Because of the inherent danger of working with live flame and flammable liquids and gases, alternatives to flame effects should always be considered and used wherever possible. The use of flame effects (including torches, candles, fireplaces, etc.) should take place under strictly controlled conditions with due care for the safety of everyone involved. An employer has a general duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.
In addition to the OHSA and its regulations, this guideline refers to other legislation. It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with all applicable legislation.
This guideline does not address pyrotechnic special effects (as defined below). See the References section for details.
Note: These definitions are provided for clarity and guidance only and, unless otherwise noted, are not definitions found under the OHSA or its regulations.
- Authority having jurisdiction (AHJ)
- An organization, office, or person responsible for enforcing legislation, the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure. This includes the local fire department and the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA); see definitions below.
- Competent person
- “A person who
- (a) is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance
- (b) is familiar with the OHSA and its regulations that apply to the work, and
- (c) has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace”
- Fire department
- The AHJ for fire prevention, inspection and suppression.
- Fire retardant (flame retardant)
- A substance that helps to delay or prevent combustion. In general, fire retardants reduce the flammability of materials by either blocking the fire physically or by initiating a chemical reaction that stops the fire. Since no material can be made “fire proof”, the term should not be used as it gives a false sense of security.
- Fire watch
- A qualified person or persons in attendance during all times when fixed fire protection systems are intentionally taken out of operation.
- Flame effect
- The combustion of flammable solids, liquids or gases to produce thermal, physical, visual, or audible phenomena before an audience. (See also pyrotechnic special effect.)
- Flame effect operator
- The person with overall responsibility for flame effect operations and safety.
- Flame effect plan
- The document that is used to convey to the AHJ the information needed to evaluate the flame effect.
- Flame resistance
- The characteristic of any material that can prevent it from igniting. Flame resistance works regardless of whether the source of ignition is flaming or non-flaming, and whether the source of ignition remains in place or is removed.
- National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
- The international, nonprofit NFPA develops, publishes, and disseminates more than 300 consensus codes and standards intended to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other risks.
- Pyrotechnic special effect
- A chemical mixture used to produce visible or audible effects through combustion, deflagration or detonation. Explosions, flashes, smoke, flames, fireworks or other propellant driven effects used in the entertainment industry are referred to as pyrotechnic special effects, theatrical effects, or proximate pyrotechnics. (Employers should be aware of any additional licensing requirements.)
- A person who has a direct line of sight to the effect and can communicate directly with the flame effect operator.
- Standby fire safety personnel
- The person(s) with overall responsibility for providing emergency response during flame effect operations.
- Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA)
- TSSA's Fuels Safety Program is the AHJ that administers and enforces the Technical Standards and Safety Act, 2000 and its regulations, and provides fuel-related safety services associated with the safe transportation, storage, handling and use of hydrocarbon fuels (such as gasoline, diesel, propane and natural gas).
Types of flame effects
NFPA 160 “Standard for the Use of Flame Effects before a Proximate Audience, 2006 Edition” describes seven types of flame effects and the different methods for controlling them. For example, a flame which is manually controlled (a torch or candle) does not need any special methods of lighting or extinguishing. A larger effect will need a more complex control system, which would include more automatic safety features and a more complex control system. Please reference the NFPA 160 for more details.
Use of flame effects
Factors to be assessed in the development of flame effects for a production include:
- Magnitude of the potential hazards
- Number and size of the flame effect(s).
- Products of combustion, including gases.
- Quantity of fuel on hand for the effect.
- Building construction material – If the building, audience seating, stage floor, and/or theatre masking are constructed of wood there is a greater risk of fire.
- Flame effect location – Flame effects should not be placed in locations that cannot be continuously monitored. Ignition sources and control systems should be placed in locations where they can be monitored and checked prior to, during, and after use of the flame effect.
- Line of sight - The person responsible for flame ignition should ensure a clear line of sight of the flame or maintain direct communication with a spotter.
- Supervision – Ensure there is adequate supervision based on the number of flame effects. Flame effects should be supervised from the time they are lit until they are extinguished.
- Open flame - Secure all stationary open flame fixtures and use glass chimneys for candles.
- Flame-resistant materials / fire-retardant – costumes and stage materials
- Under the Ontario Fire Code (O. Reg. 213/07, sections 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199), drapes, curtains, netting, and other similar or decorative materials, including textiles and films used in buildings, must meet the requirements for a high degree of flame resistance as described in CAN/ULC S109 "Flame Tests of Flame-Resistant Fabrics and Films". Fire (flame) retardant treatments must be renewed as often as required to ensure that the material will pass the match flame test in NFPA 705, “Recommended Practice for a Field Flame Test for Textiles and Films.”
- All costumes and stage materials (including set pieces, orchestra pit covers, masking, drapery, props, and holders for flame effects, such as torches) within a minimum of one metre (three feet) of a flame should be made of flame-resistant materials or treated with fire-retardant. This distance is industry practice and could be increased according to the nature and size of the effect.
- Check the type of fabric and use fire retardant only if it adds protection. (Example: wool is naturally flame-resistant.)
- Apply fire retardant (and re-apply after costumes are laundered or dry cleaned) according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Performers and crew in the vicinity of the flame effect should be protected by clothing or other means suitable for their exposure to flame effects (see sections 79 and 84 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments (R.R.O. 1990, Regulation 851) for personal protective equipment requirements).
- For people handling flame effects, consider rolling up sleeves, and/or wearing gloves or gauntlets (see section 84 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments for personal protective equipment requirements).
- People who are not wearing fire-resistant or fire-retarded clothing should be trained on how far away from the flame they should stay (an employer is required under section 25(2)(a) of the OHSA to provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker).
- Note: Wigs cannot be treated with fire retardant. Hair should be tied back.
Each production is unique and requires individual evaluation when determining the need for precautions. All flame effect requests should allow adequate time to:
- Conduct a risk assessment
- Develop a flame effect plan
- Construct/assemble and test the effect
- Present the flame effect plan to the AHJ for approval
- Demonstrate the effect to the AHJ, if necessary
- Make adjustments to the effect, if requested
- Receive necessary approvals from the AHJ.
Approval requirements / documentation
Before flame effects are operated they should be approved by the AHJ as detailed below:
- The fire department:
- The fire department should approve a plan for the use of all flame effect materials or devices.
- The fire department will approve modifications to the plan. Approval should be confirmed in writing.
- After the plan has been approved, it should be readily available on site.
- The TSSA:
- Temporary flame effects using propane or natural gas as the fuel for entertainment, exhibition, demonstration, or simulation must be approved before being operated.
- These effects must comply with Annex J (Requirements For Operation Of Appliances And Cylinders At Shows, Exhibitions, Or Other Similar Events) and Annex K (Installation and Approval of Special Effects) of the “Gaseous Fuels Code Adoption Document” adopted under the Gaseous Fuels Regulation (O. Reg. 212/01) made under the Technical Standards and Safety Act.
- For further information on other applicable requirements and to arrange for the above approvals, contact the TSSA.
Competent person responsibility
Prior to production, one or more competent persons should:
- Ensure flame effects are considered as part of the risk assessment for each production.
- Develop a flame effect plan.
- Select appropriate controls for each risk, taking into consideration safety, time, cost and feasibility. No person should be exposed to a risk that has not been adequately controlled. If controls cannot be implemented for any reason, the activity posing the risk should not be attempted (see section 25(2)(h) of the OHSA which requires an employer to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker).
- Arrange for approvals from the AHJ, as applicable.
- Designate and co-ordinate the activities of the flame effect operator, standby fire safety personnel, spotter(s) and fire watch, as applicable.
- Ensure the details of the effect are distributed to all involved, including front of house managers (see section 25(2)(d) of the OHSA).
During production, one or more competent persons should:
- Continue to be actively involved in the flame effect process throughout rehearsals and ensure due diligence with respect to fire extinguishers, workers with fire extinguisher training and emergency evacuation procedures.
- Include information discussed about flame effects during the rehearsal process in production notes, specifically under the General/Effects heading and Wardrobe heading.
- Ensure training is provided prior to exposure to flame effects (see section 25(2)(a) of the OHSA).
- Ensure that any controls identified in the risk assessment are implemented and all workers are familiar with any hazard in the work and all applicable regulatory requirements to control any hazards.
Flame effect operator responsibility
The flame effect operator should:
- Demonstrate competency by experience and training or by holding a licence acceptable to the fire department.
- Understand and be familiar with the operating manual or instructions in order to have a full understanding of the system including the possible dangers and the required responses.
- Be responsible for storage, set-up, operations, and tear-down of all flame effect materials, devices, equipment, systems, and supervision of assistants.
- Note: A performer may light a flame effect onstage, but there should still be a flame effect operator to take responsibility for the effect.
Standby fire safety personnel responsibility
The standby fire safety personnel should:
- Be in attendance when open flame is used.
- Not have any other duties that will require them to leave the effect area during the time that the flame is used.
- Be equipped with fire extinguishers.
- Have a working knowledge of the supplemental fixed or portable fire-fighting equipment available in the area of the flame effects.
- Be able to communicate or transmit an alarm during the operation of flame effects.
Note: The number of standby fire safety personnel will be determined through the risk assessment process. The personnel should have a clear line of sight to the effect or maintain direct communication with a spotter.
- The employer is responsible for ensuring that all performers and staff who could be exposed to a potentially hazardous situation when performing or otherwise carrying out their responsibilities in the vicinity of a flame effect are adequately trained (see sections 25(2)(a) and 25(2)(d) of the OHSA).
- The employer should arrange for the competent person to conduct this training. This training should occur prior to exposure to flame effects and should include:
- Description of the hazard(s)
- Instruction on any precautions to be taken
- Review of emergency evacuation procedures including escape routes and fire exit locations
- Demonstration of the flame effect to the performers and staff and any questions resolved
- Sufficient rehearsal of the flame effect with the performers and staff to ensure predictable and safe operation.
- The flame effect operator should inspect all areas of the site where flame effect materials and devices are ignited before start-up and after shutdown. These areas should be maintained in a neat and orderly condition.
- Flame effects should be tested to verify that they operate as designed.
- Flame effects should be evaluated to verify that operators and performers are not exposed to a hazardous situation when the flame effects are activated as designed or anticipated.
- Only performers and support personnel familiar and experienced with the flame effects being used shall be permitted to be in the area of a flame effect, and only in the performance of their duties (see section 25(2)(a) of the OHSA).
- No child performer (less than 18 years of age) should be exposed to live flame unless prior written permission has been granted from a parent or guardian and they must be adequately supervised at all times to protect their health and safety (see section 25(2)(a) of the OHSA).
- All flame effect materials and devices not connected for use must be stored in accordance with the Regulation for Industrial Establishments (sections 22 and 23), and should also be in accordance with any applicable codes, standards and local requirements.
- Materials must be stored in appropriate, labelled containers in compliance with the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) (see section 37 of the OHSA and Regulation 860 (WHMIS).
- All flame effects that use fuel accumulators should be stored with their accumulators empty.
- Torches and other devices that may contain fuel residue should be stored away from ignition sources in a metal, vented cabinet that is separate from the storage of flammables and combustibles. Alternatively, fuel residue may be burned off before the device is stored; however, during this period all flame effect precautions must remain in place.
- Quantities of flammable flame effect materials in excess of those used in one day must be kept in storage areas in compliance with the Regulation for Industrial Establishments and should be with the approval of the AHJ.
- All flammable flame effect materials and loaded devices that have been removed from storage areas in anticipation of immediate use should be stored in a temporary holding area acceptable to the AHJ.
- Flammable flame effect materials and loaded devices in holding areas should be secured or supervised continuously by an attendant trained in emergency response procedures.
- Where the risk assessment determines a need for fixed or supplemental fire protection equipment (such as additional fire extinguishers or fire blankets) beyond that required by section 123 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments or standby fire safety personnel, such equipment and/or personnel should be provided.
- Measures for control of inadvertent liquefied or gaseous fuel releases, additive system releases, portable component releases, or fire should be coordinated with local emergency agencies such as fire and police departments.
- A means should be provided to render installed flame effects systems inoperative when not in use. This should include lockout procedures consistent with section 76 of the Regulation for Industrial Establishments.
- Portable flame effects should be stored and secured when not in use.
Interruption of fire detection systems for use of flame effects
Interruption of fire detection systems should be avoided and every attempt should be made to redesign the flame effect so that interruption is not required. When it is impossible to execute the flame effect without activating the fire detection system, the system may need to be interrupted temporarily for the duration of the effect.
- Portions of the fire detection systems may be interrupted for the operation of flame effects only when the following conditions are all met:
- Approval of the AHJ has been obtained
- Approval of the building owner has been obtained
- A fire watch is present. The fire watch should be familiar with and capable of directing the operation of all fire and life safety systems in the building and be able to notify emergency responders.
- Fire detection systems that have been interrupted should be restored as directed by the AHJ.
Call 1-877-202-0008 anytime to report critical injuries, fatalities or work refusals. For general inquiries about workplace health and safety and to report potentially unsafe work conditions, call 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. In an emergency, always call 911 immediately.
Ministry of Labour
Health and Safety Ontario (health and safety association)
Workplace Safety & Insurance Board
Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards referenced in occupational health and safety legislation
NFPA 160 “Standard for the Use of Flame Effects Before a Proximate Audience,” 2006 Edition
NFPA 705 “Recommended Practice for a Field Flame Test for Textiles and Films”
CAN2-4.2 M77: “Textile Test Methods”
CAN/ULC-S109-M, “Flame Tests of Flame-Resistant Fabrics and Films”
Ontario Fire Code, including Open Flames Prohibited (section 188.8.131.52(1) and Devices having Open Flames (section 184.108.40.206)
Technical Standards and Safety Authority
14th Floor, Centre Tower,
3300 Bloor Street West,
Toronto, ON M8X 2X4,
Pyrotechnic special effects:
According to the federal Ministry of Natural Resources’ website, in Canada, with a few exceptions, the Explosives Act requires anyone working with explosives to have a licence, certificate or permit issued by the federal Minister of Natural Resources.
The Explosives Act defines an explosive as any thing, other than a gas or an organic peroxide, that is made, manufactured or used to produce an explosion, detonation or pyrotechnic effect. According to the ministry’s website, the Explosives Regulatory Division (ERD) of Natural Resources Canada regulates the manufacture, importation, sale and storage of explosives, and, for fireworks and pyrotechnics, the actual use of the “explosives” and “explosive articles.”
For more information on the training and certifications required for using pyrotechnics, please refer to the Natural Resources Canada, Explosive Regulatory Division website.
Appendix I: sample schedule
The following is an example of how a flame effect plan/risk assessment schedule may be conducted.
At the set/props preliminary deadline
- After discussions with the artistic team, the set/props designer presents the preliminary design for flame effects in the production.
- Technical director and relevant stage crew department heads (stage carpenter, props, lighting) meet to discuss the effect.
- Those involved gather information and develop the flame effect plan so that it meets the requirement of this guideline. (See Appendix II)
Risk assessment meeting (prior to the first rehearsal)
- Incorporate details of flame effect into the risk assessment
- Present the preliminary flame effect plan, which is further, refined as details are expanded.
Prior to cue to cue
- The flame effect plan is finalized and presented to the authorities having jurisdiction in enough time to have the effect approved, and to present an on-site demonstration, if necessary.
- Details of all effects including candles and torches should be submitted to the authorities having jurisdiction.
- If the authorities having jurisdiction requests changes, these should be completed in time for the effects to be approved prior to the cue to cue.
During the cue to cue
- The performers and staff are instructed on precautions to be taken.
- The flame effect is demonstrated to the performers and staff and any questions are resolved.
- The flame effect is rehearsed with the performers and staff until they are sufficiently trained.
Prior to the first preview
- The details of the effect are distributed to all involved, including front of house managers, who should brief their staff in preparation for questions from patrons.
During the run
- Ensure the effect is monitored and maintained.
Note: This is not a comprehensive schedule and does not relieve the workplace parties of their obligations under the OHSA.
Appendix II: Sample flame effect plan
|Name of theatre:||ABC Theatre|
|Address of theatre:||123 Main Street, Townville, ON|
|Name of production:||The Big Play|
Flame Effect Operator
Performance and Rehearsal Schedule
|Demonstration/testing:||March 5, 2012|
|Rehearsal with effect:||March 8, 2012|
|1st onstage with effect:||March 10, 2012|
|1st performance with audience:||March 17, 2012|
|Run Dates:||March 17–31, 2012|
|Other important dates:||None|
Description of the effect
|Description (including when it will occur in the production):||Two actors carry torches during Act I, Scene 3 “Confronting the Ogre”|
|Flame effect type:||2 handheld torches|
|Products used:||90% denatured ethyl alcohol|
|Storage (quantity and location):||1 litre of fuel will be stored in a flammables cabinet in the storage room backstage|
|Fire suppression:||The theatre is equipped with sprinklers|
Additional fire protection features
|Fire curtain||The theatre has a fire curtain.|
|Flame retardant||Flame retardant has been applied to the scenery and the costumes of six actors who will be onstage within one metre of the flame.|
|Ventilation||No special requirements|
Site plan (show info on a theatre plan)
|Location of effect||Deck level of the stage; actors with torches do not go to the upper levels of the set|
|Location of operator||He lights torches at stage right; moves to stage left to receive and extinguish torches|
|Location of spotters (as required)||Stage left (assistant stage manager)|
|Location of standby fire safety personnel (as required)||Stage right (stage hand)|
Stage left (assistant stage manager)
|Location of performers||Actors enter stage right, chase the ogre in a circle around the stage and exit stage left|
|Location of storage and assembly||Storage room backstage|
|Location of existing and supplemental fire protection features|
Sprinklers are located onstage, backstage and in the seating area of the auditorium
The fire curtain is located just up stage of the proscenium
Standby fire safety personnel (stage right and stage left) are equipped with fire extinguishers and fire blankets
|Means of egress for audience and staff||2 exits from backstage|
2 exits from the seating area of the auditorium
|Audience size and proximity to effect||350 patrons|
Closest seat is 3 metres from the effect
Attach Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for all products used in the effect.
Authority having jurisdiction review
Name (please print):
Note: This is not a comprehensive plan and does not relieve the workplace parties of their obligations under the OHSA.