Friday, February 19, 2010

Chutes and Ladders

Ladder wells can be dangerous places, as they are a transition point from a stable work space and a location where you are on uneven footing and must use your hands as well as your feet. In the picture below you can see a ladder-to-catwalk transition that does not meet the ANSI standard / OSHA required railing arrangement. You have to climb between the railing and the toe board (kick-plate) to make the transition. It is really quite awkward, and therefore, dangerous.
Here is a ladder transfer platform that is clearly marked and has a spring-hinged safety gate.
PS Doors Safety Gate
This is a gravity-hinged safety gate.
Intrepid Industries DG series Safety Gate
As mentioned in other posts, it always a good idea to have both emergency lighting (i.e. 'frog-eye' battery-powered light packs) and photoluminescent marking stripes along your catwalks and ladders so when the lights go out and your battery-pack fails, you still can find your way to the ladder - and down it.

ANSI A14.3 - "American National Standard for Ladders−Fixed−Safety Requirements"
OSHA - U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration – "Regulations 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D (Walking-Working Surfaces)"
PIP - Process Industry Practices document "STF05501 - Fixed Ladders and Cages"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jumpin' jack flash(light)

I know, I just had a blog entry for Pelican's photoluminescent flashlights, but they have yet another cool tool.  Every Stage Manager and House Manager's workstation oughta have one of these:
Pelican 2480 ELS Emergency Lighting Station houses a Pelican MityLite 2440PLB Flashlight (with a photoluminescent body).  A tail switch for easy, one hand operation fires-up this 21 lumen 5-LED array powered by alkaline/titanium cells that provide 90 hour burn time and shelf life of about 7 years.

Here's the odd part:  You can't find these item on Pelican's web site because they have discontinued this particular model.  However, just plug 'Pelican 2480 ELS'  (for the plastic station holder), or 'Pelican MityLite 2440PLB' (for the flashlight) into a search engine and you can find-out where to snag them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs. Blocking-up the scenery, messin' up my mind.

Or so says the Five Man Electrical Band.  "Do this.  Don't do that. Can't you read the signs?"  Well, when the lights go out, it can be difficult to see exactly where everything is.  So the next time you're in the market for EXIT signs, NOTICE signs, CAUTION signs, DANGER signs, or any other informational signs, think about purchasing photoluminescent signs.  The look 'normal' in the light, and they keep on glowing when the lights go out.  Better quality signs will keep their glow for 12-24 hours.

Resources:  Just enter "Photoluminescent Signs" into a search engine and you'll get about a bazillion hits.  You can start with the vendors I've mentioned over the past week or so, too, as they are some of the major players in the market.

KCACTF Region 6 - Safety Workshops

The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival will be holding an event in Amarillo, Texas (home of the Big Texan Steak House) at the Globe News Performing Arts Center on February 23 thru 27.  Info at:

I'll be presenting two Theatre Safety Workshops:
  • Friday at 2:00 PM we'll talk about the House Manger's role in Theatre Safety
  • Saturday at 1:30 PM we'll talk about the Stage Manger's role in Theatre Safety
Play Safe!

I'm about to the end of my rope...

What would we do if we didn't trip over rope in the dark, or get clothes-lined by it?  Probably have a few less rope burns.  Don't try rigging with this photoluminescent rope (but it's just a matter of time before someone does make some stage rigging worthy rope), but it might be handy for lashing stuff together backstage.  Or maybe that ghostly looking hangman's noose . . .


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Don't be bored with the baseboard

Baseboard material that has a photoluminescent strip molded right into it.  Good stuff in hallways, restrooms, dressing rooms, lobbies - just about anywhere you don't want to stumble-around in the dark.  This is particularly handy for new construction or renovations, as you generally are going to have a baseboard anyway, so you might as well do it right from the get-go.  The nice thing about having it built-in is that it won't get scuffed-off or scratched-up.

Safe Glow (
Glow Tech (

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tread lightly

It's one thing to have a well marked step nosing so that you don't miss the edge of the step (see previous post here), but is really helps to have something underfoot that glows so you can find it in the dark, too.  This is the EdgeGripGlo fiberglass step nosing plate by FibreGrid Limited.  It has traction grit embedded in the fiberglass binder and is photoluminescent.
Balco IllumiTread (

EcoGlo (

FiberGrid Limited ( Standard)

SafeGlow Non-slip Stair Tread Cover (

Zero International TractionTread Glow (

GBC Safety Glow Stair Tread Cover (

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Light me up!

So, what happens when the lights go out?  Do the emergency lights lights come on?  Are there any emergency lights?  In the storage room?  In the restroom?  In that back hallway, trap room, or catwalk?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  When was the last time that battery pack or generator was tested?  Hard to say. The installation of photoluminescent tubes or solid bars in fluorescent light fixtures is one way to have an "always ON" back-up.  They work after earthquakes, floods, or just about anything else.

The sleeve solution:  It is a plastic sleeve that is designed to slide over the glass tube of the lamp and be continuously charged by the light.  When the power shuts-off, the tube keep on glowing.  This is a cheap, zero maintenence solution.  You can use on just one lamp, or on many, depending how much light you need. 

One caveat:  This will ever-so-slightly change the color content of the light, so if you are using this in a dressing room, make-up room, costume shop, or paint shop, be aware of what this will do to your color rendering.  This shouldn't be a big deal, as you will typically only have one or two of the lamps in the whole room equipped this way.

Luna Glow Luminite Light Sleeves  (
Shat-R-Shield Lamps (

The Bar Solution:

These are just thick bars of photoluminescent material that magnetically attach to the inside of a metal light fixture.  Simple to install, and don't have to be swapped-out when the lamps are changed.  You can use one or many per light fixture.  Being so close to the light source, these bars get maximum charge from the lamps and as a result glow really brightly as soon as the lights go out.

SafeGlow (

An alternate solution is to appply photoluminescent tape or paint to the interior of the light fixture.

Cavaet:  Make sure that anything you put into a light fixture is designed to take the heat and doesn't violate any building codes!  These solutions are not yet qualified to provide code compliant emergency lighting, but they are still way better than nothing.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Strangers in the dark . . do be do be do

Ever fumble in the dark for a light switch?  Don't need to do that no more! This plate is available from GlowTech (

Another version just screws-down over your existing switchplate cover:

This is the Find-A-Light strip by Arnev (  Of course, you could just place four strips of photoluminescent tape around the lightswitch, too.  Or, you could coat a regular switchplate cover with glow-in-the-dark paint.  If you need to label the switches (which is always a good idea! - ever have folks flippin' swiches "just to find-out what they do?" ), then using clear P-Touch type tape labels over the glow tape, strip, or switchplate will allow the lettering to be legible with a bit of a backlight effect.

No more finger pokin' in the dark, OK?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Painting the town

As wonderful as glow-in-the-dark photoluminescent tape is, sometimes it is just easier to paint something.  Odd shaped or textured surfaces, or just bulk application frequently makes it more economical to do this, too.  Another reason to paint rather than stick, is that the finish is more permanent.  Tape-based products vary in the type of base material they are made from, and adhesive backing provided.  In high traffic areas (for hands, too, not just feet) tapes can sometimes snag on the edge and either create a trip hazard and/or a peeling problem.  Curious vandals may want to re-appropriate your carefully applied glow-tape, too.

When looking for glow-in-the-dark photoluminescent paints, it is highly recommended that you verify that the products meet ot exceed the New York City MEA 451-05-M-2 Standard for LL26 Safety Evacuation Markings.  These aren't the only certification for products, but it is one of the most common and well publicized references out there.

Also, note that some products don't use the Stontium Aluminate (SrAl) based pigments, either.  The products by GloNation, although very cool and helpful for special effects, use phosphorescent dyes; and the Rustoleum 214945 'Glow-in-the-Dark' Latex paint, which uses zinc sulfide (ZnS).  Many of the cheaper photoluminescent Low Location Lighting (LLL) systems in use today are based on zinc sulfide (ZnS) as the main pigment. The advantage is relatively quick charging, but these products have a limited 'storage' life and the ZnS corrodes over time (2-4 years lifespan).  It also doesn't glow as long or brightly after being charged. However, the introduction of Stontium Aluminate (SrAl) as a pigment, has provided a much higher level of performance. Although it takes slightly longer to charge, it can 'store' more light, making it much more suitable for use in locations where ambient light levels are low, or dark for extended periods.

Lastly, in order to get a good bright glow paint treatment, it is very important to follow the manufacturer's directions (you know: RTFM! ).
  • Most of them require a bright white base coat so that there is a reflective surface behind the paint to assist the glow.  If you paint the glow material over a dark surface, then the glow that emits from the back-side of the coating will just be absorbed into the background instead of reflected back out through the nominally transparent glow paint coating.
  • Apply several coats of the material to build-up a few mils of  paint thickness.  One thing you will notice with most photoluminescent products is that the brightness of the product is related to the thickness of the product (it is also related the formulation).
  • Apply a clear coating to protect the photoluminescent coating.  Otherwise it will eventually scrape-off or wear-off.  This stuff ain't cheap, so make the effort to keep it intact.
You can also apply traction grit additives to the coatings.  Ask your vendor what they recommend, and whether it should be mixed into the photoluminescent coatings, or into the clear over-coat.

American Permalight ( - Spray paint, Acrylic Wall paint, and 2-part Epoxy & Polyurethane paints
EverGlow (
GloBrite (
GloNation (
GloTech International (
KanKote (
KryptaGlow (
GBC Coatings (
Metal Safe Sign International (
ProLayer Inc. (

Get samples.  Apply.  Test - for a really long time - say . . . 12 hours.  Buy the one that works best.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Glow-in-the-dark Brain Buckets

As I have mentioned before, Hard-hats are a really good idea in the theatre. There are lots of sharp corners, low-lying steel beams, and stage lighting instruments that can leave a real bonk on yur noggin.  3M has combined the photoluminescent pigment technology with a standard hard-hat to create a nifty lil' skull protector.

3M™ Glo-Mega™ Omega II GLO Photoluminescent Hardhat.

Of course, we theatre folks tend to spend alot of time leaning-over with our heads pointed down.  So,if you buy a hard hat, spend the extra buck-n-a-half for a chin strap so you won't be hollerin' "HEADS!" as you watch your PPE fall to the floor below . . . those built-in head-bands don't work so well when you are inverted.

OSHA Head Protection Regulations 1910.135 and 1926.100