SELF-CARE SERIES #4: Assessing Covid Risk as You Return to Performing

While music venues, recording and rehearsal studios, concert halls or other work-related places may be taking measures to minimise or eliminate risk from COVID-19, it’s recommended that you complete your own risk assessment before returning to performing. Doing this will help to ensure the everything possible is being done to minimise risk and assess if you will require any further support.

The following are factors that you should consider when creating your own risk assessment for a specific work-related environment:

  1. Level of Vulnerability – there are several factors that determine your vulnerability to the COVID-19, including your age, any pre-existing health conditions (e.g., auto-immune diseases) or previous exposure to the virus. Be familiar with where are on the risk spectrum and the reasons for this.
  2. Type of activity – considerations should include the number of people involved the activity (e.g., a large ensemble and accompanying technicians), the proximity of wind instruments or singers, shared instruments or equipment that cannot be readily cleaned or any activity that does not allow social distancing (e.g., dancing).
  3. The environment – does the environment where the activity takes place have adequate ventilation, allow for social distancing and have adequate (and hygienic) toilet facilities? Can the activity take place outdoors, or at least have regular breaks that take place outdoors? Has the room been measured and assessed to determine the maximum number of occupants to maintain social distancing? What measures are in place with regard to other shared spaces (e.g., corridors, green rooms, etc.) to maintain good practice?
  4. Risk mitigation – what measures have been put in place to mitigate risk? Examples of this include facilities for hand washing, ventilation, partitions, regular cleaning (or ideally not sharing) equipment and all necessary PPE? What is the maximum amount of time that people will spend together in a shared space?

 

Continuing to work safely during and after COVID-19

While there has been significant progress made in 2021 against the spread of COVID-19, there reality is that it will probably remain an ongoing concern for potentially years to come. During this time, restrictions will be relaxed and reinstated depending on the severity of the situation. Going forward, the American Federation of Musicians recommends the following general guidance for creatives as the world transitions out of the pandemic:

  • Practice physical distancing, keeping six feet/two meters away from people whenever possible.
  • Wear a mask when around others in close proximity.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Wear gloves when needed and throw them away after use; relentlessly hand sanitize.
  • Respectfully refrain from shaking hands or hugging anyone.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with the elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Throw tissues away after using.
  • Use an alcohol-based sanitizer (60% alcohol or higher) if you are not able to access a sink for hand washing.
  • Keep rubber gloves, disinfectant wipes, spray, and hand sanitizer in your car or bag.
  • Bring wipes for your workplace and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at regular intervals.
  • Take your temperature regularly and get tested periodically if you are at risk.
  • Carry your own pen or pencil
  • Regularly wipe down cell phones, tablets, and computers.
  • Do your best to refrain from touching anything without hand sanitizing before and after. This includes mics, instruments, lounge tables, refrigerator handles, door handles, headphones, amps, cables, cases, gear bags, pedals, pens (bring your own), paperwork, paper clips, etc. in the recording studio, on stage, or in vehicles to and from the job.
  • Communicate honestly with your co-workers, employer or contractor if you are uncomfortable going to work.

 

If you are working in a small or medium size venue, the following guidelines apply:

  • If you are sick, do not go into work and follow government guidelines to self- quarantine and seek appropriate medical attention.
  • Do not share equipment with other musicians.
  • Musicians should wear masks—except singers, wind and brass players.
  • Bring your own microphone and cable.
  • Keep social distance onstage and in the audience.
  • No close seating throughout the venue and at the bar.
  • No dancing. Use dance floor to keep a safe distance from stage to the audience.
  • One act must leave stage before the next comes on.
  • Stage, mics and cables must be sanitized between acts.
  • Wear a mask while passing the tip jar.
  • Use Virtual Tip Jar or a similar app in addition to or instead of cash tips.
  • Consider using drum shield-style plexiglass in front of stage (singers) and between and/or in front of winds and brass.
  • Before and after shows, if you normally interface with fans, refrain from touching them (handshakes, hugs, etc.). Explain it from the stage if you feel it is necessary.
  • Do not allow fans to touch merchandise, if possible. Designate a single CD, book, t-shirt, etc. as a “store sample” and clean/disinfect before and after each show.
  • Wear gloves when handling cash and credit cards. Use contactless payment methods whenever possible.
  • Do not wear stage clothing from night to night without first washing them, preferably in hot water. If they cannot be washed, spray the clothing with a disinfectant spray.

 

When working in a smaller space such as a recording studio or rehearsal studio, follow these guidelines:

  • Everyone in the studio and control room should wear a mask, not just the musicians.
  • Use disinfecting towelettes to wipe down studio equipment before and after use.
  • Common areas in facilities should be cleaned/sanitized regularly (e.g., light switches, surfaces, doorknobs, phones, water dispensers, coffee machines, cabinet and refrigerator handles, microwave buttons, ventilation grills, chairs and arm/back rests, etc.).
  • Studios should be cleaned/sanitized before and after each session, including the microphone, POP filters, music stands, and any other equipment the performer will come in contact with.
  • Vocalists, brass, and wind players should wear masks except when playing.
  • Everyone brings their own headphones.
  • Bring your own microphone/mic cover—if needed.
  • No congregating in control room (it helps to have speakers in the main room).
  • Six feet/two meters between players in a room—limit number of musicians accordingly.
  • Twelve feet/3.6 meters between winds/brass, singers and other musicians if in the same room.
  • Only individuals in isolation booths.
  • Winds and brass sections recorded separately, when possible (otherwise distanced as stated above).
  • All studio house gear (piano, B-3, mics, headphone boxes, etc.) disinfected regularly.
  • No congregating in close groups.
  • No group photos.
  • Timecards/paperwork to be filled out by the leader or contractor and not passed around.

 

Summary 

The transition back to regular working from COVID-19 for creative practitioners may not prove to be completely linear, but the current signs indicate that the situation will continue to improve. However, it is important that creatives stay informed and vigilant. Self-employed working will mean that working environments will vary, so it will be good practice to carry out individual risk assessments based on the areas raised in this lesson. In addition to following the basics of distancing, washing hands, wearing PPE and receiving vaccinations, creatives should also engage with support systems where possible such friends, family or occupational health services to mitigate the potential psychological effects of COVID-19. By doing all these things, creatives stand a far better chance of facilitating a successful return to normal working and reducing their risk of illness or anxiety.

Recommended Resources

Overview of COVID-19 Restrictions for Musicians

England: COVID-19 Advice for Musicians

American Federation of Musicians: Returning to Work Safely