Know Your Rights!

Are you playing a Broadway or Off Broadway show where the smoke and fog effects are making you sick? Or is the music too loud, leaving your ears ringing?

Volume 113, No. 5May, 2013

Michael McCann, Ph.D.
Smoke and fog effects at "Wicked" prompted musicians, actors and stagehands to protest in 2007. Above, Stephanie J. Block levitates as the witch Elphaba.

Smoke and fog effects at “Wicked” prompted musicians, actors and stagehands to protest in 2007. Above, Stephanie J. Block levitates as the witch Elphaba.

In 1999, Local 802 measured sound levels at 14 Broadway shows. The results showed that orchestra pits were louder than levels recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health over 75 percent of the time. Smoke and fog effects are also serious health concerns. Local 802 contracts can give you some rights, but there are laws on your side also. An organization called NYCOSH can help.

You have a legal right to a workplace free of recognized hazards. The regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) give you the right to:

  • Obtain health and safety information from your employer, including information about chemical hazards (e.g. smoke and fog), results of noise level and chemical testing in the workplace, medical test results, and information on injuries and illnesses at your workplace. This information includes Material Safety Data Sheets on hazardous chemicals, labels on all containers of hazardous materials, health and safety training, and a written hazard communication program.

  • Complain to your employer about hazardous conditions. You have a legal right to file a complaint with OSHA about hazardous conditions, to request an OSHA inspection, and to respond to questions from an OSHA inspector.

  • Not be discriminated against or penalized by your employer for exercising your health and safety rights under OSHA or any other agency. You should document your complaints carefully and coordinate them with Local 802.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, you also have rights. These rights are strengthened if they are part of your union contract and include:

  • The right to refuse unsafe work if you believe there is a real imminent danger. You must first ask your employer or supervisor to eliminate the hazard and have no other alternative to refusing to work and you cannot wait for an OSHA inspection because the danger is urgent.

  • The right to establish and participate in a union health and safety committee.

  • Unions have the right under court interpretations of the NLRA to bring in outside experts into the workplace to conduct inspections and issue reports.

How NYCOSH Can Help You

The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) is a membership organization of workers, unions (including Local 802), community-based organizations, health and legal professionals, and other activists. The mission of NYCOSH is to extend and defend every person’s human right to a safe and healthful work environment. NYCOSH has a variety of services that can help you resolve health and safety problems in your workplace.

Training: NYCOSH trains thousands of workers on a wide range of safety and health topics. Our expert staff includes an industrial hygienist, experienced organizers, and staff who are OSHA-authorized and have advanced degrees in public health. Last year, NYCOSH conducted training on health and safety rights for Local 802 members.

Technical assistance: NYCOSH is always on call. Every year, NYCOSH responds to approximately a thousand calls from workers, employers, unions and community organizations needing technical assistance to identify, evaluate, eliminate or control job hazards in a variety of industries. NYCOSH’s expert staff – which includes an industrial hygienist and five safety and health specialists – responds directly to these calls. NYCOSH staff members serve as a resource by staying current on the latest developments in occupational safety and health, best practices, and any changes in federal or state regulations or laws.

Further information

Many of NYCOSH’s trainings and industrial hygiene services are funded by federal and state grants and are available to participants free or at a nominal cost. Other trainings and industrial hygiene services are available on a low-cost, fee-for-service basis. To contact us, start with your in-house Local 802 NYCOSH rep, who is Marisa Friedman at or (212) 245-4802, ext. 130. You can also call Associate Director Maureen LaMar at (212) 227-6440, ext. 21, or find information on NYCOSH’s Web site, at

For a special page of links just for musicians and artists, see, which also includes information on sound levels that are dangerous.

If you’re injured on the job as a musician, see this page ( and be sure to call Local 802 immediately.