digital storytelling,  timeless

Health and safety in public digital storytelling workshops

Here are some public health and safety considerations for digital storytelling workshop organisers. I hope they prove useful.

– nearby parking and public transport
– accessibility for wheelchairs with no trip hazards
– accessible toilets and break-out spaces
– enough space, tables, chairs to accommodate all the equipment and people and to allow facilitators to move comfortably between participants
– power points along two sides of the room makes safer rigging easier.
– break-out spaces – because people will be working intensively together, maybe over a longish period
– check if anyone has any special dietary needs and request food hygiene certificates from caterers for your records. (Thanks to Lisa Jones for suggesting that.)

– choose room layout and cable routes wisely
– use gaffer tape, ties and mats to make cables safer


– give directions to toilets and break-out spaces as part of the housekeeping briefing
– warn about cables and other trip hazards
– warn that drinks and computers don’t mix
– fire drill – what to do if there’s a fire and give the location of the fire exits.
– ask that anyone who has any special needs in the event of emergency lets us know beforehand – either now or one-to-one after this briefing
– don’t rewire or adapt equipment
– seat yourself comfortably (say how) in front of your workstation and take at least a five minute screen break every hour
– using a mouse; it can be re-configured and moved if you’re left handed.
– tilting a laptop screen can improve quality of the picture you see on it

Working practices
– try your best to be ‘in tune’ with the feelings of people at every stage of our workshops
– make sure every team member has received H&S training. (BBC has a great one called The Risk Management of Productions)
– don’t allow a situation where one of your team has to be all alone with a workshop participant (storyteller). Voice recording is a good example. Have one male and one female team member with each participant and make plans so this can be done
– write and lodge a risk assessment for every workshop and write, lodge and maintain role-related risk assessments
– try to work alongside people as they use cameras whenever possible. Sometimes though, people need photos or footage to be taken away from the workshop in the evening or early morning. We brief anyone working with one of our cameras outside the workshop to take care with position and movement, especially with heights, crowds or near traffic. If applicable, we ask that people don’t record dangerous or illegal circumstances or events. We ask people to not to use a camera while walking backwards unless there’s someone else guiding them
– applying principles of diversity in recruitment of participants reduces some risks
– wash-ups after workshops give us an opportunity to discuss, learn and make changes to future models
– there are additional considerations when working with children, young people, vulnerable people and some other groups of people.

I’ve focused on public, not team safety here. If you think of other issues, please use the comments field?

safety photo
Photo by D Simmonds

Written and first published by Gareth Morlais on 12 October 2007.

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