Use of Dry Ice in Theatrical Settings
To provide information on the hazards associated with the use of dry ice in theatrical settings and precautions to
take to ensure the safe use.
OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1200 - Hazard Communication / GHS.
Safety Data Sheet (SDS) - Carbon Dioxide, Solid or Dry Ice.
Manufacturer’s Instructions for the dry ice machine, if applicable.
Sublimation - the conversion between the solid and the gaseous phases of matter, bypassing the intermediate
liquid stage. Carbon dioxide (CO2), sublimates, or turns to gas, at -78.5 °C (-109.3°F).
Dry ice is frozen CO2. It is classified as a “simple asphyxiant” meaning that at high concentrations CO2 can
displace oxygen in ambient air causing oxygen deprivation in those who are exposed, leading to unconsciousness
and death. Since it is odorless and colorless, it does not offer adequate warning properties that the concentration
in the air may have reaches a dangerous level.
Due to its extremely low temperature, skin contact with dry ice can cause frostbite or cryogenic burns. It is neither
toxic nor flammable. Special precautions for safe handling are essential.
Environmental, Health and Safety (EH&S)
Reviews proposed uses of dry ice in theatrical settings and provides advice on safe work practices, personal
protective equipment (PPE), and other controls. Specifics of each use will be evaluated, including a review of the area where
dry ice use is proposed. EH&S will periodically review this procedure to ensure it adequately protects all users of dry ice.
Employees and Performers
Notify the EH&S Department to conduct a review of proposed uses of dry ice in theatrical settings. Users shall
implement any controls that are specified for their protection. If approved for use, performers, crew members, and
support staff must stop the process if any unsafe conditions arise, or if something just doesn’t seem right.
Dry Ice Safety
Storage and Handling
As dry ice sublimates, CO2 gas is released which can displace oxygen in the area leading to asphyxiation. The risk
increase in enclosed, spaces, spaces that are not well-ventilated, and low lying spaces.
Never store dry ice in:
- Poorly ventilated, enclosed areas, such as store rooms or freezers.
- Air-tight, sealed containers such as coolers. As CO2 gas is released and expands it can pressurize the
container causing it to rupture or explode.
- Store the dry ice containers only in areas with good ventilation.
- Store dry ice only in containers that allow gas to escape such as non-air-tight chests or buckets made from
thick, insulating foam to help slow the rate of sublimation.
- To avoid fracture of containers, metal, plastic, or glass containers should not be used unless the container
is specifically rated for use with dry ice.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Ensure your hands and eyes are protected from the extremely cold surface temperature of dry ice to prevent
frostbite and skin damage.
- Never handle dry ice with your bare hands.
- Wear cryogenic gloves which are specially designed for handling very cold objects.
- Disposable exam gloves such as nitrile and vinyl do not protect against extreme cold and must not be worn. In
addition, they may freeze to your skin and become difficult to remove.
- Wear appropriate eye protection, such as safety glasses or goggles, under a face shield.
Safe Work Practices
In most cases, the use of dry ice is a good alternative to fog or haze as it does not require deactivation of smoke
Safe use begins by evaluating the theater / area where dry ice use is proposed. The area must be well-ventilated,
including the area where the container(s) will be stored.
Always review the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for dry ice (Carbon Dioxide, Solid) prior to using it.
Since dry ice is heavier than ambient air, it will concentrate close to the floor or stage, and in surrounding, low
areas. Performers, crew members, and support staff must be instructed to not lie down in the fog created by
Never store or use more than the quantity of dry ice than is needed for the desired effect at the time.
Be familiar with emergency procedures. Call (914)251-6911, or 6911 in the event of an emergency.
Disposal / Spill Information
- Never dispose of dry ice in a closed container, a trash can or a chemical waste container.
- Never dispose of dry ice in a sink, toilet or other fixture; the extremely low temperature can damage
- Allow unused dry ice to sublimate in a well-ventilated area until none is left.
- If spilled, dry ice sublimates to carbon dioxide. It will briefly accumulate in low areas until it warms and
equilibrates with the air. Open doors to the room, or increase ventilation to allow the remainder of the ice