Thursday, December 23, 2010

Spidey goes splat.

December 20, 2010:  Actor / stunt double Christopher Tierney was said to be in serious condition with cracked ribs at Bellevue Hospital Center on Tuesday after falling about 18 to 30 feet (depending upon the report your read)  from a platform into a pit.  The accident happened during a Monday evening performance of SpiderMan: Turn Off The Dark at the Foxwoods Theater in Times Square, New York.

The production has also been plagued with other technical issues that has delayed it opening and, at $65 million and counting, is the most expensive Broadway show in history.  This was the fourth injury on the special-effects-laden show, and the most severe.  Earlier, two stuntmen / dancers had injured themselves in a “slingshot” type stunt, one breaking both his wrists, and another suffering a foot injury.  During the first preview performance of the show an actress suffered a concussion when she was struck in the head with a rope.

The performer's Fall Restraint Lanyard can be clearly seen moments before the incident.
The incident occurred near the end of the show when the bridge set piece comes down and MJ (Mary Jane) is lowered on a rope from the edge of the bridge into a pit that is out of sight from the audience's view.  As she decends on a rope, he was to lean over the edge and look down followed by a black-out.  Unfortunately, the fall restraint lanyard failed and the performer lunged over over the side of the elevated platform.  Soon after the audience saw SpiderMan take the unexpected plunge, the stage manager's voice was heard over the PA, and informed the audience that there was going to be a pause in the show.  The theatre stayed dark for a minute or two, and then they called the show and brought the house lights back up.

Here you can see the loose lanyard trailing behind the performer as he goes over edge. 
Coming from the pit where the actor fell, a voice, which was believed to be lead actress Jennifer Damiano's, was heard screaming.  As audience members left the theatre, at least one ambulance and fire truck were seen.

Actors' Equity Association, the labor union representing American actors and stage managers in the theatre, released its third statement December 21 that stated:  "Actors' Equity Association worked today with the Department of Labor, OSHA and the production to determine that the cause of the accident at last night's performance of Spiderman was, in fact, human error.  Further protocols are now being implemented, including redundancies recommended by Equity, the DOL and OSHA, to address this situation as well as other elements of the production.  [Actors'] Equity [Association] continues to vigilantly monitor the production for the safety of its members."

State lawmakers and safety advocates met with crew and cast members of the troubled Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," which will resume its performances Thursday night.
The meeting addressed the need for better theater oversight following the hospitalization of an actor who fell during a recent performance.  "This is a workplace and they are entitled to a safe workplace," said New York Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who chairs a state subcommittee on workplace safety. "Clearly there were shortcomings."  "While we appreciate that 'Spider-Man' is pushing the envelope . . . workplace safety is not something that can be achieved by trial and error."  Lancman said earlier that the show could proceed if it met advisory recommendations.

Lancman said those concerns include providing sufficient rehearsal for understudies performing aerial or tethered sequences. All performers involved in aerial work must also attend seminars or those sequences may be removed from the show, according to a written statement.  There must also be sufficient crew and stage management to run the show safely, Lancman added.  Also, the tether attached to the Spider-Man double will be shortened so the actor is not as close to the end of the platform.

The company canceled its Wednesday matinee and evening performances to review the new safety measures recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the New York State Department of Labor, said company spokesman Rick Miramontez.

State Sen. Eric Adams told reporters Thursday that he is introducing a bill that would create a task force charged with examining safety regulations in New York theaters.

Update: 2011-03-10

US Department of Labor's OSHA cites Spider-Man Broadway musical production company following injuries to cast members
NEW YORK – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 8 Legged Productions LLC, the production company for the Broadway stage production of "Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark," three serious violations of workplace safety standards following four separate incidents late last year that resulted in injuries to cast members of the musical.

OSHA began its investigation of the incidents that took place at the Foxwoods Theater, located at 214 West 43rd St. in Manhattan, after receiving a referral from the New York State Department of Labor. The incidents resulting in employee injury happened on Sept. 25, Oct. 19, Nov. 28 and Dec. 20, 2010.
From the investigation, OSHA alleges that employees were exposed to the hazards of falls or being struck during flying routines because of improperly adjusted or unsecured safety harnesses. An additional fall hazard stemmed from unguarded open-side floors that lacked fall protection. Finally, the company failed to shield employees from being struck by moving overhead rigging components.
These conditions resulted in the issuance of the three serious citations, with a total of $12,600 in proposed fines. OSHA issues a serious citation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The employer, 8 Legged Productions LLC, has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to meet with the OSHA area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA's Manhattan Area Office; telephone 212-620-3200. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit

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