Thursday, December 30, 2010

107th Anniversary of the Iroquois Theatre Fire

As we start the new year let's take a moment to look around our facilities with a fresh set of eye's.  It never ceases to amaze me at the number of obvious fire hazards I see when visiting theatres, gymatoriums, cafetoriums, and other assembly spaces.

It sometimes seems like we haven't learned anything since that fateful day in Chicago where over 600 people lost their lives.  These are the common fire code violations I frequently see that also fueled the Iroquois Theatre tragedy:
Learn not to burn.  Keep your Fire and Smoke Protective Systems working properly and accessible.

Here is a blog entry from Lori Green at Ingersol-Rand Security Technologies, the manufacturers of Von-Duprin Door hardware.  They make one of the few crash-bar exit systems that don't make a lot of noise - Great for Theatres!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Make Angles Fly - Not 'Make Angels'

Photo courtesy of Abel Aluart
'Tis one of the the seasons for churches to attempt high profile productions, and a few schools, too.  If it involves flying people, angels, Santa Claus, Peter Pan, or anybody else, then it is REALLY DANGEROUS.  Hire professionals to do the work so that everybody makes it home for Christmas.  The November-December issue of Church Production magazine has a really great article about Hall Associates Flying Effects ( installing a computer-controlled system for three-dimensional flying of actors.  This article by Jim Kumorek discusses many important points about this type of very specialized rigging.  You can find it here:

Remember: Your frequent flier miles won't do you any good if you're being shipped in a box.

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hemp House Rigging - The 'old fashioned way'

Dawn Wilfong, 24, works the fly rail and hauls a piece of coiled rope during a performance of “A Christmas Carol.”  (c) 2010 Photo by Thomas Slusser (For The Virginian-Pilot)

Check out this great story about one of the few remaining active rope rigging houses.

This wooden pin-rail is in a theatre built in Texas in the 1920's.

One of the most common scenarios this blogger sees is equipment like this that has never been serviced in 50-70+ years.  The Loft Blocks are sometimes made of dry-rotted wood or sand-cast pigiron, either of which could fail under load without notice.  The ropes need constant review and regular replacement, too, as they weaken with age and abrasion.  As you can see in the second picture, the facility operators in this building don't understand the concept of counterweighting the batten loads, so everything is stage-heavy.  The battens are dead-hauled (bull-dogged) up, and if the tie-off fails or the fly crew looses their grip, then the batten and load will will come crashing to the stage.

Other potential problems are retro-fitted belaying pins:   I've found rebar, conduit, gas pipe, broom handles, steel spikes, and other odd items used in place of the correct items.  Some hemp-house facilities are 'hand-me-down' theatres that started-out as the High School Auditorium, then was the Middle School, and is now part of the Elementary School facility.  Not only is the equipment MORE DANGEROUS, but it is located where young children not familiar with the hazard potential can pull-out the belaying pins and/or untie the rope lines.

It is extremely important that the operators and staff fully understand how the fly system works and what safety precautions must be taken when loading and operating the system.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

OSHA Cranes and Derricks Standard as iPhone App

December 14 - The Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association (SC&RA - now offers a free mobile phone application for instantly accessing all necessary crane hand signals. The new application is available in the iTunes App Store ( and Blackberry App World (

Every signal included is compliant with the new OSHA Cranes and Derricks Standard, Appendix A to Subpart CC of Part 1926-Standard Hand Signals. Each signal is shown graphically so that operators can quickly and easily reference the appropriate signal for each command. All signals are available in English and Spanish.

This new app is intended for use before entering the workplace. SC&RA does not encourage the use of smartphones on jobsites.  The Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association (SC&RA) is an international trade association of more than 1,300 members from 43 nations. Members are involved in specialized transportation, machinery moving and erecting, industrial maintenance, millwrighting, crane and rigging operations, manufacturing and rental.

The U.S. Department of Labor‘s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a historic new standard, addressing the use of cranes and derricks in construction and replacing a decades old standard. The significant number of fatalities associated with the use of cranes and derricks in construction and the considerable technological advances in equipment since the publication of the old rule, issued in 1971, led the Labor Department to undertake this rulemaking.
The final rule was published on August 9, 2010 by the Federal Register and became effective 90 days later.  The rule can be found at

A copy of the regulatory text is available at:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Aspiring Film Student Dies When Lift Topples in High Wind - Indiana OSHA Cites Notre Dame $77,500

Topples Boom Lift
What follows is a news report regarding a death that occured while a cameraman was using a sissors lift during inclement weather.  It is also common to see sissors lifts used for follow spotlight towers, delay speaker towers, and other outdoor show related activities.  Always use caution when wind picks-up at outdoor events as tents, canopies, and temporary signage can all act as a sail to catch the wind and present  a more intense force upon the structures.
Other concerns when using sissors lifts outdoors are the stability of the ground underneath them.  Soft ground, weak utility covers (underground sprinkler valve boxes are frequently made of plastic), and weak or cracked subturanian culverts can all give-way when loaded with the enormous weights that a lift platform presents.  Just a few inches of depression can equate to significant leaning of the platforms.
Boom Lift Wheel on Crushed Sidewalk Utility Access Cover

Workplace Safety Rules A Part Of Notre Dame Death Probe
By Rick Callahan & Tom Coyne, Associated Press Writers

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- State regulators are investigating whether the University of Notre Dame violated safety rules when it allowed a student to videotape football practice from a tall hydraulic lift that toppled in high winds, killing the young man.

Authorities also planned to review whether Declan Sullivan received training before using the scissor lift and whether a federal rule barring workers from using scaffolds during bad weather would have applied to his job, Marc Lotter, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, said Friday.

Sullivan, a junior film student, died Wednesday after the lift fell over in gusts that rose as high as 51 mph. The machines typically extend to 40 or 50 feet, but it's unclear how high Sullivan was when Notre Dame's lift crashed to the ground.

An attorney who represents relatives of people killed in accidents involving aerial platforms said the scaffold rule does not apply to scissor lifts, though industry groups have drafted rules limiting use of the lifts in windy conditions.

Still, attorney David L. Kwass said the Notre Dame accident clearly violated those industry standards and other rules of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"If there were indeed gusts up to 50 mph, which is what was reported, then it was completely inappropriate to put an operator at height in a scissor lift. That should never, never, never have occurred," said Kwass, chairman of the American Association for Justice's crane and aerial lift litigation group.

He said OSHA rules requiring employers to ensure a safe workplace and safe working conditions "would absolutely apply" in Sullivan's death.

A 2007 Notre Dame policy posted on a departmental website says lift operators must consider weather before using the machines, but university spokesman Dennis Brown would not say Friday whether the document reflected current policy.

"We're not providing any detail on the policy because it's part of the investigative process," he said.
The 14-page policy also appears to provide conflicting information about what training is required for lift users.

It says the department operating the lift is responsible for arranging training of lift users through the university's Risk Management and Safety Department. But it also requires lift users to sign a waiver acknowledging the university will not provide training and that they have reviewed manuals and understand how the lift operates.

Brown would not say whether Sullivan had signed a waiver.

Sullivan's uncle, Mike Miley, who has been serving as family spokesman, said he did not know whether his nephew had signed the waiver.

Robert Blomquist, a Valparaiso University law professor, said the university has a general responsibility for students' safety.

"To make sure there are adults that are advisers who are supervising the students and training the students and watching out for things like this. That's going to be an important issue," he said.

As a student worker, Sullivan reported to a video coordinator who oversees filming for the athletic department. Messages left at the home and office of coordinator Tim Collins were not immediately returned Friday.

A friend said Sullivan never expressed concerns about working in the lift and questioned whether Sullivan actually feared for his life when he posted a messages on Twitter describing the wind gusts and saying it was "terrifying" to be on the tower.

"Knowing him, that was definitely not the case," said Shane Steinberg, 20, a junior from New York City.

"There's a misunderstanding in general of our social networking culture and what it all means. I think that the sarcasm of it all and the playfulness about them is falling through the cracks," he said.
Steinberg told The Associated Press he met Sullivan during their freshman year and quickly discovered a shared love of film. While Steinberg favored classics like "Citizen Kane," he said Sullivan would watch "terrible films that any other person would just scoff at and love it."

"He loved the offbeat. He loved most of all movies that were just visually stunning. He liked to be taken to another place," Steinberg said.

He said Sullivan, who was from the Chicago suburb of Long Grove, Ill., planned to go to California after graduation to try to work in filmmaking.

Callahan reported from Indianapolis. Associated Press writers Rick Gano in South Bend and Jeni O'Malley in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

See follow-up here:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Can you say "structural failure kills hundreds"? Sure you can. Probably even under oath in court.

Video of the balcony bouncing at The Fabulous Fox Theatre, St. Louis during the 6.16.09 Phish show.
(Great tip from Doug McDonald - Thanks Doug!)

Video of the balcony bouncing at the Fox Theatre, Detroit during the 1.16.10 Nick Jonas show.  The Detroit and St. Louis Fox Theatres are basically identical buildings.

Despite the ampped-up headline for this blog entry, the readers should note that a little bit of structural flexing is typical in many balcony structures.  However, you should also realize that the structural engineer in 1928 may not have fully anticipated this kind of a crowd response.  Thankfully, the audience members were not fully synchronized in their jumping up-n-down to the beat.

For more insight into this trype of structural event, the book "Why Buildings Fall Down; How Structures Fail" by Matthys Levy and Mario Salvadori is a good read.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blocked Fire Exits - Live at 10 o'clock

When it comes to Fire Exits, it is amazing what I find in them.  Above is an exit corridor with a big sign, a large screen rear projection TV, and other miscellaneous stuff.  Please take the time to put this junk somewhere that it does not block an exit!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rigging Report Card - Pass? -or- Fail!

J.R. Clancy Company, one of the largest Stage Rigging component manufacturers in the world, has introduced a new posting section on their Facebook photos page.  It is a Bad Rigging Photo of the Week.  Log in and check it out.  Scary is an

These pictures, and similar ones I post here in the Theatre Safety Blog, and those that I show in my USITT workshops "What's Wrong With This Picture?" are all intended to make you take pause and think about what may be lurking in your theatre, or that theatre that you may be traveling to for your next show.

These types of poorly thought-out assemblies really go to show you how important it is to have your facility inspected by an objective party.  Things that you may casually dismiss because you've come to see them every day may actually be a really serious hazard.  A fresh set of eyes can be key to getting a wake-up call.  Independent Consultants (insert shameless plug for my company, Teqniqal Systems, here) can be a great resource for this as they work objectively and are not interested in selling you new equipment, just seeing that you are aware of the current state of affairs with your facility.

The NFPA 80 Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, 5.2, requires that you have your Fire Curtain inspected annually, so this is a good time to have the rest of the rigging system inspected as well.  If your facility is operating under OSHA (State plan, or Federal plan, or even if it's not - it's still a really good idea), then you are required to have your Rigging Systems inspected annually.

Not to be forgotten, your Smoke Vents (an important part of the Fire Curtain System along with the Fire Doors) must be tested annually.  Your Smoke Vents should have rigging that facilitates the operation from the stage floor level (don't tell me you are going to go to the grid iron deck to open them to clear-out extraneous atmospheric effects or summer heat).  This smoke hatch rigging (be it mechanical or motorized) must be inspected semi-annually as a part of the Smoke Vent inspections.  Ref: NFPA 204 Standard for Smoke and Heat Venting,

Ask a lot of questions about the report that you are going to pay for.  What does the inspection include / exclude?  How long will it take?  Who should be present?

"Will you shut me down if I fail?" is a common question I get.  My answer is this:  I'm just the messenger.  I report what I see and put it in context so you and your administration can understand it and the potential consequences.  I quote relevant building or safety codes, if applicable to the situation.  I am not the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction).  You are my customer, so I report to you.  Your building condition is your business, so you can act on the report as you deem appropriate.  Hopefully, you will get the broken stuff fixed.

One thing at a time:  Typically, a Rigging System Safety Assessment report will NOT include any design or specific engineered solutions.  It is only a report on the conditions.  Why is this excluded?  At the time I contract with you to perform the inspection, I will usually only know the general nature of the building layout and rigging systems, I will not yet have seen any of the actual conditions - how could I possibly estimate the cost of my services to (re)design a fix for what I have not seen?

"How much does this cost?" is the battle cry of the administrators.  Don't be smug and ask them why it matters - or retort "Would they rather pay for a funeral?"  That's not the question.  "How much does it cost?" means that they need to find the funds and understand the value.  When they understand what this inspection entails, why it is important and/or necessary, then they can address the funding issue. You can help the process by remaining calm and professional.  Drama Queens can alienate the administrators if they present more bluster than facts.  A good consultant can help you to educate them about this investment / recurring annual maintenance cost.

A little help on your part can be useful, too.  Do some research with your insurance provider, safety department, or even your regional / national arts groups.  Sometimes they have grant money available to help defray the cost of this work.  If it involves facility planning (that is what this is - planning for necessary improvements) and/or safety, the money is usually out there.

The answer, like so many things in life, is: "It depends."  You should be suspicious of anyone that offers you a "Free" or "Discounted" rigging assessment.  It will likely be worthless and largely incomplete.  This type of work takes time.  Time = Money.  No one makes a living on 'free'.  At a minimum, you are paying for the person's travel time and expenses to and from your facility, the time on-site actually testing, inspecting, observing, interviewing, photographing, and documenting what they find.  They then must organize all their findings into a coherent report that addresses your specific facility and put the information in context.  Each item should be clearly tagged with recommendations as to what needs removed, repaired, replaced, re-designed, etc.  The time expended writing the report can be many times the hours spent on-site.

The "It depends" factor is complex:  Do you have a walk-on gridiron?  Or do I need to rent a man-lift to go up a bazillion feet?  Do you have 1, 2, or 3 loading galleries?  How many line sets do you have?  How many are motorized?  Is this a Union House?  Am I inspecting just the Rigging System, or am I doing the Drapes,  Fire Curtain, Smoke Vents, and all the scabbed-on rigging at the Tormentors, Beam Electrics, Speaker Clusters, and Orchestra Shell components?  Is there an Orchestra Pit Lift?  Am I inspecting Fire Doors, Fire Alarms, and/or any other Life Safety Systems?

Be efficient with your investment.  Is your facility part of a School or College District that has multiple venues?  If so, then seriously consider having all the venues inspected under one contract.  No, this isn't a money grab.  It is about identifying the sources of problems.  If your inspector can assess 2, 4, or a dozen facilities as a whole, then the report you receive should be more manageable.  The areas of common concern can be discussed once, and the unique 'features' of each system or building can be addressed individually.  This allows you and your administration to see items that are systemic in nature and those that are local in nature.  A big picture that speaks to all of the district's Theatre Safety needs can be a powerful impetus for change and improvements.

Once the report is written and submitted, you will have a chance to read it and discuss it with your staff.  Don't shoot the messenger.  Understand that the inspector does not have an agenda, they are not 'out to get you', they are not seeking to close-down your theatre.

As Sergeant Joe Friday would say: "Just the facts, ma'am."  Don't interpret the safety report as an indictment of your operations or management.  It is not.  However, it may point to some areas of your operations that could use improvement.  The most dangerous part of a rigging system is the people that operate it.  Use your rigging safety report to improve your policies, methodologies, and show preparation.  Use it to plan repairs, upgrades, and service.  Learn from it.

Questions?  Call me or write me!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dancing shouldn't be a bone-crushing experience

A 1988 study conducted in Canada by IRSST called Les blessures et leur prĂ©vention chez les danseurs professionnels (Injuries and their prevention in professional dancers) (in French) can be downloaded from:  This was based upon an interview survey with 80 dancers, representatives of dance troupe management, and health professionals who regularly treat dancers.  Excerpts from the study show:
  • 94% of dancers get injured at least once in a period of 16 months.
  • 4 injuries occur each 1,000 hours of work (comparable to other professional sports).
  • The injury affects mainly the back and lower limbs and it is mainly sprains and muscle injuries.
  • Injuries that occur due to the activity are are five times more likely than accidental injuries.
  • The work done late at night and learning new movements are situations of higher risk.
  • The texture of the floors, fatigue, and workload are all factors in dance injuries.
For a more extensive study (in English) you can download "Occupational Risks in the Performing Arts" (

There is also a great document titled "Performing arts - Occupational Risks: Keeping workers front and centre" that can be found at:
One dance floor manufacturer, Spectat ( & click on: "Dance Floors", then Salt o, Salt i, and Salti s), has taken to approach to design floors that have specially engineered shock absorption and energy damping so that joint and other body injuries are minimized.  Although not the first to do this, they have applied good kinesiology ( and biomechanics understanding to the problem and tempered it with solid engineering.
At their web site there is a document ( (in French - hey, that's why they put translation engines on the web) that describes the various forms of trauma that a dancer's body encounters, and also has a brief description of how their unique floor structure is designed to minimize these stresses.
So, don't

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hear, Hear!

The illusion that we're indestructible is sometimes hard to overcome, so we occasionally do risky things.  The way we treat our hearing is just one of those areas of transgression against our mortality.  The younger we are, the louder we like our music, and the less likely we are to use hearing protection when working or playing.  NEWSFLASH:  Hearing damage can happen at any time, any age, and in just about any setting.  It's not just a malady suffered by gray-haired old folks.

Enter H.E.A.R., a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization that promotes hearing conservation, aural education, for the general welfare of everyone with an ear or ears.  The H.E.A.R. web site at is a great resource for learning about hearing protection, protection products, and what you can do to keep yourself with a working set of ears into your old-age.

The H.E.A.R. web site has a great tools for teachers and healthcare professionals.  There are informational posters, handouts, Public Service Announcements (PSA's), product resources for hearing protection devices, Training DVD's, curriculum guides and coursework for teachers, articles, whitepapers, artist bios, and event listings.

Damage to your ears is gradual, cumulative, and most of all, permanent.  So, do yourself a favor and learn more about what you can do to keep tinnitus at bay, and your hearing in good shape.

Noise that is impulsive in nature like hammering, stapling, the clatter of scaffolding parts, or the clang of dropped tools can be every bit as damaging as sounds that are continuous like saws, music, grinding, or the droan of a truck or bus engine.  Learn when to use hearing protection, and what devices can help the most and the least.

Oh yeah, you can make donations to support their awsome work, too.  Don't be a cheapskate - chunk 'em some change.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Talk of the Nation: Risk Management

'Risk Management' is a popular term these days.  Lots of things to be discussed that affect us all from BP's Oil Spill to accusations about cars that accelerate unexpectedly, to airplane and train crashes.  It may be the big disasters that make the news and turn the spotlight on both the culprits and victims, but it can be small disasters, or near-misses, that you see every day in your theatre that can make you take pause and realize, "maybe it's time we re-think how we do this before someone gets hurt."

Safety and Risk Assessment are like any good 12-step program:  The first thing you have to do is recognize you have a problem.  Risk Assessment is just as it sounds:  you take apart a policy, procedure, or piece of equipment and look at both the whole and the pieces to determine what can be improved.  There are no sacred cows.  Pick it apart, think about "what could possibly go wrong?" (famous last words), and look to see what can be done to make the procedure safer, maybe more efficient, and possibly easier to perform.  This can be applied to any aspect of show production from crowd control, to rigging, to load-in / strike, to cable management, and a myriad of other tasks.  Everything we do has some sort of procedure we perform, and there is almost always room for improvement.

Things to consider are:
  • Are the correct Tools (this means any physical object or software used to perform the task) available to the workers? ("Never try to do a Jeweler's job with Blacksmith's tools.")
  • What PPE is needed? (OSHA regulations and NIOSH are great resources for this.)
  • Are there enough (or too many) people involved?
  • What is the best order to complete the work?
  • Is there enough time to do the job safely?
  • Who's really in-charge?
Each step of the way you have to question the ultimate goal of the task, and the financial reality of the project.  "Biting off more than you can chew" is a recipe for disaster, so break-down tasks into manageable portions.

There is an excellent discussion about this subject on NPR's Talk of the Nation news show:
Host Tony Cox interviews former astronaut James Bagian (Chief Patient Safety Officer, Veterans Health Administration), William Reilly (Co-chairman, BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission), and Beverly Saur (Consultant in Strategic Risk Communication; Author, "The Rhetoric of Risk: Technical Documentation in Hazardous Environments") in this show and they all bring a high level of understanding of the issues.  There are both an MP3 podcast and a written transcript of the show available.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Getting Safety Wrong

"Safety" can be one of those words that can stop a conversation dead in its tracks even before it's started.  Greatly misunderstood, sometimes feared, frequently misguided.  Perceptions about how safety affects the performing arts and those that work in the field can be strange, and strained.  Even mentioning 'safety' to some can put them in a defensive mode that is difficult to deal with.  Why is this?

It takes more than just 'good people skills', tact, and being a master debater to get the message across to those that aren't inclined to listen.  It requires an understanding of your opponent's state of mind.  If you see what is holding them back from enjoining the conversation, then you may be more successful when you broach the subject.

Kathryn Shulz, author of the Slate Blog, The Wrong Stuff:  What it means to make mistakes, has a fairly clear understanding of this phenomena and explains it well both through interviews on her blog, and in a book called Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. (Ecco Books, 2010,  There is a great interview by the KERA host of Think (, Krys Boyd, that can be downloaded as an MP3 file at the PBS podcast site:

Take a listen, maybe even read the book, and you can be better prepared to address the S-word with peers and administrators above you.  Understanding how to best dissuade concerns about the subject of safety can really help to open-up the conversation so that its comfortable to all and can be discussed as needed.

If you can't talk about it, then you can't do anything to make improvements.
Engage in the Safety Conversation

Sunday, July 25, 2010

20 Killed, 342 Injured as Crowd Panics at German Music Festival

Saturday, July 24, 2010 - Duisburg, Germany.  As approximately 1,400,000 (yeah, you read that right: 1.4 MILLION) people tried to attend the Love Parade techno-music festival, the crowd surged into a narrow tunnel leading into the show grounds.  Panic ensued and fans were crushed to death as they approached a security checkpoint to the event that had been closed.

Emergency responders trying to clean-up the mess.Picture courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

City officials were being criticized almost immediately because they had restricted entry to only ONE path that created a choke point.  People were still moving forward even though the entrance at the other end of the tunnel had been closed.  This lead to a mass panic and chaos as fans were unsure where to go in the claustrophobic environment.  The stampede started around 5 p.m. local time, shortly after police closed the tunnel because the festival grounds were too full.  Police told those in the tunnel over loudspeakers to turn around and walk out from the direction they came.

Crowd crush as patrons try to exit.  Picture courtesy of Yahoo!

German police union leader Rainer Wendt said in an interview on the Bild newspaper's web site that he warned Love Parade organizers more than a year ago that Duisburg was "too narrow, too small to handle this mass of people."

Ariel view of festival grounds.  Picture courtesy of Yahoo!

More pictures of the aftermath here:

The Wall Street Times news article here:

Yahoo! News groups article here:

To learn more about effective event planning and crow control issues ther are some great resources.  The International Association of Assembly Managers (IAAM) ( regularly discusses this topic as a key component of event planning and security.

A company that focuses on this issue is Crowd Management Strategies ( an their web site has a wealth of information and [sometimes gruesome] statistics.

Picture courtesy of Yahoo!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Protecting your hairy eyeball: Safety Glasses with Magnification

For those of use that lack perfect eyesight, wearing corrective lenses and safety goggles at the same time can be a real pain. Put on the goggles and you can't read the manual or see the fine detail of your workpiece, or try to wear them both and get dust leaks and/or fogging. Dang!  No good deed goes unpunished.  Until now.

Sperian Protection (, a world leader in personal protective equipment (PPE), announced that its flagship eyewear brand, Uvex, has launched the Uvex Stealth® Reader Goggle, the industry’s first safety goggle with reading magnifier lenses.  The lenses are available in five diopter strengths ranging from +1.0 to +3.0.

“The Uvex Stealth family of safety goggles . . . combines modern design with the best technology and materials,” said David Iannelli, senior product manager for Sperian Eye & Face Protection. “Now workers can enjoy the added benefit of magnifying fine details with comfort and safety.”

The Uvex Stealth Reader Goggle is available in a clear lens with Uvextreme® anti-fog coating, and its economical lens replacement system extends the life of the goggle.  Made in the USA, this goggle meets the ANSI Z87.1-2010 standard for high impact protection as well as the CSA Z94.3 safety standard.  Like all Uvex® lenses, the Uvex Stealth Reader Goggle offers 99.9 percent ultraviolet protection.
Works for those with unibrows, too.

The Uvex Stealth Reader Goggle’s low profile and wrap-around style delivers complete coverage and unobstructed vision on the job. Its wide, adjustable slide headband features pivoting clips for an easy-to-adjust fit for complete comfort, even when worn with hard hats.  Its soft elastomer body conforms to facial contours for a secure, gap-free fit to provide optimum all-day protection.  With multiple models to choose from, the Uvex Stealth family offers workers the protection they need and the selection they want, helping promote a culture of safety in the workplace.

More information about the Uvex Stealth family of safety goggles is available at:

A friendly reminder:  No spare eyeballs are available at this time.
You loose 'em, scratch 'em, or poke 'em, and you are S-O-L.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

2010 LDI Show Schedule Available - Sign-up NOW!

The LDI International trade show has grown over the years to include much more than just stage lighting. You will also find sound, rigging, staging, video, projection, special effects, and thousands of tools to do your job more efficiently and safely. This year's show in Las Vegas (aka: Lo$t Wage$) runs Monday, October 18 thru Sunday, October 24 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Of particular interest is the growth of show production safety workshops being presented by ETCP trainers:
  • Stage Rigging Fundamentals - two days (L27)
  • Ohm's Law and Order: Essential Electrical Training - two days (L28)
  • Left Brain Rigging: An A-Z on Math and how it applies to rigging - two days (L29)
  • Left Brain Rigging Calculator - build your own spreadsheets for critical repetitive calculations (L30)
  • Tomcat USA: Safely Building the Beast - truss system design, fall arrest systems, ground supported systems - two days (L31)
  • Keep your Stage Rigging Happy & Healthy AR01)
  • Math for Riggers (Made Simple) (AR02)
  • System Integration Trends in Automation (AR03)
  • Is your GO Button Putting You at Risk? - Motor Control Technology & Risk Mitigation (ES01)
  • SIL Explained: Understanding European and Control System Safety Standards (ES02)
  • Fire Safety Curtain Systems - Closing the Door on Smoke (ES09)
  • Hook Up and Go! - Is Climbing on a Portable Structure Really That Easy? (ES10)
  • All About the ETCP (FS01)
  • ETCP paper & Pencil Exams at LDI - actually take the test(s)!
And of course, there will be lots of blinky lights and glittery things both inside and outside the convention center. Be There. See a Show. Have Fun. Learn Something.

More info at:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Honesty is always the best safety policy: CM Steps-up to the Challenge

Well known electric chain hoist manufacturer Columbus-McKinnon (Commonly known as 'CM') issued a statement reminding customers about a known safety issue with some of their hoists.  This Safety statement pertains to questions about brake retaining pins on the company's hoists.

The company statement follows:

"There has been some information circulating recently within the Entertainment Industry in reference to brake retaining pins on Columbus McKinnon Hoists. This issue goes back to 2006 when Columbus McKinnon issued the attached notice concerning a small number of brake retaining pins for the following hoists: Prostar, Shopair, Shopstar, Shophoist, Model CPS, Budgit Series, Coffing SLC, Little Mule SLM and Yale SAL powered chain hoists built between February 2005 and April 2006. The serial numbers that were affected had the last two letters of RP, RQ, RR, RS, RT, RU, RV, RW, RX, RY, RZ, SA, SB, SC and SD.

"Columbus McKinnon did notify at that time every distributor that purchased the affected hoists and sent out replacement pins. Our distributors did a good job of notifying their customers and having the pins replaced. However it has come to our attention that some end users of the affected hoists may not have replaced the brake pins. If you have a hoist model and serial number listed above and the brake pin has not been replaced, please contact Columbus McKinnon directly at the number below.

Dean Sullins or Lee Gregor

Support manufacturer's that support your safety (and the gear above your heads).  CM LoadStar Hoist School is a great way to get first-person training ( regarding the hoists used by many of the touring show professionals around the world.

Visit CM's Entertainment Industry hoist web site ( for more information.  These are versions of their commercial hoists that are specifically tailored to the unique needs of the show production industry.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pink Gets Banged-up In Fall From Flying Harness. "Steel barrier-1 Pink-0"

July 16, 2010, Nuremberg, Germany.  According to Pink (30-year-old Alecia Beth Moore), she was "a little embarrassed" and apologized to her fans who had shown up to see her perform. She said that the reason she fell is she was incorrectly clipped to a safety harness.  She went on to say that she had no serious problems, no broken bones, just a pretty bruised ego.

The star slipped out of a harness which was supposed to carry her across the crowd.  Instead, she was dragged off the stage and into a into a crowd control barricade.  There is a video clip shot by an audience member ( of her two assistants helping her into the harness just before the incident, but their costumes blocked the view of the procedure.  As she was about to be pulled into the air over the fans, she raises her arms into the air to make an "X", possibly a 'no-go' sign for the fly crew.  She is then pulled forward and you can here her say "no-no..." and then the harness comes loose and drags her off of the stage along with two assistants that appear to be entangled in the fly lines.  You see her stage right assistant being flung off the stage and into the audience.  There is no news available regarding injuries to the assistants or audience members.

Pink was reported to have argued a bit about leaving during her concert, but was obviously in pain and knew that all medical precautions had to be taken (smart girl!).  She climbed back up onto the stage so that fans could see she was not injured seriously, and was then taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital for observation.  The concert in was halted.

On the way to the hospital she twittered: "To all my nurnberg fans - I am so so so sorry to end the show that way. I am embarrassed and very sorry. I'm in ambulance now but I will b fine,".

"Didn't get clipped in2 harness correctly, drug me off stage, fell in2 barricade. Getting xrays. I hope it at least looked cool!!!"

Later, she wrote on Twitter: "Nothing's broken, no fluid in the lungs, just seriously sore."

She also apologized to fans for having to cut her concert short.

She later tweeted: "Full steam ahead people.  No pain, no gain. or is it no brain, no pain? either way, I will be on that stage, even if I have to crawl."

Carey Hart, Pink's husband, blogged to fans: "Fyi, @pink is out of the hospital and all good. Just got the sh** kicked out of her by the barrier. Steel barrier-1 Pink-0"

Stagehand Killed By Fall at Rochester Castle Outdoor Concert

July 15, 2010 - Rochester Castle Event Grounds, Medway, Kent, UK.  A man in his 40's fell from the stage and died later at the hospital from the injuries sustained to his head and neck.  The incident occurred about 5:30 PM as the open air concert stage was being prepared.  The Emergency Medical Team received the call at 5:41, and was there within 6 minutes.  They reported that "the patient was bleeding and going into cardiac arrest and was conveyed to the Medway Maritime Hospital."

Police cordoned-off the area around the incident to allow further investigation, and the show featuring Will Young was delayed about 90 minutes.

2002 Pop Idol winner Will Young reportedly said at the end of the show: "Someone's had an accident tonight so let's give him a round of applause and hope he gets better."  He did not know that the man had died and later said he was "shocked and saddened" upon learning of the man's fate.  "I was unaware of the seriousness of the incident until after I left the stage.  My deepest sympathy goes out to the bereaved family."

The cause of the fall and the reason why guard rails did not prevent the injuries are under investigation by the Health and Safety Executive board (HSE) (

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Brady Label Company Offers Free Handbook on Photoluminescent Marking

Free.  That's always helpful.  Even more helpful is the handy handbook that Brady has published that discusses the International Building Code (IBC), NFPA Life Safety Code, and LEED requirements for Emergency Egress signage and markings.

This objective guide outlines the various code sections, provides some graphics showing placement examples for photoluminescent items, and is very light on advertising hype.  Wow.  Real info not obscured by marketing schmooze.  That's refreshing.

Get yours at:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Wind Gust Uplifts Festival Tent - Six Injured, 1 Broken Leg

What do they tell you?  "Break a leg!"  Not really a good plan for most of us.  The summer music festival season is in full swing and the weather in Tornado Alley can bring-in fairly large storms on short notice.  Tuesday, July 6th had crews setting-up for a Yes and Peter Frampton concert at the Lucky Star Casino in Concho, Oklahoma (about 20 miles west of Oklahoma City) when the skys opened-up and poured down rain with a strong downdraft.

Witnesses say the wind came in under the sides of the tent and pressurized it to lift it up and tear-out the anchor lines.  The wind toppled the sound towers and the overstage truss system as well.

Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman newspaper

Fortunately, the incident occured before there were any audience members present.  The show was cancelled and will be reschedule.

TV Interview with injured crew member:

NewsOK web site article:

Arial footage showing tent site and mangled stage gear:

A walking tour of the stage and mix tower after the event:

This video reveals alot about the original set-up.  It shows that the truss bases were not anchored and did not have any ballast weights.  The rig was set-up as if it was an indoor show with no regard to the wind that could blow through and topple the gear if the tent was breached.

Anchor your Rigs!  Watch the weather!  Don't wait for it to hit before you react!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

SchoolDude announces upcoming webinar on Managing the Risks Associated with Community use of School Facilities

As a part of their Facility Masters Webcast Series, SchoolDude is hosting an interactive webinar that will discuss the liability exposure that Schools can have when they rent or loan facilities to outside user groups.  You must protect your school from liability issues and manage the risks related to community use of your facilities, such as personal injury and participant health/safety, as well as potential damage to facilities and mechanical failures. Additionally, you should be tracking and recovering the costs associated with community facility use, such as additional utility expenses, custodial overtime and building wear and tear.

This webinar will identify best practices and proven processes for managing the risks associated with the use of school facilities by community groups, including:
  • Establishing fees and invoicing to recover facility use costs
  • Importance of consistent rental policies and procedures
  • Managing insurance certificates
  • Knowing when and by whom school facilities are being used
  • Preventing mechanical failure
  • Avoiding overbooking
  • Leveraging technology
Making school facilities available for use by the community requires more than simply unlocking the door and allowing people in.  Be prepared with knowledge and planning.
Presenters are:
  • Bethany Kerr: District Scheduler – Clarkston Community Schools, MI
  • Lee Gaby: Executive Director – Public School Risk Institute
  • Roger Young: Principal Member – Roger Young and Associates LLC, MA
  • Justin Turner: Applications Engineer –
Webinar Info:
Community Use of School Facilities: Managing the Risks
Thursday, July 22, 2010, 12:00pm-1:15pm Eastern Time

Register Now at:

For a more complete guide to previous seminars and resources on this subject, visit the SchoolDude web site:

NFPA 80: Standard for Fire Doors and Protective Openings

Does this apply to your theatre?  If you have Fire Doors and/or Fire Curtains, then it most definitely applies if your locality has adopted this Fire Code.  This standard describes all of the requirements for testing and maintaining these critical fire and smoke containment elements.

How many times have you found stage doors physically propped-open with stage weights, chairs, desks, road cases, speakers, flag poles, kick-down door stops, rolled-up carpets, duct/gaffers tape, rope, or some other object?  This is clearly defined as a violation of the Fire Code and you should be able to instruct your staff as to why this is illegal and dangerous.

Do you know that Fire Doors and Fire Curtains must be inspected annually?  When was the last time yours were inspected?  What are you looking for when you do the inspection?  Which doors count as Fire Doors?  Overhead, hinged, sliding?  How fast (or slow) must the Fire Curtain close?  How often do they need to be tested?  What markings and signage are required?

Although the standard does not cover all of the aspects of Fire Doors and Fire Curtains - it does place most of the pertinent information in one location.  Like many things that the NFPA regulations cover, sometimes the answers are scattered across several different standards:
  • The routes that lead to the Fire Exits are discussed in NFPA 101: Life Safety Code.
  • The EXIT signs are addressed in NFPA 70: National Electric Code.
  • The Smoke Vents over the stage that work in conjunction with the Fire Curtain and Fire Doors are addressed in NFPA 204: Standards for Smoke and Heat Venting
  • The Fire Detection and Alarm System that may release electrically held Fire Doors, Fire Curtains, Smoke Vents, and Duct Shutters is addressed in NFPA 72: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code
  • The smoke suppression system in the air ducts are defined under NFPA 90A: Standard for the Installation of Air-Conditioning and Ventilating Systems
Other related Codes:
  • Portable Fire Extinguishers are regulated by NFPA 10: Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers
  • The Fire Sprinkler System is defined by NFPA 13
  • The Standpipe and Fire Hose requirements are in NFPA 14
The NFPA ( publishes the standards and the books that discuss them, and they also present webinars to further educate people that have to understand and know how these items work. They have an upcoming webinar regarding NFPA 80 that you can sign-up for here:

You can subscribe to e-mail notices from the NFPA at:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Concert Rigging in Michigan Collapses During Setup - 10 Injured, 2 Hospitalized

During the set-up of a concert stage in the Silverdome stadium in Pontiac, Michigan, 10 workers narrowly escaped death as tons of sound, lighting, drapes, scenery, and trussing collapsed.  Emergency responders from the Pontiac Fire Department were called to the Silverdome around 4:30 p.m. Saturday, June 19th, 2010, before the show started.  The initial call indicated that the domed roof had collapsed, but upon arrival they found that the concert staging framework had caved-in.  Workers recall seeing trusses being hoisted that appeared to be overloaded just be for the mayhem broke loose.  Two workers spent the night on a local hospital for observation.

Some of the most complete coverage if the incident can be found here:

There was no damage to the concert facility as the collapsed rigging was ground supported.  The concert was to be A R Rahman's Jai Ho Concert: The Journey Home World Tour.  Rahamn is best known for his musical score for the movie Slumdog Millionaire.

The concert was cancelled and will be rescheduled.  OSHA was on-site almost immediately to assess the damage and determine the cause of the accident.  With over 150 workers on or near the stage at the time of the collapse, it took some time to determine if anyone was buried under the tangle of wrecked scenery.

The summer tour season is a busy time of year for many stage hands, so for all of you out there bustin' your butt to make a living - keep a close watch on your co-workers and guests.  Don't hesitate to recognize potential hazards and notify the proper authorities if you see unsafe conditions.  Your life depends on it!

Procedural items to remember:
  • Preplan your show - Know your rig - and all the weight that is attached to it.
  • Verify your show - Use load cells to measure truss hoist loads.
  • Have spotters on radios monitoring (this means listening, too) all viewpoints during lifts.
  • Always clear the stage and call for quiet during lifts.
  • Have a gathering point (muster point) pre-arranged just in case there is an emmergency like this.  Don't have people wondering around afterward until you have a clear head count.
  • Where bright clothes during set-up and strike (it makes it easier to find the body) - save your blacks for the show.
  • Wear your PPE:  Boots, Hard Hat, Safety Glasses, Gloves, at a minimum, knee pads, and fall protection harness as required.
  • Don't work when you are worn-out or heat exhausted.  This seriously impairs your judgement.  Stay hydrated.

CANCELLED: ISETSA 2nd National Congress on Health and Safety for the Performing Arts in the Secondary Schools

UPDATE 2010-06-22 - We are sorry to learn that the ISETSA 2nd National Congress on Health and Safety for the Performing Arts in the Secondary Schools has been cancelled due to lack of advance registration.  If you want to see more programs like this presented, then you have to support them by actually going to them.  Please keep in touch with Tim Catlett and let him know what part of the country you are in and what kind of programs you would like to see in the future.


Who:  Dr. Randall Davidson (aka Dr. Doom), Jay Stone, David Krajec, Tim Catlett, Jim Guy, and others.

What: Theatre Safety Workshops

When: Tuesday, July 20 at 8:00am through Thursday, July 22 at 5:00pm

Where: South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center - (901 15th Avenue, South Milwaukee, WI 53172;; or

You can find-out more here:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Shades so dark, you don't even know my name

Veratti V6 from

Eyeballs.  You get one set for life.  No spares.  No back-up.  No mistakes.  Treat them like you can't live without 'em (well you can, but it sure isn't easy).

Thinkaboutit:  Flying nails, staples, loose ends on wire rope, crud spewing from saws, drills, planners, weed whackers . . . and that's the stuf you can predict.  What about that joker foolin' around with the stick?  Or worse.  get some safety glasses and wear them  Sittin' on top of your head may keep your date book full, but what good is that if you can't see if they are cute or dog food?

Look for products that meet or exceed ANSI Z87 and CSA Z94 standards.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

'Paint it black' isn't just a song by the Rolling Stones

Dontcha just hate those glaring  EXIT  signs?  Some director's sure do.  They'll go so far as having the stage crew cover them up, or better yet:  Paint over them!

This is a great way to get a big fat fine from your Fire Marshal or the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction), as it is an obvious deliberate act.

While we're on the subject of  EXIT  signs, it is important that you file a written request for repairs whenever you find them damaged or otherwise disfunctional.  Common problems with  EXIT  signs are:
  • Lamps burned-out (LED replacement lamps are very cost-effective).
  • Glass / Acrylic letters broken or missing (leaving exposed bulb).
  • Failed Battery Back-up (you have to test these at prescribed intervals per the NFPA).
  • Broken or Missing Covers.
  • Sign units torn from the wall and hanging by wires.
  • Sign units missing (I see these in brand new buildings!)
  • Sign units over doors that are not really Fire Exits (I see these in brand new buildings!).
  • Sign units above / adjacent to overhead rolling doors.
  • Sign units in  Black Box  theatres covered by perimeter drapery tracks so that audience can't see them.
  • 'Light-pipe' designs that don't effectively pipe the light to the sign (internal obstruction or bad product design?).
  • Sign units that are obscured by pipes, ducts, tracks, junk, stuff, scenery, greenery, or other crud.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lighting the way safely

Loading docks can be very hazardous places.  Working backstage at load-in or strike can be dangerous for a variety of reasons, and the risk shouldn't be ignored.  Loading areas are categorized as 'Material Handling Areas" and operations should be conducted in the context of a warehousing or factory environment.  OSHA has a large portion of their web site devoted to materials handling environments and it's worth a look.

Check out:

Hazards include:
  • Crushing (load shifts and fall on or against workers, being caught between moving vehicles and stationary objects, forklift tip-overs, dropped items [time for steel toed shoes!])
  • Falling (walking or driving off of an unguarded loading dock, falling from storage racks)
  • Poor visibility (trucks are full of equipment and you can't see other workers)
  • Heat exhaustion (or just plain being worn-out after a 20 hour day...)
  • Poor illumination (dock areas and trailer interiors not properly lit)
The folks at Rite-Hite ( have solutions for many of these issues.  Need a dock light and can't get funding?  Play the GREEN cards (not the imigrant worker card, the other GREEN ones - Energy Savings and Safety.

If you need more ammunition, go to OSHA 1926.56.  Also, take a look at Rite-Hite's LED flexible-arm Dock Light for loading areas: