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