Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ladder, ladder, on the wall . . . how many ways can you make me fall?

This ladder may have been 'legal' when it was installed (probably circa 1951), but it doesn't meet today's ANSI / OSHA standards.

For starters, access is on a platform that is about 8 feet above the stage (not visible, but off to the left of the ladder). There is no railing along the edge of this platform. To correct this situation (other obstacles to come, stay with me), a safety railing would have to be installed to protect the worker on the platform, then a cage would have to be installed to enclose the ladder. Since the ladder is almost adjacent to the railing, additional guards would have to be installed between the top of the railing and the bottom of the ladder cage so that the worker could not fall over the railing as they climb the ladder.

Note that there is also a wire-guided line set intruding into the climbing space of the ladder.

The next thing that is encountered is the opening through the proscenium wall. A platform is required here so that the worker can enter the door without hanging off of the ladder.
  • Side note: The door was found open, thus violating the fire wall integrity. This door is a 'shorty' - its only about 48-50" tall. They built them that way to meet the square footage requirement for penetrations through the fire wall. Curious, as there never was a fire curtain installed to separate the stage and house - why would they worry about the size of the fire door?
  • Second side note: On the other side of the fire door there was a light switch to illuminate the attic catwalk, but if you didn't know this, you would enter in the dark to find a 2 foot wide catwalk that turns immediately left. This catwalk has no guard rail or toe boards, beyond which was about a 20-25' drop down into an interior wall void that goes all the way down to the auditorium floor level. If you fell down in there they wouldn't find you until your body started to stink-up the place. Don't fall in on the last day of school - you'll be there all summer! Did I mention that all of this was fully accessible to the students?
  • Third side note: There was no grab-rail or anything to get a hold upon as you climb off the ladder into this 'shorty' door way - you have to reach in blindly and get a grip on anything that you can feel for - that was scary. Climbing back out of the door to get on the ladder was 'fun', too!
So, assuming you have added the requisite landing at the attic access door level, you now have to get up to the gridiron level. The existing ladder over-hangs the access door opening on the right, and runs into the headblock beam on the left. Time to re-group and think this over.

Plan B: Lets put the ladder to the right of the door, far enough off-stage that you can go past the electrical conduits with the proper clearance. This way we don't need the railing-to-ladder-cage filler panels, and we get out of the way of the wire-guided line set. We would have two platforms: One at the access door level, and one at the gridiron level. Of course, both platforms will require proper railings.

When you connect the platform to the gridiron you find that there is no railing along the headblock beams. (Imagine climbing the existing ladder, working your way around the off-stage headblock beam, over the loft well between the headblock beams, only to find that the gridiron was built with 2x6's set on-end with about 6" gaps between them. So much for having a good footing and a 'non-combustable' structure . . .)

Oh yeah, did you notice that there was NO loading gallery? Need to add one of those, too. Looking at the picture you can see that a loading gallery floor would likely encroach into the platfrom area for the attic access door. Dang! Wuddle we do?

We could use all motorized line-shaft rigging, but that is a fairly expensive solution. The saving grace is that the facility is now a 6th-grade only school that does not have a theatre arts program. The wire-guided rigging system was pretty well shot, and all the drapes need replaced, so the movable rigging will probably all go away and the battens will be dead-hung. The facility still needs a proper ladder access to the attic and gridiron, but at least it won't need a loading gallery, too.

One last note: Did you see that 2x4 fluorescent light fixture bolted to the bottom of the wood 'gridiron' joists? There were about a dozen of those that need to be serviced . . .

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