover the specific conditions you will experience. For example difficulty of access may affect manual handling of gear, or poor acoustics may affect noise exposure.

The main points will usually cover electrical equipment and its testing, getting gear into the venue, and the nature of the venue (its size, acoustics etc.). If you are taking a vehicle to the venue, it will usually cover parking, access and related issues.

Again it would be best to fill out this HSE template and supply it to the venue or employer.

It is important to note that you are like any other contractor/sub-contractor. The proper approach is that each contractor/sub-contractor provides their RA and the principal contractor/employer is supposed to ensure these are co-ordinated with their own overall RA.

It is open to you to request to see their overall RA of where you will be working, or to be provided with specific details of, say, the electrical system used and its testing or the noise profile of the venue. Realistically this will usually only be available from larger venues.

If you have problems with a venue, including on the provision of information, and do not want to immediately raise it with the venue, you can raise it with your MU Regional Office. They may also involve one of the MU’s trained Roving Safety Reps. That way, the matter can be taken forward without necessarily involving your name.