Health and Safety for Photographers.
“There is no such thing as an accident, the old saying goes. They don’t happen, they are caused and all accidents are preventable. In the majority of cases thus is true. Here are ways to ensure the health and safety of both the Photographer, the public and equipment.
Safety is YOUR responsibility.
1. Equipment insurance: Whatever level of expertise a photographer is at, there will be equipment. If this is lost or damaged, it incurs unwanted expense. The first thing to consider is insurance. Is equipment covered under home insurance or is specialist insurance required. Remember, most people underinsure. Catalogue all equipment, model, serial number, value, date of purchase if possible. Also include accessories, down to cleaning equipment, cables, memory cards, bags, hoods etc. in case the insurance company ask for an insurance assessor to make a judgment. All this will be taken into account before a final pay-out. Is the policy new for old? Does the company replace, or provide a cheque so you can purchase replacements? What is the excess? Is there no claims protection? All of these should be considered.
2. Your Equipment: ALWAYS keep your equipment with you at all times, whether outdoors or in the studio. Know what equipment you have with you and check regularly. I have found cases, lens caps, memory cards, eyepiece covers, cameras, mobile phones etc. on a number of occasions. There is nothing more annoying to a photographer than losing kit. I know. It happened to me but luckily it was returned to me a month later, but that month was horrible, especially the first two hours, explaining to the Police what happened!
(See footnote regarding equipment safety.)
3. Yourself: This should be second nature, but there are often news reports of people taking photographs and getting severely injured or dying taking a photograph when outside, whether a selfie or a panoramic shot. Be aware of the surroundings. Are there any dangers? Loose ground, water, trip hazards, steep drops, wild animals etc. The list is endless. Our safety is your responsibility. You only have one life. Take care of it. Remember when looking through the viewfinder it is easy to lose contact with the surroundings. If in a precarious area, like a waterfall, a gorge etc, use Live View so that you are still aware of your surroundings.
4) Countryside photography: If going to an area, or terrain, that is recognised as potentially hazardous, such as mountains, lakes, coastal areas, rough urban areas, ensure someone knows where you have gone, and the expected time of your return. Give as much detail as possible. I was in Aviemore, birdwatching with a friend, and being sunny, we decided to walk up Carn Ban Mor, a hill of 825m to look for different grouse and golden eagle. We parked up beside a farm and attempted to inform the farmer of our route and expected time of return, but he wasn’t interested. We had plenty of food, hot drinks and a pack of cards in case of difficult. After 5 hours we neared the summit when the weather closed in. My colleague wanted to push on, but I managed to convince him we needed to descend. FAST. We did just that, but the weather closed in faster than we could walk. Eventually we were running down the hillside as it became a whiteout, making it back to the car, cold, wet and I had pulled a muscle, but we were safe. An hour later, at the Aviemore visitor centre, a rescue helicopter was circling a neighbouring hill looking for four birders who were not so lucky. It is easy to get caught out!!!
As mentioned above, ensure that you are wearing the right clothing for the shoot, have the right equipment and that it is protected from the elements, you have sufficient food and liquids, and take a fully charged phone (with additional power pack if out for a long period) and SWITCH IT ON!!! This may seem logical but, in the event of an accident you may be unable to switch it on yet be able to summon help!
5) Photography and the law: There is a great deal of mis-information about where a photographer can photograph, and about being told to delete photographs etc. Ask for permission to take a person’s photograph. Respect peoples’ privacy and be very aware of photography where children are concerned.
I was told, rather aggressively, to delete a photograph I took of a building in Croydon, because it had him in it. He could identify himself by his blue trainers although it was taken from the other side of the road, which he ran across, being narrowly missed by the traffic! Be aware of private property and restrictions. Check for studs or outlines on the ground which can indicate where property boundaries are. Some places have restrictions on the use of tripods/monopods but allow hand-held photography. Be aware ALL land in the UK is owned by someone. However public land, such as roads, pavements, parks, beaches etc. are usually ok for photography.
A good place to get clarification is here: http://www.sirimo.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/ukphotographersrights-v2.pdf
6. Public liability: As a photographer it is very easy to get distracted composing the chosen image. Be aware when using a tripod, having our gear around you etc. It is advisable to take out Public Liability insurance so that in the unlikely, and unfortunate, event of an accident, you are covered. One of the cheapest forms of liability insurance in the UK is by the Artists’ Network: https://www.a-n.co.uk/about/insurance/
7. Studio and indoor photography: Do not be fooled into thinking that by being indoors it is safe. Be aware of trip hazards, such as cables etc. Are flash guns safe and not likely to injure the subject or yourself? Is a tripod used and is it positioned safely? Are you using assistants and are they aware of the surroundings, know how to use the equipment and have been briefed on the shoot and their Health and Safety requirements? Is the subject safe?
8. The Environment: “Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints”. Respect your environment, whether urban or rural. Take any rubbish home with you or dispose sensibly. Respect nature and be aware of the Countryside code. Do not disturb wildlife. Some species, like bats are protected species and require a licence, while others can be dangerous, such as deer, seals, terns etc. so be aware.
All the above may seem logical but it is easy to overlook one or more of the above. This is not exhaustive, and the bottom line is if you keep yourself safe, you should keep others safe as well.
Your camera: This is possibly the most expensive piece of kit you have, possibly after the lenses, so you want to look after them, as well as yourself, so here are some tips.
A. Camera: Keep your camera with you on a shoot. Protect it from excessive heat/cold, and from adverse situations like moisture, sand, dust etc. When moving between extreme hot/cold, protect the camera by putting it inside clothing, bag etc. and if in a wet environment like heavy rain, waterfalls etc. place in a plastic bag or equivalent. Even better use a waterproof housing. Wipe it often and store it in a secure place, like a camera bag etc.
B. Battery: Ensure the batteries are suitable for your camera and charged. The wrong batter could overheat and damage your camera, short circuit it if it is too powerful, or become jammed in the camera, an expensive mistake.
C. Charger: Use the correct charger for the camera and the batteries and check for damage to the cable to prevent danger of electrocution or fire. Ensure there are no kinks as these can cause hotspots.
D. Storage: If the camera is not being used for a long period, switch it off, remove the battery and lens, ensuring the latter has the lens caps fitted, and stow in a cool, dry, safe place.
E. Battery safety:
i) Be aware when charging batteries. If the correct charger is used the should not be overcharged or overheat.
ii) Be aware if the battery is being charged through the camera that it is on steady charge. If it appears to start and stop, remove the cable and get the camera checked. Where possible, charge the battery separate from the camera.
iii) Keep batteries securely, preferably covering the terminals and do not let battery terminals come into contact with each other. It may damage the batteries, drain them or in the worst instance cause overheating and a risk of fire.
iv) When changing the battery switch the camera off.
v) If travelling abroad, it is advisable, where possible, to take the camera as hand luggage and avoid strong magnetic fields or electromagnetic radiation. It could affect the cameras circuitry. Although most security equipment is safe, it is better to be cautious. Also be aware if near industrial equipment like generators etc. for the same reason.
As already mentioned, when changing lenses always replace lens caps especially the end that connects to the camera, to prevent dust getting inside. Have the cap on the replacement lens loose, so that the lens can be replaced quickly. Ideally keep the camera and lens horizontal as the lens is removed, and have the removed lens lens uppermost again to reduce the likelihood of dust getting inside until the lens caps can be replaced. When removing the lens, switch the camera off. If storing, put the cap on the camera as well.
G. Cleaning: Ensure your camera, lens, battery and accessories are cleaned regularly, and use photographic cleaners to prevent damage. Essential items are lens cloth, liquid cleaner (check it is suitable for lenses/filters), cotton buds, e-cloth, puffer, etc.
Remember, this is not an exhaustive list and you may notice something I have forgotten, but I hope I have covered the important points.
Be safe, and enjoy a trouble-free photographic experience.