Q: Does an employer have to air sample? 

A: In most circumstances, yes. If at least one of the following scenarios is planning to take place, then air sampling will have to: 

  • When there is more than one single fog, smoke or haze cue from one single product (any machine/fluid/attachment combination listed here) in the entire performance.   
  • When the one single fog, smoke or haze cue from one single product (any machine/fluid/attachment combination listed here) does not have a chart listed here.
  • When the one single fog, smoke or haze cue from one single product (any machine/fluid/attachment combination listed here) does have a chart listed here, but the one single cue from the one single product is not following an exact cue length or distance or the time after which air concentrations are below guidance level (also known as wait time) provided in the chart.  

Q: Does Equity have an aerosol monitor that an employer can borrow or rent? 

A: No. Employers can rent or purchase a portable real-time aerosol monitor from Pine Environmental at 800-301-9663 or here.

Q: How does the employer air sample? 

A: First, the portal monitor should be calibrated with the specific product’s calibration factor located here. By inputting this number into the portal monitor, it will save the employer time on manually calculating the raw data into accurate concentration levels. If there are multiple products being sampled at the same time in one cue, either don’t calibrate the portable monitor and leave it at 1.00 (e.g., raw data) or use the product with the highest calibration factor (e.g., if the haze is .30 and the smoke is 1.69, then calibrate the portable monitor with 1.69). Please be advised to set the interval between logging points to every 30 seconds to view the comprehensive progression of the levels being produced. Click here to find complete information on how to operate the portable monitor. 

Second, conduct the air sampling during a work call and before the actors and stage managers are first introduced to these effects. When sampling, make sure the space is in real show conditions (e.g., all doors to the space are closed that will be closed for performance, the space’s ventilation system is operating as it would for a performance, etc.).  

Third, the portable monitor should be placed where the closest actors and/or stage managers will be staged, choreographed or positioned to the release points (e.g., end of the hose carrying the smoke, fog vent in the stage floor, haze machine nozzle, etc.) of the smoke, fog and haze machines. Multiple readings should be taken before, during and after the effects cue(s) is triggered to get a median result.  

Fourth, download the readings from the monitor to a computer to review the complete data results. More information can be found in the portable monitor’s manual on how to download the readings into a chart on your computer. Please note, if the readings are raw data (e.g., the portable monitor was not calibrated to the product’s calibration factor), then multiply the data results by the calibration factor to provide the actual concentration levels.   

Fifth, if any of the readings in the chart exceed the limits (e.g., glycol (40 mg per cubic meter), mineral oil (25 mg per cubic meter), glycerol (50 mg per cubic meter), then adjustments should be made (e.g., change the cuing and/or move the release points for the machine(s) and/or change the staging, choreography or positioning of the actors and/or stage managers). After the adjustments are made, air sampling should be conducted to confirm the readings are below the limits.  

Sixth, once the levels are set below the limits, the employer must send a copy of the data results to Equity at safety@actorsequity.org.  

Q: Does the employer have to send information to Equity when the products that they are using are “water-based” fluids? 

A: Yes. All smoke, fog and haze products are “water-based” (e.g., a combination of water and glycol or mineral oil or glycerol). 

Q: What does the “Smoke and Haze Study” refer to? 

A:  A study was commissioned by the Trustees of the Equity-League Pension, Health and 401k Trust Funds, entitled Health Effects Evaluation of Theatrical Smoke, Haze, and Pyrotechnics. This document provides the initial work that took place by Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Environ International Corporation to better understand how the smoke, fog and haze were affecting actors and stage managers on Broadway shows at the time.  

Q: Can an employer use any approved machine with any approved fluid and/or any approved attachment? 

A: No. Employers may only use the combination of machine, fluid and attachment specifically listed in each row on the chart here. Further, the combination may not exceed the limit for the fluid type (e.g., glycol, mineral oil, or glycerol). When creating effects with dry ice, liquid nitrogen, liquid carbon dioxide, vaporized water or other substances not listed in the chart above, please contact your Equity field representative.  

Q: If actors and stage managers are not having problems with smoke, fog and haze effects, does the employer still have to report the details to Equity? 

A: Yes. The reporting of the use of the products to Equity is a requirement in almost every rulebook, regardless of whether any Equity members have noted adverse effects. Further, the report to Equity should be sent no later than the technical rehearsal period.  

Q: Does the employer have to follow the “Smoke and Haze Study” during technical rehearsal? 

A: Yes. The effects should only be used per the time and distance charts and/or air sampling should have already been taking place during work calls before the actors and stage managers first started technical rehearsals. The haze machine should never be left on during the entire day of work in the theater unless the employer is continuously air sampling every day. Without measuring, the amount that the effects produce for an extended period could be exceeding the limits for glycol, mineral oil or glycerol depending on the product. Continuous air sampling should be taking place for extended cuing during a work call or technical rehearsal. For example, if the effect needs to run for a portion of a workday, a portable monitor(s) should be reading the levels and should be checked and/or the alarm on the portable monitor(s) should be set to the appropriate limit to alert the production group that the concentration levels have exceeded the limit and the effect must be ceased immediately and the exhaust system should be turned on to remove the excess special effect(s).  

Q: What happens if an employer wants to use a product that does not appear on this chart?

A: It is the employer’s responsibility to add the new products to the chart above before using it in a production. The employer must contact Alan Kao at Ramboll to receive an estimate on how much it would cost to add the product to the above chart. Alan can be reached at 978-449-0324 or akao@ramboll.com

Q: What happens when a product that is listed on this chart is no longer available? 

A: It is possible a product has been discontinued or a newer product has taken its place with a different name. This has been taking place with electronic smoking products. Before using the newer product, the employer must contact Alan Kao at Ramboll to receive an estimate on how much it would cost to add the newer product to the above chart. Alan can be reached at 978-449-0324 or akao@ramboll.com.

Q: Is there a way to use smoke, fog and haze effects that do not require air sampling? 

A: Yes, in certain circumstances. If there is a chart for the product listed here, then the effect must follow an exact cue length, distance and the time after which air concentrations are below guidance level (also known as wait time) provided. If any of these three components from the chart are not being followed, then air sampling will be required.  

As a reminder, the wait time starts after the cue has finished. The actor or stage manager must not be at the distance specified in the chart until the wait time has been completed. If the wait time is zero, the actor or stage manager may be at that distance listed in the chart when the cue starts.  

If the effect falls outside the chart, for example, the distance chosen exceeds the highest distance listed in the chart, then air sampling will be required.  

Please note, the chart for a product was created for only one single fog, smoke or haze cue in the entire performance. If the single effect is not the maximum cue length in the chart, an additional effect from this product can be executed in addition to the first cue to equal the maximum cue length (e.g., cumulative cuing). For example, the first cue is 25 seconds and the maximum cue in the chart for the product is 40 seconds. An additional cue for a total of 15 seconds can be executed. This may include using an additional machine. For example, the first machine can run the first cue at 25 seconds and the second machine of the exact same product can run the second cue at 15 seconds. Both machines can only equal up to the maximum cue length in the product’s chart to avoid air sampling.  

In addition, there are some products that have a chart that have been tested for cycling an effect on and off during a performance, such as a haze effect. To avoid air sampling, the length of the cue may not exceed the maximum “on” cycle and/or may not drop below the amount of time “off” between “on” cycles. For example, if the product has a chart for cycling “on” for 40 seconds and “off” for 100 seconds, then the “on” cue can be no more than 40 seconds and/or the “off” time in between can be no less than 100 seconds. 

These charts were created to provide a snapshot of when the effect would be below the limits for glycol, mineral oil or glycerol with actors and stage managers working in them. If there is no chart for a product(s) or more options for cue lengths, distances and wait times are desired for a product(s) to avoid having to air sample, employers are encouraged to contact Alan Kao at Ramboll to receive an estimate on adding a time and distance chart or expanding time and distance options in an existing chart. Alan can be reached at 978-449-0324 or akao@ramboll.com.