Last week the UK Government announced some changes to the lockdown restrictions to control the spread of Covid-19 Coronavirus in England. Whilst we are likely still many months from a fully re-opened music economy, now is the time to review how to operate your studio, production room or recording space safely in the coming months. Given the large variety of and uniqueness of studios and individual’s specific circumstances, the MPG considers it the decision of individual producers, engineers and studios as to when it the right time to re-open.
The following is designed to be a summary of the points we feel are most relevant to recording studios based on the current government advice, which is likely to change over time. We recognise it is likely that not all of the measures will apply to everyone, and the physical size of many studio spaces will make some measures impossible to implement. It should be used as a guide ONLY, and anyone in charge of a facility or employing staff should familiarise themselves with the full government guidelines available here.
Travel to and from the studio
The government has published detailed guidance on travel to and from work which is available here
In brief summary the guidelines state that:
- Walking and cycling will reduce pressure on the public transport system and the road network. Consider walking and cycling if you can. Where using bikes wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands before and after cycling.
- When traveling in taxis or private hire vehicles follow the advice of the driver. For example, you may be asked to sit in the back left hand seat if travelling alone. You may want to check with your taxi operator before travelling if they have put any additional measures in place.
- If driving, you should anticipate more pedestrians and cyclists than usual, especially at peak times of day. Allow other road users to maintain social distance, where possible. For example, give cyclists space at traffic lights.
- Consider all other forms of transport before using public transport. Travel may take longer than normal on some routes due to reduced capacity and social distancing measures. Allow sufficient time if your journey involves changes between different forms of transport. There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure.
From the Health & Safety Executive:
As an employer or self-employed person you must do a risk assesment.
If you have 5 or more employees you are required by law to have a written risk assesment.
It is important to understand that no amount of measures can completely eliminate risk. The goal is to mitigate risk to an acceptable level. The government guidelines are aimed primarily at employers however we would strongly encourage you to provide the same level of protection for clients and share with clients the measures you have put in place prior to the session. Remember nobody is obliged to work in an unsafe environment.
Implementing social distancing is likely to be the biggest challenge studios will face, given the need to maintain a 2m distance between clients and staff wherever possible. The following measures should be considered:
- Keeping the number of people attending a session to a minimum, which reduces the number of individuals anyone can come into contact with.
- Paying particular attention to staff who may come into contact with large numbers of people such as receptionists – installing plexiglass screens should be considered if possible.
- In larger facilities it may be useful to divide groups of clients and staff into cohorts / teams of the same people working together to reduce number of contacts
- For those directly involved in a project but not performing in the studio, consider whether remote access would be a reasonable option. This article in Sound on Sound contains many suggestions for remote access to a session
- Allowing additional time in the working day for tasks that may take longer than usual in order to maintain social distancing, e.g setup in advance of a session or break times
- Reducing congestion in busy areas, for example, by having more entry points to the studios or implementing a one way system through corridors
- Marking out areas to help maintain a 2m distance, for example with floor tape
- Review layouts and processes to allow people to work further apart from each other.
- Where a 2m distance cannot be maintained for, keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
- Where workstations cannot be separated sufficiently, using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) or using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
- Providing clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to people on arrival
- In multi-studio facilities consider avoiding inter-studio contact by having staggered break / entry / exit times and closing communal areas.
It remains essential to keep hands and face as clean as possible. People should wash their hands often, using soap and water, and dry them thoroughly. Touching the face should be avoided. Measures considered should include:
- Providing handwashing facilities, or hand sanitiser where not possible, at entry and exit points
- Frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, such as door handles, mice and keyboards, and making sure there are adequate disposal arrangements.
- Frequent cleaning of work areas and equipment between uses, paying particular attention to frequently handled items such as console touchpoints, headphones, or microphones that have been used for vocals. Care is needed to ensure sensitive equipment is not damaged during the cleaning process. 70% isopropyl alcohol may be the best option in many cases however if you are in any doubt consult the manufacturer for guidance (NB: There are reasons why 70% alcohol is used and not 99% “pure” alcohol. See here for more details
- Limiting or restricting the use of high-touch items and equipment to a small number of individuals e.g clients may not move or microphones and stands themselves / musicians may only handle their own equipment
- Clearing workspaces and removing waste and belongings from the work area at the end of a day
- Staff and clients may choose to wear a face mask or covering (see below)
- Toilet procedure – consider safest use of toilet facilities which will likely limiting numbers to one person
- Risk assesments should include consideration of any catering or communal kitchen facilities, and requirements may include clients consuming prepackaged food on sight.
Deliveries and Collections
Studios often take deliveries whether it’s a late night deliveroo or hard drives / vinyl laquers / instrument hire so we would advise all studios to familiarise themselves with the government guidelines on deliveries.
For takeaway deliveries having a ‘drop zone’ is advised to avoid contact between delivery driver and staff – see this guide for more details
PPE / Face coverings
According to government guidelines the term PPE “can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment, such as face masks.” The guidelines state that “Where you are already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, you should continue to do so.” however, “Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 outside clinical settings or when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.”
Whilst face masks or coverings may be worn in a work or studio setting it is important to remember that the evidence suggests wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not yet developed symptoms. That said, studios should support their workers and clients in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one. This means telling them to:
- wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and after removing it
- when wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands
- change your face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
- continue to wash your hands regularly
- change and wash your face covering daily
- if the material is washable, wash in line with the manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in your usual waste
Additionally, the use of a face mask or covering is not a substitute for proper social distancing or hygiene measures such as hand washing
For clarity at the moment UK government guidelines state “Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by law, including in the workplace.”
It may be helpful to have a bookings policy to provide clarity to clients and staff ahead of sessions starting
- Setting out the maximum capacity for each studio (control room, live area) under social distancing.
- Communitcating policies on food and drink / break times etc in advance of the session
- Advising clients they might need to book more time than usual to complete a project due to need for more overdubs etc
- Advising only accepting one group of musicians in a single day to allow for overnight cleaning.
- Ensuring musicians do not share equipment (ie different headphones / mic / popshield for each session)
- Arrange additional car parking facilities with neighbouring businesses etc to minimise public transport use by staff and clients
- You may wish clients to self-certify that they have been covid symptom – free for for 14 days by completeing an online form 24 hours before access to the building, and have rolling self-certification requirements for people attending ongoing sessions.
- Allow for extra time for getting in and out of the building for larger groups
The rules regarding self-isolation have not changed, and those who either show symptoms or live with somebody showing symptoms will still need to self-isolate for 14 days. This may mean that more sessions are cancelled or disrupted at short notice than usual, either as a result of a client or engineer/producer being unable to attend a session.
We recommend that all music professionals consider this scenario and develop a sensible cancellation policy which they share with clients in advance.
The UK government has published a seprate set of guidelines for working in somebody’s home (see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes)
As mentioned above, a risk assesment is a legal requirement, and if your risk assesment does not support home working with collaborators from outside your household, an alternative venue should be found. This should become easier as studios reopen.
In addition to the guidelines above there are specific issues to consider when working in somebody else’s home. Most importantly:
- No sessions should be carried out in a household which is isolating because one or more household members has symptoms or where an individual has been advised to shield
- When working in a household where somebody is clinically vulnerable, but has not been asked to shield (for example, the home of someone over 70) arrangements should be made with vulnerable people to avoid any face-to-face contact. You should be particularly strict about handwashing, coughing and sneezing hygiene, such as covering your nose and mouth and disposing of single-use tissues.
- Only absolutely necessary participants should attend sessions and should maintain 2m separation where possible. Consider whether some or all participants can attend remotely
- Leave all internal doors open where possible to minimise contact with door handles.
- Identify busy areas across the household where people travel to, from or through, for example, stairs and corridors, and minimising movement within these areas.
- Ask attendees to bring their own food and drink and having breaks outside where possible.
- Avoiding transmission during sessions by avoiding sharing pens and other objects.
- Where sharing objects cannot be avoided e.g keyboards, instruments, mice ensure objects are cleaned between uses
- Wherever possible hold sessions in a well ventilated room