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!