Workplace injuries go largely unreported among theater workers

There has been much study in California and elsewhere in recent years about the impact of head concussions on athletes. That is indeed a serious problem but another area that is largely ignored is the incidence of workplace injuries, including concussions, in the theater industry. A recent study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reports that theater workers have high rates of head injuries and that they are seldom reported, diagnosed or treated.

It is common sense to add also to that category the workers on movie production sets. Many of the same pitfalls are confronted by workers in the movie-making industry. Some of the causes are poor lighting, stage equipment, negligence by co-workers and preparing scenes dealing with violence or combat. Most of the workers in the study suffered head injuries having the characteristics of concussions. Few got the kind of medical care that would be necessary for a closed-head injury.

The study had to do with technical help such as stage managers, technicians, prop handlers and the like. The study concluded that there is a need to recognize the prevalence of serious occupational injury in the theater industry. Theater workers must have access to professional medical care, the study concluded. The failure to get medical care is a growing concern because concussions are now known to reflect serious and permanent brain damage in many cases.

The law in California and elsewhere already backs up the mandatory coverage of workplace injuries, including in theater and movie productions. Anytime a worker or even an actor is injured on the set he or she is covered by workers' compensation insurance benefits. This means that all medical expenses are covered by the employer's insurer and that a check for statutory wages must be given to any employee who is too disabled to work due to a work-related injury. An injured worker must report the injury right away to his or her supervisor and obtain immediate medical attention to preserve properly a workers' compensation claim.

Source:, "Theater Workers' Head Injuries Often Go Unreported", March 26, 2018

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