Monday, December 26, 2011

1 Plus 1 Plus 1 = Hey, that's not such a good idea!

We've all done it. If you look around right now you'll probably see one, too. Plugging one extension cord into another extension cord may seem like a minor issue, but each time you plug stuff together you add a little more resistance into the power line. More resistance means more heat generated and more voltage drop at the far end of the cord. If the device(s) you are powering don't get the voltage they want, they may demand more current, and when they do that, then the heating in the cord goes UP and the voltage goes DOWN. Kind of a vicious cycle.

Relocatable Power Tap (Plug Strip)
It's not just Extension Cords, either, it's Relocatable Power Taps, too. A what!? Yeah, its a fancy term for a "Plug Strip" that UL uses.  Jim Hutchison's Blog JimOnLight has a great article about using RPT's safely, so go there to read that, and keep reading here for more Extension Cord Safety Do's and Don'ts.

So don't just think about the fully portable types like at left, you also have to consider the rack- mounted ones like this:
Rack-Mounted Relocatable Power Tap (Plug Strip)

Also note that a Relocatable Power Tap is intended only for indoor use as a temporary extension of a grounding alternating-current branch circuit for general use.

• Do inspect an extension cord for physical damage before use.
• Do check the wattage or current rating on the appliance or tool that the extension cord will be used with; do not use an extension cord that has a lower rating.
• Do make sure all equipment and extension cords bear the mark of an independent testing laboratory such as UL, ETL, CE, TUV, etc.
• Do make sure the plug on an extension cord is fully inserted in the outlet.
• Do replace an outlet (receptacle) if a plug is too loose and can easily fall or be pulled-out.
• Do match up the plug and extension cord on a polarized cord (one hole on the plug is larger than the other).
• Do keep extension cords away from water.
• Do use GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protection when using extension cords in wet or damp environments or in areas considered construction sites like the scene shop and stage.
• Do keep extension cords away from children and animals.
• Do pull on the plug, not the cord when removing an extension cord from the outlet.
• Do store extension cords indoors (UV light damages the plastic casings).
• Do unplug extension cords when not in use.
• Do keep slack in flexible extension cords to prevent tension on electrical terminals.
• Do use cable pathways to cover cables passing through walk areas.
• Do use high temperature cord sets for stage lighting circuits.
• Do put safety covers on the unused receptacle outlets on extension cords.

• Don’t use an extension cord marked for indoor use outdoors.
• Don’t plug one extension cord into another.
• Don’t overload cords with more than the proper electrical load.
• Don’t run extension cords through doorways, holes in ceilings, walls, or floors.
• Don’t move, bend, or modify any of the metal parts of the extension cord plug.
• Don’t plug a three-prong into a two-hole extension cord.
• Don’t force a plug into an outlet.
• Don’t use an extension cord when it is wet.
• Don’t overheat an extension cord.
• Don’t cover an extension cord with anything.
• Don’t drive over an extension cord - especially with hard wheel devices like Fork Lifts.
• Don’t drag an extension cord.
• Don’t attach extension cords to the wall with nails or staples.
• Don’t run extension cords under rugs or carpets or in high traffic areas.

Other Resources:
Extension Cord Facts:
Underwriters Laboratory:
Power Strip:
Extension Cord:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa's Elves need to keep the workshop floor clear of obstacles

An elderly lady accompanying five members of her family to Santa’s grotto at a well known department store in London was injured during her visit, and the jury (not a team of reindeer) decided in her favor.  She successfully sued the events management company organizing the festive treat blaming Santa and his elf for failing to prevent her fall.

The grotto was operated by two employees, one who played Santa and the other an elf.  The elf escorted visitors in and out of the grotto whilst Santa sat on his customary throne entertaining his guests.  The elf and Santa both stated that they checked for loose items on the floor.  The injured lady's case was that she had lost her balance by stepping on a plastic icicle on the floor of the grotto which should have been seen and removed.

Santa and Elf leaving the Courthouse
Section 2 of the UK Occupiers’ Liability Act of 1957 required the events company to see that visitors would be reasonably safe in visiting the grotto.  This was found to not be the case.  The elf was concerned with many other duties – at a guess – toy-making and feeding reindeer perhaps!  It was found that Santa and the elf were not as careful in checking the floor as they should have been. If the icicle was there to be stepped on, it was there to be seen.

The overly benevolent view of the performance by Santa and the elf of their duties at first instance was overturned by the Court of Appeal who allowed the claim. Their checking of the grotto floor was held inadequate in protecting the public from falls.

Making a List, Checking it Twice!

Santa with his Safety Checklist
With claims against events holders attracting increasing publicity, this case highlights that the bar is set high for those responsible for carrying out hazard spotting.  Some guidance can be gleaned for events managers from the facts that have been touched upon in this case.  The main problem the events company could not overcome was the concern that time demands on their staff limited their attention towards taking precautions.  Staffing should be suited to the event in order to demonstrate that sufficient time and regard has been given to periodic checks, ideally being documented, as part of a documented risk assessment.  A higher standard of inspection is demanded for smaller areas such as this grotto, particularly in the context of the poor lighting present.

Employees need to be extra vigilant at all times, even in the season of goodwill to all men.

Be on the lookout for reindeer poo, too!  That could make you slip and fall off of the roof.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Railing on and on

My friends at Simplified Safety posted an interesting blog entry at  It shows the use of Kee Klamps and schedule 40 pipe to build a guardrail on a theatre set.  It is a well-intentioned application, however, it also clearly shows that the set designer / constructor did not fully understand the building codes and OSHA requirements for railings.
Railing along upstage platform.
Railings are intended to prevent people and objects from falling over an elevated edge.  To be successful they must not only stop someone from falling over the edge should their center of gravity extend past the edge, but they must also prevent someone from slipping under the railing AND they must prevent objects from being knocked / kicked off of the edge.

  • The Upper Railing must be at least 42" above the platform (per International Building Code and OSHA). The railing in the picture scales to about 36" tall.
  • There must be a Toe-board (Kick-plate) that is 4" tall and the bottom of the Kick-plate must be no higher than 1/4'" above the platform.  There is no kick-plate present.
  • There must be intermediate railings or infill such that an sphere that is 21" diameter cannot pass through it (this limitation drops to a 4" if the railing is in a public place).  If the top of the top rail is at 42" and is 1.9" diameter, and the kick plate is 4" tall, then this leaves 36.1" of open space.  Installing an intermediate railing midway between the top of the kick plate and the bottom of the upper railing will satisfy this requirement.  There is no intermediate railing present.
  • Uprights for Railings must be in place ant no more than 8' intervals.  Just because you have a 20 foot piece of pipe doesn't mean that you can just install upright supports at the ends. The uprights in this application  appear to meet this requirement.
An additional requirement is that railing must support a load of at least 200 pounds pulling any direction.
  • Upwards:  Will it pull the railing right up out of the fittings or tear the bolts / pins / screws out?
  • Downwards:  Will it buckle and collapse under severe loading?
  • Sideways:  Will it collapse in a parallelogram?
  • Inwards or Outwards:  Will it support the weight of performers pulling or pushing on it, or falling against it, or leaning over it?
Kee Klamps can be a great tool to build frameworks, railings, platform supports, lighting towers, and many other elements in a theatre production.  As with any tool or fabrication, you must take the time to understand the building codes and do a structural analysis so that your finished product is strong enough to perform safely.

The Building Codes and OSHA do not differentiate between five seconds, five minutes, five days, or five years.  The objects you build, be they stairs, railings, platforms, or whatever must meet the requirements set forth -- regardless of how long they will be in service.

Well, at least it wasn't like this 8' unguarded drop behind the performer . . .

Friday, December 16, 2011

December is Fire Safety Month (yes, AGAIN)

The always vigilant writer Patrick Hudson at BackStage At has been after this one again, and he has some good words to read.
It hasn't been a pretty year for Fire Safety in Theatres:
It’s always a series of problems, not just one:
Twenty-Two Years, Multiple Theatre Fires:

Compartmentalize Your Storage:  Keep the fuel load to a minimum!
But don't do it like this:
Paint Storage Cabinet Made From Wooden Bookcase

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pants on Fire!

Station Nightclub Fire - West Warwick, Rhode Island 2003
Most of us mere mortals never get to play Fireman in real life, so getting the opportunity to handle fire extinguishers, find-out about the adrenaline rush of putting out a fire, and experiencing the actual time constraints of a fire event up-close and personal doesn't come along too often.

This can change for all of us if we get together with our local community and make an effort to get Fire Extinguisher Training Programs set-up and active.  Most communities and fire departments cite the expense of recharging fire extinguishers as the main reason they don't provide this kind of training.  So, whats a wanna-be fire fighter to do?

Bullex Corporation decided that there needed to be a better way and they came-up with a training device that doesn't go through fire extinguisher powder.  It's call the Bullseye and it kind of looks like a flat-screen TV with a big remote control.  The screen is not a TV display though, instead, it is a computerized fire simulator that grows, glows, flickers, and dances just like a real fire (only without the heat and smoke).  At the base of the unit are special sensors that detect laser light that comes from a simulated Fire Extinguisher.

The Bullseye simulated Fire Extinguishers are pretty fancy units - not just a Wii controller stick.  They come in three sizes just like the real deal: 5 pound, 10 pound, and 20 pound; and they have a loudspeaker inside of them so you get that sense of whoosh! as they simulate a discharge.  Real nozzles, pull-pins, and squeeze handles, too.  They are even heavy like a real fire extinguisher.

The trainer sets-up the fire simulation to suit the type of training to be performed - they set the type of fuel and how big the (simulated) fire is going to be, and they say GO! (Or, maybe they don't say GO! and you have to figure it out for yourself - just like real fire.)

The system has a timer that keeps track of how long you take to respond and how long it takes you to put-out the fire.  And guess what?  If you use-up all of your fire extinguisher before you put out the fire -- it keeps burning.  D'OHP!  The system knows how much stuff you have to shoot and when it's gone, it's gone!  Game over.


Real fires don't have an OFF button, and real Fire Extinguishers only have a limited amount of fire fighting capacity.  IF YOU WASTE IT - YOU LOOSE.

PASS  - Know this phrase!
Pull the pin - this is so you are ready to do the job when you get to the fire.
Aim the nozzle at the BASE of the fire - if you point it somewhere else you will just waste the  fire fighting chemical.
Squeeze the handle - don't squeeze it until after you have aimed! (Just like a ketchup bottle)
Sweep the nozzle side-to-side along the base of the flame so you coat the fuel source with the chemical.

The cost of a training kit is about that of a small car, but if you spread that out over the whole community, it can approach a-dollar-a-head.  And there is no reason that the unit couldn't be used to train everybody from kindergarteners up to senior citizens.

Hands-on Training is the most memorable and effective training you can provide.  The community can make the rounds with this and see that schools, social organizations, community groups, and churches could all share in the benefits.  Training all of your performers and stage crew would be a high priority.  Maybe you can give them merit badges!  I'd say that if you didn't keep this thing busy at least 360 days per year that you were probably missing the point.

Dang, this is starting to sound like a Ginsu knife advertisement . . . however, one more thing that is interesting:  Bullex knows that this is a chunk 'o change to spend, so they rent the unit for test drives, too.  And if you decide to buy one within a year of the test drive, then they apply the rental fee to the purchase price.  Good Deal!

More info at:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stage Truss Collapse in Italy Kills One, Injures Seven

2011-12-12, Trieste, Italy.  The concert trussing for a Jovanotti concert in the Palazzetto dello Sport an arena in northeastern Italy collapsed as it was being erected and a 20 year old student worker, Francesco Pinna, died from injuries sustained.  Italian news agency ANSA reported that rescue crews said the stage structure was nearing completion when the front buckled and collapsed, crushing workers below.  The accident took place at about 2 pm.  Around twenty technicians were erecting the stage, lighting, and PA system when the structure collapsed.   Rescue services intervened to take the injured workers to hospital.
Jovanotti Ora Concert Tour Stage Truss after Collapse in Palazzetto dello Sport

Police officers are now seeking to reconstruct the dynamics of the incident. Early reports say that the scaffolding “crumpled in on itself.”  Workers who were putting the finishing touches to preparations were overwhelmed by the collapse and some were trapped by steel tubes."

The concert has been cancelled and the remainder of the Ora Tour has been suspended pending investigation.  The sports complex in the San Sabba district, next to the Nereo Rocco football stadium, was seized by the authorities and cordoned-off. “All concerts have been suspended”, announced Maurizio Salvadori, owner of the Trident agency that manages the artist. “We’ll decide what to do tomorrow but at the moment no one wants to go on stage.  It is not known why the structure collapsed.  As always, everything was certified by an engineer. The structure was used all summer with no problems.”  Mr Salvadori explained that the “ground support”, scaffolding that carries speakers and reflectors, had given way.  The mayor of Trieste, Roberto Cosolini, hurried to the site of the accident and underlined the urgent need for “the investigations and expert reports to ascertain responsibility for this incident to be carried out with maximum rigour”.

“This tragedy takes my breath away. It struck me deeply.” Jovanotti tweeted his reaction to the fatal accident. “My grief goes out to Francesco Pinna, a student worker whose life came to an end today,” commented the singer, whose real name is Lorenzo Cherubini.  He added: “A tour is a family working to bring life and joy onto the stage.” A little later, the singer added: “The injured lads are specialised workers who do jobs they love while staying in the background. I’m with you. I love you.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Power Play

Each year, thousands of injuries occur when an electrically powered tool or machine unexpectedly starts after a power interruption. This preventable hazard is caused when a tool's switch is left "ON" after a power outage, circuit breaker trip, or accidental unplugging from the wall outlet.  A button that locks the power trigger ON on many tools can become a dangerous feature when a cord is accidentally pulled from an outlet or a power drop-out occurs.  Drills, saws, grinders, sanders, and routers frequently are equipped with this 'feature' that can launch the tool off a workbench or across the floor when the power is unexpectedly restored.

The Safety GateProfessional Retrofit is a UL Listed, simple, low cost, safety product that attaches to your tool's power plug in seconds, providing restart protection wherever and whenever you use it.  It locks in-place using the tiny holes in the plug prongs, yet can be simply removed and used on other tools or stored away.

The Safety Gate™ works by recognizing when a tool's power switch is left "ON" and prevents power from being delivered to the tool.  The bright yellow LED indicator tells you that your SafetyGate is in "protect mode."  To reset it, you just turn the tool's power switch to "OFF".  It's completely automatic and there are no buttons to push or switches to reset.

The patented SafetyGate™ design complies with OSHA, NFPA, and CSA standards in eliminating the hazard of dangerous restarts. Hand tools and small machines can have the same safety restart protection that are mandated for larger industrial machinery.

More product information at:

Other related post:

Monday, December 12, 2011

ANSI Approves PLASA Dust Effect Standard

Luke, I'm Your Father
The PLASA Standards group has announce that on Friday, 2 December 2011, the ANSI Board of Standards Review approved the adoption of ANSI E1.40- 2011, Recommendations for the Planning of Theatrical Dust Effects, as an American National Standard.  The new dust effect standard is written as a recommendation, a document that gives a mixture of guidance "should" statements and mandatory "shall" statements.

A great variety of materials might be suitable for dust effects, either as dust lying on props and scenery or as aerosol clouds, so it does not specify exactly what dust must be addressed.  However, the standard will help people to avoid inappropriate materials, to select those that are least likely to cause health or safety problems, and to use them with care.  Publication is expected in a few weeks.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cough, Cough, Wheeze - Dust Mask, Please!

Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association ( is a not-for-profit educational trade association comprised of distributors, manufacturers, and rep agents of light construction, industrial, and related products. STAFDA membership also includes publishers of industry trade press (affiliates). STAFDA has more than 2,500 members from the U.S., Canada, and overseas.

Their recent annual convention showed a strong interest in dust collection and containment accessories that would be helpful around the Scene Shop.  There is a good summary of this aspect of the show at The Powertool Authority Blog:

Check it out and maybe you can find a way to just need dust masks in lieu of respirators!

Friday, November 25, 2011

OSHA Makes Mandatory Signage Posting Easier

Publication 3165 - English - Job Safety and Health: It's the Law

The OSHA Job Safety and Health: It's the Law poster (OSHA 3165) is available for free from the OSHA Office of Publications. Employers do not need to replace previous versions of the poster, however, all covered employers are required to display and keep displayed, a poster prepared by the Department of Labor* informing employees of the protections of the Occupational Safety and Health Act P.L. 91-596, December 29, 1970 and its amendments. (* Federal Government Agencies must use the Federal Agency Poster.)


DOWNLOAD: - Right-Click on the hyperlink below to download the Adobe PDF version of the poster. Save the file "osha3165.pdf" to a directory of your choice, and then open the Adobe Acrobat Reader program to load the file.
Download high resolution PDF version OSHA 3165 [PDF 6.69MB]
Download low resolution PDF version OSHA 3165 [PDF 2.04MB] or
CLICK HERE for a text version [HTML]
ONLINE ORDER: If you would prefer to obtain a pre-printed copy of this poster, you may do so by submitting your order through the Online Publications Order Form. Simply select Publication Number 3165 from the list.

More important information at:

Even if your school or venue is NOT covered under OSHA regulations (or the State Plan equivalent), it is a good idea to display this poster and discuss it with your students so that they are familiar with OSHA and it's influence over other similar facilities that are under OSHA jurisdiction.  Your venue may be in a public school that is shielded from OSHA rules, however, your students may travel to a private school or a commercial venue like a theme park or touring show that is subject to the full regiment of regulations imposed by OSHA.  They must understand and obey the rules that they will work with in their career, so there is no time like the present to start learning about them.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

OSHA Provides Guidelines to Retailers for Crowd Management

The opening of a new store or a large product sale like those on Black Friday to launch the holiday gift buying season follow closely with the Crowd Management tools that should be used by Performing Arts Event Planners and House Managers.  OSHA published a Fact Sheet to help with this particular scenario and it can found at  The text below can, with a little editing become the basis for a good venue crowd management reference document.

Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers

Crowd-related injuries during special retail sales and promotional events have increased during recent years. In 2008, a worker died at the opening of a "Black Friday" sale.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing their workers with safe and healthy workplaces. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) encourages employers to adopt effective safety and health management systems to identify and eliminate work-related hazards, including those caused by large crowds at retail sales events.

OSHA has prepared these guidelines to help employers and store owners avoid injuries during the holiday shopping season, or other events where large crowds may gather. Crowd management planning should begin in advance of events that are likely to draw large crowds, and crowd management, pre-event setup, and emergency situation management should be part of event planning. OSHA recommends that employers planning a large shopping event adopt a plan that includes the following elements.

  • Where large crowds are expected, have trained security or crowd management personnel or police officers on site.
  • Create a detailed staffing plan that designates a location for each worker. Based on the size of the crowd expected, determine the number of workers that are needed in various locations to ensure the safety of the event (e.g., near the door entrance and throughout the store).
  • Ensure that workers are properly trained to manage the event.
  • Contact local fire and police agencies to determine if the event site meets all public safety requirements, and ensure that all permits and licenses are obtained and that local emergency services, including the local police, fire department and hospital, are aware of the event.
  • Designate a worker to contact local emergency responders if necessary.
  • Provide legible and visible signs that describe entrance locations, store opening times, and other important information such as the location of major sale items.
  • Prepare an emergency plan that addresses potential dangers facing workers, including overcrowding, crowd crushing, being struck by the crowd, violent acts and fire. Share emergency plan with all local public safety agencies.
  • Train workers in crowd management procedures and the emergency plan. Provide them with an opportunity to practice the special event plan. Include local public safety agencies if appropriate.
Pre-Event Setup:
  • Set up barricades or rope lines for crowd management well in advance of customers arriving at the store.
  • Make sure that barricades are set up so that the customers' line does not start right at the entrance to the store. This will allow for orderly crowd management entry and make it possible to divide crowds into small groups for the purpose of controlling entrance.
  • Ensure that barricade lines have an adequate number of breaks and turns at regular intervals to reduce the risk of customers pushing from the rear and possibly crushing others, including workers.
  • Designate workers to explain approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public, and direct them to lines or entrances.
  • Make sure that outside personnel have radios or some other way to communicate with personnel inside the store and emergency responders.
  • Consider using mechanisms such as numbered wristbands or tickets to provide the earlier arriving customers with first access to sale items.
  • Consider using Internet lottery for "hot" items.
  • Locate shopping carts and other potential obstacles or projectiles inside the store and away from the entrance, not in the parking lot.
  • If appropriate, provide public amenities including toilets, washbasins, water and shelter.
  • Communicate updated information to customers waiting in line. Distribute pamphlets showing the location of entrances, exits and location of special sales items within the store.
  • Shortly before opening, remind waiting crowds of the entrance process (i.e., limiting entry to small groups, redemption of numbered tickets, etc.).
During the Sales Event:
  • Make sure that all employees and crowd control personnel are aware that the doors are about to open.
  • Staff entrances with uniformed guards, police or other authorized personnel.
  • Use a public address system or bullhorns to manage the entering crowd and to communicate information or problems.
  • Position security or crowd managers to the sides of entering (or exiting) public, not in the center of their path.
  • Provide crowd and entry management measures at all entrances, including the ones not being used. If possible, use more than one entrance.
  • When the store reaches maximum occupancy, do not allow additional customers to enter until the occupancy level drops.
  • Provide a safe entrance for people with disabilities.
Emergency Situations:
  • Do not restrict egress, and do not block or lock exit doors.
  • Know in advance who to call for emergency medical response.
  • Keep first-aid kits and Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) available, and have personnel trained in using AEDs and CPR onsite.
  • Instruct employees, in the event of an emergency, to follow instructions from authorized first responders, regardless of company rules.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

OSHA releases videos in the wild - hopeful that no one will be killed or injured

OSHA animated educational videos show how to protect workers from construction hazards.

WASHINGTON (2011-11-14) – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released 12 educational videos about potential hazards in the construction industry. The educational videos are easy to understand, short segments and geared to employers and workers. Each year, nearly 800 construction workers die on the job; one in every five workplace fatalities occurs within the construction industry. The videos are based on real-life incidents and include detailed depictions of hazards and the safety measures that would have prevented these injuries and fatalities.

"I urge anyone who works in the construction industry or operates a construction business to watch the videos. Share them with your co-workers and friends in the construction industry; organize screenings for your workers; and post them to your web pages," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Health and Safety Dr. David Michaels. "Every step we take to educate workers about their rights and the safety measures employers must take to protect workers in construction helps us avoid preventable injuries and the tragic loss of life."

These videos cover falls in construction, workers who are struck by vehicles and heavy equipment, sprain and strain injuries, trenching and excavation hazards, and carbon monoxide poisoning. These videos are written for workers and employers, including workers with limited English proficiency.

Most of the videos are two to four minutes in length, and all but one are animated. Each video is available in English and Spanish for Web viewing or downloading. All video scripts are also available online in English and Spanish. The videos are located at (Spanish-language videos are available at After selecting a video from this page, users may choose to watch the video online, download the videos for future screenings, or view the videos on the U.S. Department of Labor's YouTube channel.

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

Remember:  Theatre Shops and Stages are for all intents and purposes a construction site - treat it like one!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Be a carpenter with a magnetic personality

Screws, nuts, bolts, nails, tacks, staples, bent nails, and even small tools can be pesky items to keep-up with on stage and around the shop, and if you are up on a ladder (or maybe higher, too) you don't want to drop little items -- it's bad for the people below (yet another reason to ALWAYS wear a hard hat around the shop and stage), you don't want to climb down to get them, and you don't want to find them later by kneeling down on them and imposing significant pain on your kneecaps.
So what's a person to do?  As the 6th century B.C. Chinese military stratigist Sun-tzu wrote in The Art of WarKeep your friends close, and your enimies closer.  This is pretty easy:  Buy some magnetic wrist bands and tool pouches to keep track of those metal bits that are so easy to drop or mis-place.

MGD Tools ( makes a group of products called Magnogrip.  Made from red and black Cordura with Velcro closures and super stron magnets, they are handy and comfortable to wear.  They offer wist bands, nail pouches, and other handy items.

And for those of you that watch too much late-night TV, the former master of TV huckstersim Billy Mays promoted the Tool Band-it.  Info here:

Similar tool bands by Pro-Hold can be found at:

Key things to remember:
  • Magnetic parts holders are NOT a substitute for lanyards.  DO NOT rely on them at height to protect others below from dropped tools.  Use buckets and pouches that are secure to hold hardware when working at height.  Use buckets with webbing net slings - don't rely on the pail handle to stay secure in a plastic bucket's rim.
  • Magnetic wrist bands can really mess-up credit cards and driver's licenses that have the magnetic data stripes on them.  Keep them away from your wallet / purse.  They can also mess with the data on Hard Disk Drives that are in MP3 players, computers and stand-alone data back-up drives.
  • Magnetic wrist bands should NOT be worn when working near saw blades or anywhere that moving machinery might draw your hand / arm into the tool.  These magnets can be more powerful than you might think!

Monday, November 21, 2011

(Heavy Breathy Speech) Luke, wear your respirator!

Stinky nasty chemicals can do more than make you cough, your nose run, and your eyes water - they can kill you.  Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but they can hasten your schedule towards meeting the grim reaper.  Knowing what kind of respirator to wear, how to wear it, when to wear it, and how to maintain and inspect it are all part of the plan (the safety plan, that is).
ISO Signage for Mandatory PPE - Respirator

Although some models include other features, respirators are more than just dust masks or face and eye protection.  Learn about the different types of respirators so you provide yourself and others with the correct PPE for the task.

Join Lab Safety Supply Technical Support Specialist Sally Smart as she provides the basics to help you make sure respirators are used effectively to keep everyone safe. On Tuesday, November 29, at 1:00 PM CST you'll learn about fit testing techniques and equipment.  This free webinar can be found at:

The workshop will also be available in the TechTalk Archives if you missed it.  There you will find a host of other good subject matters addressing PPE, Electrical Safety, and OSHA, and Hearing Conservation, just to name a few.

After learning about respirators it makes you re-think the chemicals and materials you may be using around your shop.  Maybe it is easier to choose GREEN solutions to construction so you don't need to worry about the toxic fumes and gases.  Going green can save you a lot of PPE hassle.

OSHA ( has set standards for respiration protections in 29 CFR 1910.134. All industries, except agriculture, must follow the requirements for any situation that dictates the use of respirators.
OSHA requires
  • a written respiratory protection plan.
  • appropriate respirators, supplied by the employer.
  • medical evaluation of each employee assigned to wear a respirator.
  • fit tests of the respirators.
  • employee training on use and care of respirators.
  • scheduled reviews of the respiratory protection plan.
PHS has summarized this in a whitepaper that can be downloaded for free at:
A Guideline for Your Respirator Compliance Program

NIOSH ( also has free information available at:

Don't forget to shave down there
(down there where the respirator has to seal)
-- Go GREEN and you won't have to shave! --

Thanks to TheatreFace Blogger Rachel E. Pollock for the post reference!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Use and Selection Guides for Fall Protection PPE from ISEA

Two new documents from the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) will help protect workers whose jobs expose them to fall hazards.  A Personal Fall Protection Equipment Use and Selection Guide provides practical, hands-on guidance for fall protection users and administrators in their selection, use, maintenance and inspection of fall protection equipment.  A companion document addresses topics in fall protection on which manufacturers get frequent inquiries.

Prepared by manufacturers in the ISEA Fall Protection Group, the use and selection guide describes the process of developing a corporate fall protection program, explains the components of fall protection systems, gives examples of how to select equipment for various types of work, and outlines steps for planning the use of fall protection systems.

The guide also contains inspection and maintenance guidelines, definitions, a list of applicable OSHA regulations and US and Canadian consensus standards, and links to ISEA companies and other sources of information.

“Falls are a leading cause of death and injuries in the workplace, and they’re preventable,” said Bob Apel of MSA, chairman of the Fall Protection Group.  “At many work sites, fall hazards can’t be eliminated, and ISEA members make the best equipment and systems in the world to prevent and stop falls.  This guide will help employers and users understand how to select the right equipment and use it properly.”

The second document, Frequently Addressed Topics in Fall Protection, is the first in a new series of “PPE Perspectives” papers from ISEA.  It answers some of the most commonly asked questions that fall protection manufacturers are asked about equipment and systems, applications, and other considerations in planning and implementing a fall protection program.

Equipment issues include anchorage strength and location, horizontal lifelines, harness attachments, positioning of self-retracting lifelines, twin-leg lanyards and tie-back applications.  There are discussions of the importance of ensuring compatibility among components and connectors in a fall arrest system, determining the service life of equipment, planning systems to protect heavy workers, and post-fall suspension.  Specific application topics include welding, residential roofing and aerial lift devices.

Both documents are available online in PDF format, so that they can be read online, downloaded to computer or portable device, or printed.  They are available free of charge, and will be updated as required by changes in regulation or standards.

Click here for more information on the ISEA Fall Protection Group, and here to access the ISEA Buyers Guide for fall protection.

Personal Fall Protection Equipment Use and Selection Guide
Frequently Addressed Topics in Fall Protection

Monday, October 31, 2011

UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) Solicits Input

The Event Safety Guide (HSG195) is to be updated for a third edition and the HSE committee is seeking commentary about the changes that should go into the next edition.  Formally known as ‘The event safety guide, A guide to health, safety and welfare at music and similar events'.  The revised guide focuses on risk assessment and management. It is aimed primarily at organizers of music shows and similar events, although the principles set out in the guide may be applicable to other events.

Unfortunately, there is no similar guide in many parts of the world, so this can only be used a a reference for best practices outside of the UK.  This is a well thought-out guide and the information should be referred to by event organizers world-wide, regardless of it's legal enforceability.  Remember:  We are trying to save lives and produce safe events, so seeking-out well researched resources like this should help tremendously in running shows with injury prevention as a goal, not an afterthought.

The current drafts of the documents are available on-line for free, and the associated comment forms are also provided.  Go to:

Deadline:  Please submit comments by Friday, November 11, 2011.

HSE will consider all comments. However, due to the large number of interested parties, it will not be possible for HSE to reply to every comment.

In light of the numerous event disasters over the last few years, it is important that you do your part to help develop standards that we can all work and live with.  Don't sit on the sidelines - participate!

 If you aren't a part of the solution, you are part of the problem!

Another good reason to visit the Event Industry Forum website is to sign-up to be a member of  relevant organizations that participate in this standards development process.

If nothing else, just read the material and be aware of it!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


The Fire Equipment Manufacturer's Association (FEMA) web site has several resources that can be helpful in training staff and students about fire safety.  They have a Fire Extinguisher Training Video and other Fire Extinguisher information, as well as information about using a racked Fire Hose Systems.  Take the quizzes and download the info they offerLearn not to burn.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Zombies are key to workplace safety.

Slippery floors, hot cooking equipment, heavy lifting, loud noises and working alone are some of the dangers teens face as they take that first job or seasonal employment. These are not too dissimilar from the hazards encountered in a performing arts environment.  These dangers can lead to fatalities and serious injury if workers are not aware of them and how to protect themselves against being injured on the job. To help teens stay safe at work, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) launched an interactive online computer game called “Don’t be a Zombie at Work” and to illustrate how occupational safety, health, and environmental professionals are key to staying safe.

Located at, the ASSE game is free and features the imaginary evil “BodgeDab” industries. Players find themselves helping their co‐workers avoid becoming a “zombie” by finding tools and information from professionals to stay safe on the job. The game involves a mysterious corporation that has just moved into a large city, led by reputed evil boss Damballa Bokor, and opening businesses all over town. At the same time, the people working at these establishments are becoming “unnatural” ‐‐ zombie-like. And the "virus” is quickly spreading among all workers. The player’s job is to move through these establishments ‐ a restaurant (Club BodgeDab), a warehouse, and an office to save the workers by undoing the workplace hazards. This will save the zombiefied employees and create a safe work environment. If done successfully, the player moves to the final challenge ‐ BodgeDab headquarters and a showdown with Damballa Bokor.

Throughout the game Elle, an ASSE professional, is working undercover to help stop BodgeDab industries and inform the player of the dangerous and underlying dangers of BodgeDab industries.

Just a call away, Elle and a team of safety professionals provide the player with clues on how to prevent workplace hazards, save the zombies and stop the dreaded BodgeDab industries.

In addition to Elle and the safety professionals, the player has several tools that can be moved to a tool box / inventory to fix the hazardous situations in each level. Instructions are provided throughout the game as are quizzes.

The “Don’t be a Zombie at Work” game, developed by ASSE members, is another tool ASSE has created and made available to its members and the public in an effort to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities. The other free young worker tools include the “Be Safe At Work: Tips for Teens” book mark and the brochures titled “Important Workplace Safety Guide for Young Workers” and “Preventing Roadway Crashes” available by contacting ASSE at , by calling 847‐699‐2929 or downloading them from in the press kit.

In 2007 a total of 117 teens under the age of 18 died from work‐related injuries and another 77,000 teen workers were hurt badly enough to end up in hospital emergency rooms. Nationally, about 230,000 teens suffer work‐related injuries, with most of those injuries occurring in the retail or service industries, according
to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Overall, close to 6,000 workers die from on‐the‐job injuries and 4.4 million more suffer from injuries and illnesses in the U.S. alone.

Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL‐based ASSE is the oldest and largest safety society. Its 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, health
care and education. For more information please go to or to

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Weebles Wobble - But They Don't Fall Down

What better time to talk about Ghost Lights than during the Halloween season?  One of the prime reasons to have a Ghost Light on your stage is to prevent accidents.  Stages have places you can fall off of like trap openings and the front of the stage, and they have plenty of things to bump into and trip over, or at least bust-up your face or shin real good.  Ouch!  Halloween scars that are permanent.  Just what every aspiring actor needs.

One of the most common reasons for not having a Ghost Light is that they aren't commonly available from theatrical supply houses.  All of the Ghost Lights I've ever seen have been cobbled together by well meaning shop craftsmen. The problem with this approach is that whenever you manufacture something you assume the liability for it as well.  When you combine this with poor electrical knowledge and make-shift adaptations the results can be electrically hazardous as well as physically hazardous.  So where is the safety in that?

I was at the local big-box hardware store the other day and I noticed this gizmo:
Item 212004, Model GL600 (
[Update 2015-08:  This product is no longer available.]

Lowes sells it under their Utilitech brand (made by Cooper Lighting), it is UL and CSA safety listed, fairly inexpensive, and most of all, pretty darn indestructible.  The unit has a weighted base that houses the fluorescent lamp ballast, and incorporates a groove around it to wrap-up the cable when it is not in use.

The case is plastic and has a tie loop at the top if you need to hang it up for storage or suspend it. The clear plastic tube that house the lamp acts as a container to keep broken glass off of the stage should you give it a really significant whack.

Fortunately, the unit does NOT come equipped with a lamp (yes, this is a GOOD THING).  When you outfit it with a lamp you can choose the color temperature (CCT) and color rendering index (CRI, or Ra) so that it doesn't clash with your other work lighting, and if you elect to beef-it-up a bit you can install a hard-use lamp like those made by ShatRShield (

This unit uses less than 40 Watts of power and lights-up a pretty good area around the stage, so pop one out onto the proscenium line so nobody has to grope in the dark and fall off into the orchestra pit.  That's a dangerous fall to make unexpectedly, and many people over the years have been killed or received career-ending injuries this way.

And a note about the Energy Nazies:  There is always some well-meaning but oblivious-to-the-safety-implications individual that feels compelled to turn-off every light they find glowing.  For a  Ghost Light  to be effective, it must be left ONYou have to twart them at their game.  What can you do?  Post a sign at both the on/off switch on the Ghost Light AND at the end of the cord(s) that supply the power.  Be polite, but be firm.

 "I want you to meet my little friend." said Al Pacino's character in Scarface.  This will confuse the energy Nazies for sure:  Add a  photoluminescent  tube over the lamp.  This will continue to glow for about 40 hours after you remove the power from the lamp - so it will give any stage marauders a bit of a chance see where they are going should the power go off (or be switched off).  The Lumenite® Light Sleeve is a semi-translucent,  photoluminescent  sleeve that fits readily over new or existing fluorescent tubes.
More Luminite info here:

Do you really want to keep it safe and confuse the Energy Nazies?  Add an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) to the Ghost Light.  At only 40 Watts power draw, a small UPS will keep the lights on for hours.  If you use an LED based lamp, then the darn thing could glow for a day or more.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Falling Down on the Job

[Today’s Theatre Safety Blog post is presented by Guest Blogger and author Jenn Zuko Boughn.  She runs the Daily Cross Swords blog at and wrote the book Stage Combat – Fisticuffs, Stunts and Swordplay for Theatre and Film.  Jenn is an instructor at Metro State College in Denver, Colorado, and her student-run stage combat club can be found on YouTube.  Further information on the subject can be found at]

As a stage combat instructor (and performer); I always say that knowing how to fall properly is probably the most important movement skill one can learn.  The main reason for this is that it’s something that shows up in plays way more often than actual fight scenes do, and therefore is very often not accommodated for by the hiring of a fight choreographer or specialist.  Yet, an actor can be seriously injured if she merely hurls herself to the ground repeatedly without knowing what she’s doing.

When I teach advanced stage combat, I use different language when we learn basic skills for live theatre (stage falls), martial arts (break falls, rolls) and skills that are more for film, i.e. stunt work (being thrown, air break falls, falls from a height).  These three categories of how to fall down are vastly different in execution and are meant for very different things.

Live Theatre techniques are built for the world of the stage.  This means that actors, not stunt people or people who have training, are doing the falling.  They’re doing the falling in real time, on a hard stage floor, and with no special effects or safety equipment to speak of (barring knee pads and the like under a costume).  Most actors are not tumblers or martial artists with years of training, and even if they are, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to translate their falling skills from padded mats to a hard stage seamlessly.  Alongside the safety aspect of falling on a hard surface, there is the need for the fall to be theatrical—that is, an audience needs to be able to follow the physical move, not be yanked out of suspension of disbelief in concern for the actor, and most importantly the fall must be in line with the character’s arc. It’s not merely a cool move, it’s part of the story unfolding.

In live theatre falls an actor (again, not an expert) needs to be able to execute the move with all the above, multiple times.  A standard run for community or professional local theatre is around a month for rehearsal, and a month or two of performances.  An actor must be taught techniques that will allow them to perform these falls multiple times, often in short time frame, without injury.

Martial Arts techniques can be useful to a certain degree when it comes to staged combat for stage or film, especially as a style choice, but in general, martial arts falls aren’t a great idea for the stage.  Break falls and rolls are ways to cushion the blow of falling without undue injury when engaged in actual self defense.  The issues that arise from translating this to stage are threefold:
1)      Actual combat situations are much too fast and small for a live audience to be able to follow.
2)      Break falls and rolls on a hard floor will cause minor injury — even if done perfectly by someone with many years of training.  When done ‘adequately’ by someone who just learned how, they can result in devastating injuries.
3)      Rolling makes the character look particularly skilled in a unique way.  It’s rare that one actually plays a ninja on stage that would have these moves naturally occur within the course of the character’s story arc.  In other words, the martial arts version of falls, including rolling, can help anyone save themselves from in a variety of calamities from stage combat mistakes to slipping on the ice, but it can and will cause injury to the non-master, and is not nearly as theatrically useful.

Stunt work is different than stage combat falling in that the moves are inherently very dangerous, many not even possible to do on a regular hard stage.  This includes any falls that catch air, or come from tumbling mechanics, anything that must land from a height (even just a table), or anything that can’t be done without elaborate safety equipment in place, such as crash pads.
Stunt-type falling is typically done by a stunt person, not the actor, and is not done in real time, but rather in small bits, with many takes to ensure the best reaction makes it into the film.  Stunt work may be done repeatedly for the multiple takes, but not repeatedly in the same way over time that live theatre requires.  Wires, pads, and other equipment are available to help with the safety of the stunt person.  These things don’t violate an audience’s suspension of disbelief because they can be hidden off-camera, edited out, or otherwise concealed.

The only time that stunt-style falling can be appropriate for live theatre is if the stage itself is built for such things.  For example, the Spider-Man or Indiana Jones stunt shows seen at amusement parks are made with crash pads, wires, sprung floors, stunt people as actors, and other efforts to make the live show that is centered around the stunts.  In this case, the very visible equipment is part of the audience’s expectations, in that the show itself is not as much an immersive story but a display of skill.
This type of show is a different experience than what one would see in most live theatre, and in fact some current Broadway spectacle-musicals, such as Tarzan and Spiderman: Turn off the Dark tend to come under critical scrutiny because it’s apparent to an audience that the equipment is pervasive and clunky (which takes the audience out of the action), or the actors are in constant danger (which in effect does the same thing).

If an audience member is distracted by either too much equipment function showing, or by a true concern for the actors’ safety, there is no longer a suspension of disbelief, and therefore the audience is not engaged in an effective theatrical experience.

For falls on stage that not only work theatrically but are also safe, a trained fight choreographer must be used in the early rehearsal process, to embed the physical moves in the play in such a way that the actors may do their work without fear, and the audience may enjoy the piece without concern for their safety.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nailed It! Will someone please dial 911?

Just because you have one doesn't mean that you know how to use it.  OSHA and NIOSH have teamed-up to publish a Nail Gun Safety Guide.

“Nail gun injuries are responsible for approximately 37,000 emergency room visits annually. In some cases, workers have died from their injuries,” said OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels. “This document will help construction employers make necessary changes to improve nail gun safety and protect their workers from preventable injuries and death.”

While nail guns are easy to operate and can increase productivity, they also can cause internal and external bodily injuries, according to OSHA. These injuries occur as a result of unintended nail discharge; nails that bounce off a hard surface or miss the work piece and become airborne; and disabling the gun’s safety features, among other causes.

The guidance outlines six steps to prevent nail gun injuries:
  1. Select the proper product: Use full sequential trigger nail guns.
  2. Provide training and keep a log of approved users.
  3. Establish written Nail Gun work procedures.
  4. Provide PPE and see that it is properly worn.
  5. Encourage reporting and discussion of injuries and close calls.
  6. Provide first aid and medical treatment.
 Download the guide here:

Play nice.  Share your tools.  Share your knowledge.
Be careful where you point that thing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Performers need some limits and restraints, too.

This video of a 1982 U2 concert at Gateshead clearly shows a performer that has completely disregarded his own safety (and possibly the safety of others had he fallen).  The artist climbs the support structure starting around 2:30 in the video.

Were any laws broken here?  Maybe not, as it was the artists' own initiative to do this, however, promoters, venue owners, stage managers, and staging rental companies must be on the alert for this type of unexpected and unplanned behavior so that proper precautions are taken to thwart it or see that it is done with the proper safety protocols in-place.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Where Are We Headed with Outdoor Concert Regulations?

PLSN published a Guest Editorial by this blogger in the September 2011 Issue of Projection, Lights and Staging News.  In it I discuss the potential for a coming storm of concert legislation that may affect the entertainment industry.  Check it out at:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I think I'll go strapless on the catwalk today

Your nemesis - Expanded Metal Grating.
And his side-kick - Bar Grate.

Wurk Pads from the front.
 Working on the Gridiron Deck, Loading Gallery, or Beam Catwalk is not usually all that glamorous, but you can make a fashion statement that is functional and comfortable.  Who knows, maybe you will turn a few heads while wearing these Wurk Pads?  For some unknown reason, masochists must design these work surfaces, as someone that works upon them would never let this happen.  Theatre crews spend way too much time on their knees, and anything you can do to relieve some of that suffering is a good thing.
Wurk Pads - the secret revealed.

The key design element is that they use heavy duty clips that grab your pant legs and won't let go (well, unless you tell them to).  So, wa-la!  Nothing sneaking around behind the crook of your knees to bind-up and get all sweaty.  Sweet!  No sweat.

This can come in handy if you have big feet, too, as some over-the shoe knee pads just won't open-up far enough to slip over your work boots.  I suppose that if you had to work for a stretch on your hiney, you could clip one to each cheek and give them some relief, too.

Knee pads aren't just for crawling around on the steel, either:  the stage and shop floor can harbor small screws, nails, tacks, and other pebble-sized objects that can render your brain useless should you set your full weight down on them via your knee-cap, so put these in your PPE kit - and don't kowtow to anyone without them.

More info at: