Stagehands are usually skilled in multiple disciplines, including rigging, carpentry, stage electrics, stage lighting, audio/projection, and props. Stagehands are often responsible for operating the systems during shows or tapings and also for the repair and maintenance of the equipment. Most stagehands have a general knowledge of all the phases of a production, but tend to develop specialties and focus on specific areas.
Riggers are in charge of the things that hang. This may include building structures that are tens of stories high. They use safety gear similar to that used for mountain climbing. The most serious injury risk for riggers is falling.
Carpenters construct and set up scenery. They also move scenery on stage during a show. The primary risks are things falling on them or being injured by power tools.
Electricians set up all the lights, program the light design in the lighting console and run the followspot (what lay people often call a spot light). Electrocution is the most serious injury for this particular stagehand work.
Stagehands are generally employed on a show-by-show basis, although most major theaters and studios maintain staff heads of departments and assistants. Often, they are union members, typically I.A.T.S.E. in the United States.
Different disciples experience different risks. The most serious injury risk for riggers is falling. The primary risks are things falling on them or being injured by power tools. Electrocution is the most serious injury for this particular stagehand work.
When a show travels or "goes on tour" some stagehands travel with the show ("the road crew") and others work to support the shows at each new venue ("the local crew"). Usually everything the show needs is transported from venue to venue in trucks. Local stagehands "load in" a tour under the direction of the road crew. This can involve moving tens of thousands of tons worth of equipment from the trucks to the local venue.
After the show, which can be one day or as long as a month, they take it all apart and load back onto the fleet of trucks to haul it to the next city.
When a show is produced locally, stagehands build and set up the scenery, hang all the lights, and set up sound systems. Stagehands work closely with the directors, lighting designers, set designers, costume designer, and sound designers to ensure their visions are realized.
Some stagehands work conventional hours but more often they work nights and weekends. Employment can be intermittent due largely to the seasonal nature of theatrical production work. Many production companies and venues have union contracts. Stagehands are represented by the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees. In some smaller productions, stagehands are not all paid, many are volunteers, theatre students or unpaid interns.