Wednesday, December 9, 2009

J.R. Clancy releases iRigging Application

It's always good to have rigging information at your fingertips - it sure beats guessing or digging in your tool box for that chart of numbers. J. R. Clancy has turned its popular rigging slide rule tool into a free iPhone application. Installers and users of theatre stage rigging should find this handy. The new application delivers instant information in English and metric (SI) units.

iRigging provides wire rope data, including: minimum sheave diameter; cable breaking strength; and recommendations for quantity of cable clips, wire turn-back for cable clips, proper torque for cable clip bolts, and Nicopress sleeve crimp quantities. Other data includes: allowable fleet angles, uniform and midpoint batten loading, arbor capacity, weight of counterweights, recommended working loads for equipment, motor current, stage ropes, and weight of stage fabrics.

The tool is free and currently available at Apple App Store.

More information about J. R. Clancy is available at As of this date there is no information available about the iRigging application on their web site.

Note: The app does not include iCommonSense, so you have to provide that yourself. It does feature standard GIGO* operation, though.

* Garbage-In yields Garbage-Out

Have fun with it, just don’t be an iDiot and drop your iPhone from the iGrid – it might hit someone in the iHead. Has anyone released the iLanyard to keep this from happening?

I've gotta get out of here!

I frequently find tables in the aisles in theatres, and occasionally in exit vestibules, which are both clear violations of fire codes, but this one was particularly troublesome: This was a laboratory table with a heavy top like a pool table, so it was not easy to move or toss aside. Even if you did move it, where would you put it that wasn't still blocking an exit aisle? Especially if there were people crowding toward the exit. On the other side of the door was the real surprise: They had an upright piano cross-wise of the doors (and a trash can, too!). You would have to pull the piano away from the door, open the door, turn the piano and shove it out the door (assuming there was a crush of people behind you also wanting to get out.)

The amazing part of this is that I have found three pianos blocking fire exits in less than two months - and one of them was a grand piano! Billy Joel would not be happy! Not to mention the Fire Marshal!

Oh yeah, did you notice that the EXIT signs did not have functioning lamps?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Fall From Catwalk Kills Lighting Technician

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida — A lighting technician, Fenton "Andy" Hollingsworth, was killed Thursday, December 3rd after falling from a 30-foot-high catwalk. The incident occurred at the 300-seat Marshall E. Rinker, Sr. Playhouse, part of the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.

Police and fire officials say that about 2 p.m., Hollingsworth, 27, slipped as he stood on the catwalk, installing lights on a truss.

Co-workers heard and saw him fall, Police Lt. Tom Hale said.

"He was not breathing when we arrived," police said spokesman Chase Scott.

Andy Hollingsworth was taken to St. Mary's Medical Center, where he died.

Both the Kravis Center and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the incident.

The 16 catwalks in the Rinker's light truss are each eight feet long by 20 inches wide and there are several railings. A facility technical plan can be found at:

Hollingsworth had worked for the center since April 10, 2007. Shannon McShane Hollingsworth said she did worry about her husband's safety.

"He always promised, and told me, he was always careful. We always made sure he had new shoes with new rubber soles" she told reporters. It was unknown if he was wearing any fall protection equipment when he lost his footing and fell.

"We're vigorously investigating the cause of the accident," Kravis Center Chief Executive Judy Mitchell said. "As always, we're very concerned about the safety of our employees. Andy was a wonderful young man and a valued employee who will be greatly missed by the entire family of the Kravis Center."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Head count, please! No SRO seating.

Part of the House Mangers' job is to ensure the safety of the attending patrons. If your customers survive the show, they might come back and buy another ticket! Each Assembly Occupancy" (that's building code speak for "theatre, auditorium, venue, show space, etc.) must have the maximum legal occupancy clearly posted. This means that you shouldn't sell 30,000 tickets for a space designed for 10,000 people. It leaves 20,000 rather frustrated and sometimes angry fans looking for a place to vent their concerns. This recently happened at a major new sports venue. The management team decided to ignore the Fire Marshal's occupancy limits, and the resulting crush of people invaded the spaces reserved for regular seating ticket holders. The customers that pre-paid for their tickets were none to happy. Bathrooms were overloaded, long waits at concession stands, and many that did not ever get to see the game.
Further information can be gleaned by reading the article in the Dallas Morning News: and this article on Yahoo:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Auditorium Safety Webinar Now Available at SchoolDude

These folks have graciously invited me to co-present a webinar about auditorium safety management. The event was live on Nov 18, 2009 and titled "Facility Masters Webinar Series: Auditorium and Theatre Safety".  It has been archived and can be viewed at

At the SchoolDude web site you can watch and listen to the presentation by Host Roger Young, New Mexico Deputy Fire Marshal Ray Wolf, myself, and SchoolDude Mayor David Kornegay.  There are also many document and presentation downloads available.

Depending upon your area of theatre involvement, some aspects of this webinar may not seem interesting, however, please be patient and take the time to watch and listen all the way through it. There are points of information throughout it that relate directly to the theatre safety issues.  Please pass this link on to your school maintenance and management officials, too, so that they can see how facility management relates to theatre safety.

Friday, October 9, 2009

National Fire Prevention Week - Keep Those Egress Paths Clear

I found this house right EXIT blocked, so blocked in fact, that I could not open the door.

So I went around to the outside and I found this:

I'm not sure how they got the chairs packed in there like that, but it sure was a serious violation of the Life Safety Code if I ever saw one.

NOTE to anyone working in theatres: YOU CAN'T DO THIS! It endangers everyone in the building.

National Fire Prevention Week - Reducing the Fuel Load

So, what is this you are looking at? It's costumes (some neatly bagged in plastic) hanging from a batten over the stage. This type of storage should be discouraged for a variety of reasons:
  • It contributes to the fuel load on the stage should a fire break-out.
  • If the bags and synthetic materials catch fire, or even are exposed to fire, they will melt and drip molten plastic droplets onto anyone / anything that is below them.

For more information about fire retardants in the theatre, visit the Chicago Artists Resource web site:

For more information about fire retardants for use on paper and cardboard download:

Intumescent paint is another good tool for the scene and prop shops. This paint 'chars' on the surface and prevents fire from getting to the combustible material behind it. Here are some resources for this:

The "NoBurn" web site has a great selection of videos showing the effectiveness of intumescent paints, too. Take a look at the 2003 American National Insurance Company Demonstration.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Natonal Fire Prevention Week - A look back at the Iroquois Theatre Fire

Much hasn't changed in the last 100 years - I still routinely find Fire Exits blocked, dysfunctional Fire Curtains, and flammable scenery, props, and costumes in every theatre I visit.  These were the very cause of the Iroquois Theatre fire. Think about it!
Asbestos Fire Curtain in an older theatre

For a bit of perspective, visit the following web sites a read-up on this disaster
Please, think twice before you set the stage for another disaster.

Monday, October 5, 2009

National Fire Prevention Week: October 5-9, 2009

This is the National Fire Protection Association's ( yearly awareness campaign week. Take a moment to think about your Theatre or performance venue and how you address Fire Safety issues. Here are some things to check:
  • Fire Extinguishers (When were they last inspected? Do you know how to use them?)
  • Egress Paths (Are they clear of debris?)
  • Emergency Lighting (When was it last tested?)
  • Fire Alarm Devices (Are they clearly marked and accesible?)
  • Fire Fighting Equipment (Are they inspected and accessible?)
  • Fire Curtain (Last tested? Last Inspected?)
  • Smoke Vents (LAst tested? Last Inspected?)
  • Draperies, Scenery, Costumes, and Props (Treated with Fire Retardants?)
Be safe. Test everything. Keep good records. Keep Back-up Records off-site.

National Fire Prevention Week: October 5-9, 2009

In honor of National Fire Prevention Week I thought it would be good to take a look back at one of the worst Theatre Fires that ever struck this industry. The Iroquois Theatre Fire in Chicago was integral in forcing the development of improved Fire Safety Codes and Building Codes. Although the facility was largely constructed from fire retardant materials, the fire started with scenery that was not fire-proof, the fire and smoke containment system failed, and many of the emergency egress routes were blocked.  In just a few moments, hundreds of people were killed.  A true tragedy in every sense of the word.

For those that are inclined to learn from the past, and sadly, realize that many theatres today suffer from EXACTLY THE SAME CONDITIONS, please read through some of the material at the following links:

Does your Fire Curtain work properly?  Does it meet all the current codes?  When was it last inspected?  When was it last tested?  Where are your records?  Where are your spare parts?  Where is the wiring diagram for the motorized hoist (if it has one)?  If you don't know the answer to any of these questions, find out!

If you need help getting this system properly designed and operating, please contact me.  Assessment of these critical Life Safety Systems is important to your staff, patrons, and performers alike.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Breaking strength of copper wire vs. steel cable - Gee, which one would you choose?

This scenery flat was found attached to a utility batten with a loop of 12 gauge stranded copper electrical wire. Copper is a soft metal that has little strength when loaded structurally. The director usually doesn't want the performers to wear hardhats during the performance, so eliminating the possibility of scenery falling on them really can work-out well for the wardrobe department.

The use of proper scenery attachment clamps, and securing flats at the bottom as well as the top can improve the safety. By attaching suspension cables both places, the flat framing is loaded in compression, rather than in tension, greatly reducing the likelihood that the flat could be pulled apart at the seams / joints should it snag on something when it is going up (flown-out).
Thread the suspension cable through this at the top of the flat.
Terminate the suspension cable at the bottom with a bracket like this.

Components shown found on Doughty Engineering web site (

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Greg Ladanyi Dies From Fall off of Stage

On Friday September 25th, 2009,  Grammy Award Winning Engineer/Producer Greg Ladanyi, President of Maple Jam Records, was touring with music artist, Anna Vissi, whose Greek album Apagorevmeno was his latest completed project.  Just before the show he was crossing a backstage bridge when he slipped and fell 5 meters and hit his head and ruptured a lung.  Ladanyi was rushed to General Hospital Nicosia, where he remained in critical condition throughout the weekend.  He from his injuries a few days later.  He was 57 years young.

More information can be found at:

Whether backstage, onstage, above the stage, or in the audience, one must be constantly vigilant for hazards. Watch your step!  Make sure that walkways and platforms have toe-boards (kick plates) to keep people and loose objects from slipping past the railings.

Monday, September 28, 2009

When things go horribly wrong with track lights . . .wait - isn't that redundant?

So, here we have a track light fixture that doesn't want to stay in the track, and someone has tried to duct-tape it into place (leaving that great melted glue residue - yeech!).

This fixture was mounted above the control booth window, intended to provide worklight on the control console. A task light is usually a very narrow coverage angle light source directed toward the work area. In a Control Booth a narrow beam is helpful to keep the light off of the booth window (to reduce glare and light spill into the audience seating) and out of the operator's eyes'. In this case, the lamp is one of those half-silvered globes intended to bounce light off of a reflector so that it only provides indirect diffuse light -- but with this mis-matched lamp-fixture combination most of the light just goes up into the cylindrical fixture housing.

Scary. I don't even know if it works - I was afraid to turn it on fearing it might burst into flames.

Rules to live by:
  1. Don't duct tape lights or anything else that gets hot.
  2. Don't duct tape anything that hangs over your head.
  3. Don't use duct tape on electrical things (it is a very poor insulator).
  4. If your track-light fixture is broken - replace it.
  5. Use the correct lamp for the lighting task.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rigging Expert and Author Harry Donovan passes away

The author of "Entertainment Rigging, A Practical Guide" (ISBN 0-9723381-1), rigging systems designer, engineer, and teacher at many rigging workshops over the years has contributed much to the safety practices in our industry. More information about Harry can be found at:

T.E.A.M Rigging Council on Yahoo Groups forwarded this message:

"It is with profound sadness that I write to you today. I was informed this morning that Harry Donovan, our luminaria of the theatrical and entertainment rigging industry has passed. Harry Donovan passed away last night in the hospital to which he was admitted suddenly yesterday. I spoke with his widow, Patty today. Harry had been suffering through another bout with cancer, this time of the throat. After many months of chemo, radiation and most recently, surgery, he passed away without any other warning. Harry was a friend of mine, a mentor and a sailing buddy. I looked up to him in all things rigging and safety. He will be missed here in Seattle. He, along with Dick Delay have helped bring local 15's stagehands into the complicated world of big time rigging and rigging safety. I can't say enough about how much experience and of course knowledge and even employment he brought to our local in Seattle.I know I will miss him very much, Please do what you can to spread the word to our Industry? I know his wife would appreciate it. As will I. Best wishes and regards to all at ESTA from Seattle. Pete Zink, IATSE #15 Seattle Stagehands"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It's 10:00 - Do you know where your Fire Extinguishers are?

When you have fire extinguishers in your facility it is very important that you and your staff:
  • Know where they are
  • Know when they were last inspected
  • Know how to use them

Knowing where they are is important not just for you and your staff, but for the person that has to check them as well. I frequently find units in the same building that have five or six different inspections YEARS. It is obvious that each successive inspector did not know where all of the fire extinguishers were located. Suggestion: Draw a building floor plan and annotate the location of all of the fire protection devices:

  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Fire Alarm Pull Stations, Smoke Detectors, Rate-of-Rise Heat Detectors
  • Special Devices (Fire Door releases, Fire Curtain(s), Smoke Vent(s), Elevator Lobbies)
  • Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP)
  • Alarm Strobes, Horns, Bells
  • Emergency Lights
  • Fire Sprinkler Heads
  • Fire Hose Cabinets

Keep it filed with your inspection records, and post copies for your staff. Other good information to keep with this would include contacts:

  • Fire Marshal
  • Fire Alarm Company
  • Fire Sprinkler Company
  • Fire Extinguisher Service Company
  • Rigging System Service Company
  • Smoke Vent System Service Company

Note the dates on the inspection tag in the picture above -- they are ambiguous (no year), and difficult to read. To help identify yearly inspections are being done on all equipment, use a different color of tag each year (red, yellow, blue, green, white, etc.) so that non-conforming tags stand-out more noticeably.

Know when and how to use a fire supression device. Get training for your staff and students. If you can't actually put-out a real fire, then do the next best thing and use a fire extinguisher training device like the BullsEye or I.T.S. Extreme from BullEx Safety (

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Could you sharpen that stick a little bit more - I'm not sure it will fully pentrate my skull!

All-thread rod that protrudes below the air duct mounting bracket - cut an an angle to ensure damage to anyone that dares to come near . . . yet another reason to wear a hard-hat!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Zzzzzaaap! Is that burning wire I smell?

When you connect two electrical items together you should follow a few simple rules:

  • The National Electric Code
  • Use one piece of wire, not three between two devices (this really cuts-down on work, too!)
As you can see in this strip of porcelain sockets, there are multiple splices of three different kinds if wire, each which is wrapped with a different type of tape, not all of which are really good insulators. The Edison plug (NEMA 1-15P) is wrapped in masking tape, too!

If you are not a licensed electrician, don't be wiring 120 Volt (or higher) power circuits that will be used anywhere, particularly on stage where you will be exposing others to your deathtrap.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin' - Raw Hide! (Well, at least Raw Brain)

I found this steel microphone base up on the elevated locking gallery in this theatre. The gallery has no kick-plate around it's perimeter to keep heavy things from rolling or sliding-off onto the unsuspecting crowd below (which is a whole 'nother issue), and is about 10 feet above the stage floor.

Not setting round rolly things on edge over people's heads would qualify as a "no-brainer" to most folks. But you can never tell what somebody else might do. So, to keep from becoming a 'no-brainer' - always wear a hard hat around places like this. Pick one up at the local hardware stor or safety supply - they are less than $10 bucks and could save your life.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pardon me while I trip over this pipe and impale myself...

This is a good example of where NOT to have a fire sprinkler pipe installed: Running right across the floor of a walk-on wire tension grid. Not only is it a huge trip hazard, but the hold-down calmps they used were left with bolt ends sticking up far enough to impale someone. Clearly, the bolts should be trimmed-off and the pipe maked with a bright yellow / black OSHA hazard marking tape.

Poor coordination in the design and installation phases cause things like this to happen. In reviewing the site, it was obvious that the sprinkler contractor just took the easy way through, as there was plenty of room overhead to run the pipes above even the tallest person working on the grid.

Not seen in the picture: right above the pipes were 2'x4' fluorescent work-lights that were suspended with the bottoms at about 5-8" above the grid deck. So, while you were busy looking down to keep from tripping, you hit your head on the sharp metal corners of the light fixtures (painted black to hide them). Yet another good reason to wear a hard-hat in the theatre!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eye Protection is more than just Safety Glasses

Eye protection is one of those things that many people forget about until its too late. DON'T BE THAT GUY (or Gal). When doing lighting work it is easy to tell yourself that bright lights can't be that harmful - actors stand under them for entire shows! The big difference between an actor and a technician is that you are "up close and personal" with the lighting instruments. Light intensity changes with the square of the distance. So if you are 6" from the face of a leko when the lamp comes on, the light is 1,600 times more intense than it is at 40 feet away. That can be hard on your retina and can cause some serious damage.

Really bright blue lights, like that which you can get from HMI / arc lamps and LED's, can cause serious damage as many times the spectrum of that light extends into the invisible but still dangerous UltraViolet (UV) part of the spectrum.

For those of you that are working around strobe lights, High intensity UV lamps, and Lasers, the danger is even higher. Wearing safety glasses that limit the spectrum of light that is imposed upon your eyes can be a really good idea.

If you are using Fiber-optics for data transmission, the laser light that is emitted from the end of a glass fiber can burn skin, blind you, and ignite any volatile chemicals like cleaning alcohol that may be present. Don't get curious with fiber data transmission systems and go looking into the jacks or the cable ends! There is nothing there to see anyway. Move along.

Physical protection for eyes is good for other tasks as well:
  • Painting - Paint spatter can get in your eyes from rollers as well as bristle type brushes. Yet another good reason to use non-toxic stage paint! If you are using spray tools (air brush, canned spray paint, Wagner PowerPainter, etc.) you must be very mindful of what or who is behind you work surface. You don't want to spray someone that walks out from behind your scenery flat unexpectedly.
  • Stapling - Have you ever seen a stapler or nail gun miss the intended target? Even the best craftsmen miss occasionally, and when they do a staple can ricochet in very unpredictable manner. Wearing safety glasses is not just for the staple gun operator - its for anyone within ricochet range!
  • Sawing - be it a saber-saw, radial-arm saw, or table saw, they all spew chunks of wood out and around the guards. If the big chunks don't take-out your eye, then the fine dust can irritate and scratch your eye, too. Additionally, if you are cutting wood treated with fire retardant, anti-rotting, or anti-insect chemicals, you don't want the chemicals getting into your tear ducts or other mucus membranes.
  • Nailing - "He hammers like lightning! - He never hits the same spot twice." Nails are just like staples on steroids. More mass. Stiffer. Harder. And because they are hit with more force (well, some of us do, anyway), they can fly farther and do more damage to unsuspecting passersby. This is one of the best reasons that EVERYONE in the shop should be wearing safety glasses with proper side shields. It's that unexpected missile coming in from the side that can really ruin your day.
  • Hanging Lights - In addition to the blast of light you might get at short range from a stage light, there are other concerns as well. Loose cable ends, safety wires on shackles, wire rope safety cables, and gel frame corners, and odd protruding bolts can all arrive in our face without warning. Additionally, when you are changing lamps they can sometimes break, or even explode, right in your hand. Video projector and follow spotlight lamps are also sensitive to mechanical and thermal shock and can explode unexpectedly.
  • Stage Armor - Sticks, Swords, Fencing Foils, Arrows, Knives, Spears, Flag Poles, Pipes, Tent Poles, Bayonets, and other long slender objects can all be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cap the pointed ends of these objects when they are not immediately in the production. Train the actors and the crew to watch-out for this type of hazard, as they can easily end-up in someone's eye when moving about offstage in the near darkness.

Be Safe. Go 'see' a show!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

1 Dead and 75 Injured at Canadian Music Festival as Windstorm Blows-down Stage Towers and Canopy

August 1, 2009, Camrose, Alberta, Canada (about 100 kilometres southeast of Edmonton) About 6:00 PM local time Saturday a sudden windstorm drove dust and debris into the Big Valley Jamboree Music Festival attended by about 15-21,000 country music fans. An amateur video of the incoming storm and post collapse mess has been posted on YouTube at:

The Toronto News story can be found here:

And the news report from PLSN can be found here:

Canadian safety officials will be investigating the roof collapse for further details of the structural failure. The YouTube video shows that the towers were tied-off with guy-wires to very large concrete blocks, and the post collapse pictures show many of those wires still intact. It appears that the shear magnitude of the wide gusts applied to the wind-loading surfaces of the canopy were more than the structure could withstand. Fortunately, the wind came from behind the audience area and drove the structure upstage and away from the audience.

As a side note, the YouTube video also shows a concert technician climbing the trusswork prior to the incident, and although wearing a Fall Protection Harness that was equipped with a Shock Absorption Lanyard, it is clear that he was not tied-off to the structure while he was climbing. Safety Equipment won't work if you don't use it!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Another Stage Tower Collapse

Hey folks, please be careful out there when you are working outdoor shows. The wind is a wicked and powerful foe. It can pick-up tents, topple towers, and generally wreck havoc. The latest report is somewhat belated as it occurred July 18th, just one day after the Madonna concert canopy rig fell in France. This time it was at an outdoor concert in Guangzhou, China.

There are several videos out on YouTube that show a very shaky cell-phone cam of the show. At one point the camera pans toward stage left and shows a large scaffolding-type lighting tower with some line array speakers also hanging from it. Later in the video there is much confusion and yelling with a few shots of the collapsed scaffolding and several people climbing through it.

Not surprisingly, there is VERY LITTLE media coverage of this and virtually no acknowledgement of anything by the promoter or sponsors. Some news articles say the cellphone video shows the I-Mag video screen falling forward toward the audience, but that is not what this writer sees. The cause of the scaffolding collapse may be related to an incoming hurricane (cyclone) and large tarps tied to the scaffolding acting like windsails.

This is not much different than what happened in 1990 in Brooklyn, New York at the Martin Luther King Music Festival at Wingate Field. Curtis Mayfield was paralyzed from the neck down in an onstage accident after high winds cause a 600 pound lighting rig to fall on him during an outdoor concert. Eyewitnesses described the moment as “A small twister of some sort tornado-like, just came out of nowhere.” He was 48 years of age at the time of the accident. Curtis Mayfield was best known as the lead singer for The Impressions and for composing the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film “Superfly.” Fortunately he was able to write, produce, sing, and record while lying on his back, but sadly was unable to play the guitar anymore.

Unrelated to either of these events are also numerous report over the years of stage canopies, tents, and other concert paraphernalia being blown over by high winds. Everytime these events happen there is always someone that is quoted in the media as saying "We never thought that this could happen . . . blah, blah, blah."

It's time to wake-up out there! It can happen! It does happen! It could happen to you! If you don't know the weather, your rig, and your loads, don't do the show. Today we have Doppler Radar, Internet real-time weather, and very accurate wind speed measuring devices. Install them, use them, monitor them continuously like your life depends upon it. It does.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Madonna Tour Stage Collapse Kills 2, Injures 10

During the set-up of a 60 ton (120,000 pound) stage canopy for her “Sticky and Sweet” world tour, one of four the cranes lifting the canopy into place failed and the canopy descended on several dozen stage workers. Most were able to get out of the way before the canopy pulled-over one of the hoisting cranes killing one worker instantly. The other worker died later at the hospital after neuro-surgery.

According to French media reports, the roof of the stage, described as a “giant Meccano”, was being raised by four electric winches on metal columns at the corners of the stage when it collapsed. Early reports suggest that one of these columns, which were held up by cranes, collapsed, causing the roof to fall. Maurice Di Nocera, Marseille city councillor in charge of major events, said on France-Info radio that the roof had been about two-thirds complete and that it collapsed gradually on top of several workers. "Since it did not collapse right away, that allowed several people to get out, to avoid being hit," he said. Another report says that they are looking into an electrical failure on one of the winches. French officials have opened an investigation for manslaughter, and experts have started interviewing witnesses and studying the scene of the accident.

About 27 fire engines and 80 firefighters responded to the emergency when the stage collapsed at 5:15 PM (GMT). French newspaper La Provence, quoted a witness who said part of the stage was already built and the chain either released, or pillars supporting it were poorly attached, causing the roof to fall on the stage and lawn. The witness reported, "it fell like a house of cards."

"There were a lot of open fractures, of injuries, it was a messy sight," one of the rescue workers told Agence-France Presse. The disaster led to the immediate cancellation of Sunday’s planned sell-out performance

Charles Prow, 32, had been in intensive care in a neurosurgery ward in the port city of Marseille since the accident on Thursday, but he died of his injuries overnight.

A 53-year-old Frenchman, Charles Criscenzo, was killed on the spot when the giant structure collapsed during the set-up for the Sunday concert, which was cancelled in the wake of the disaster.

Eight other people were seriously hurt, including an American who was hospitalised in a life-threatening condition, while 36 people suffered minor injuries and shock.
The stage was one of two units being "leap-froged" along the tour route. The accident happened at the Stade Velodrome, France's second-biggest sports arena, that seats 60,000.

On Friday (July 17), online footage emerged of Madonna, 50, paying tribute to the felled workers during Thursday night's show at the Stadio Fiuli at Udine before she performed the song "You Must Love Me."

"Before I continue the show, I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge and pay tribute to two people who lost their lives today," she told fans, holding back tears. "I don't know if you have heard. When they were building my show in Marseilles where we're playing next — we don't know why, but one of the cranes fell, a piece of the stage fell down. Two men lost their lives. It's a great tragedy to me. ... I feel so devastated to be in any way associated with anyone's suffering. ... Let's all just take a moment to say a prayer for Charles Criscenzo and for Charlie Prow, two men who lost their lives today. Our hearts go out to their families, to their loved ones. Please, let's all just take a moment to appreciate life in general.

Before performing "Ray of Light," the singer then shouted, "Let's give it up for the two Charlies!"

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Shin busters in the dark

Orchestra Shell Tower Counterweights. There are two things that you can do to make these a little friendlier:
  • Install some foam padding along the edges that will hurt you if you find them in the dark,
  • Install / Paint the corners and edges with glow-in-the-dark tape / paint so you can see them in the dark.

Good Resources:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Hemp houses still exist

This wooden pin rail with old hemp lines is situated right in front of the primary circuit breaker panel for all the stage equipment circuits, and as you can see, there are old pieces of rusty pipe and corroded conduit being used for belaying pins.
Watch-out above, as you may not know how precariously the overstage equipment is secured.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Lineset Numbering - It's not just for the index strip!

Here are some good examples of rigging management. Not only are the index strips and arbors CLEARLY numbered, but the batten end, loft blocks, and head blocks are also marked.

This also makes it easy to keep lineset inspection records straight during your annual safety check-up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Round and round we go . . .

Occasionally we'll run into these in really old facilities. Although quaint and historic, they are really dangerous. These are round counterweights. Note that there is no top clamp, and nothing to keep them from sliding off of the center rod. They really belong in a stage equipment museum display, not on a stage.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Toe busters!

Here is a metal strip that was intended to cover the transition from a sprung wood stage floor to the adjacent tile on concrete floor.Here you can see a side view of the metal showing how it has become bent and sticks up into the travel path.
Here is a floor pocket that was not properly installed and is resting upon the stage floor deck instead of being set flush with the wood surface.

Friday, June 19, 2009

And you really can't do this !

The earlier post about blocked exit corridors was just the beginning of this subject. This is probably one of the most dangerous and common problems I find in theatres. IF THE PATHWAY LEADS TO AN EXIT DOOR - THEN IT MUST BE KEPT CLEAR! Also note the broken emergency light and burned-out EXIT sign lamp. This door was at stage left.
This vestibule was at a house left leading from the audience chamber to the outside exit. This vestibule was also feed from the stage by doors on the left (barely visible in the picture). It had a table, chair, and loudspeaker cabinet all in the travel path.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And when she gets there she knows...

She's climbing a stairway with no hand railings.Not just one like this, but two! One each side of the stage. And note the 'no contrast' step nosings and slick surfaces, too!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You can't do that!

Aisles and corridors along the exit route must be kept clear of obstructions (this means tables, chairs, junk, more junk, and anything else that would or could impede the flow of people out of the building in the event of an emergency).

Monday, June 15, 2009

Great signs

Such a simple concept, but missed by many - label the door to the electical room.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Standardized set pieces for One Act Play competition need love, too! Drop them and they break. The next thing that might break is the actor using it. Don't just toss them into trucks, trailers, and storage rooms. Always inspect and repair before use! Look closely, and you can see that the lower 1x3 stabilizers both have knots in them and they are cracking. Yet another failure mode in progress.

Student stagehands take note: These things are heavy and shouldn't be moved by one person - You can hurt your back by lifting too much.

You should also be wearing ANSI standard steel-toed OSHA approved work boots (PPE). If you drop a piece like this on your foot it can do a lot of damage if you are wearing flip-flops, sandals, or tennis shoes.

And lastly: This is another good reason to be wearing leather gloves (PPE) when you are moving these things -- they can have nails, staples, tacks, and splinters that can really rip you up.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Just because there is a flat spot somewhere doesn't necessarily mean it's available for storage. Storing stuff, particularly heavy stuff, on a ledge over a doorway is just not a quality decision. Stuff moves, it gets snagged, it shifts, it rolls -- the next thing you know: you wake-up in an ambulance with your noggin' throbbin'. And here you have to lean out over a railing on a spiral staircase to get to the 'stuff'. A geat opportunity for a fall, too!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Burning Stones

This was a truly excellent design for a stone wall. From the audience seating it really did look like rocks in a great wall. Up close, I was able to see how it was made: Each 'stone' was made from a brown paper lunch sack with wadded-up newspaper inside. They were glued to a piece of corrugated cardboard, and lightly accented with Krylon enamel spray paint (I saw the empty cans). There were many of these wall panels. Guess what? Not a single part was treated with any fire retardant. One spark and the whole wall would have gone up in flames! Location: Elementary school stage.

NFPA Life Safety Code 101, paragraphs & specifically requires scenery and stage properties ('props') to be constructed of noncombustible materials.