Friday, January 20, 2012

Indiana Legislature posts Bill requiring outdoor stage inspections

The Indiana State Legislature posted a bill to require all venues statewide to have outdoor stage structures inspected by an engineer or other qualified person.  More information at:

This may provide a model of other states to go-by as they develop their new regulations.  Maybe we can prevent a repeat of the last few summers of show disasters.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Marking your Territory

For most of the venues I visit, the second most prevalent NFPA violation I see is junk blocking electrical panels and fire protection equipment. (The number one violation I see is non-fire retardant scenery and costumes - but I'll rant about that another time.)

You've seen it (or more correctly - you've see the crap blocking it):  Mounds of equipment stacked in front of Circuit Breaker Panelboards, Fire Hose Cabinets, Fire Alarm Pull Stations, Fire Extinguisher Cabinets, etc.  How the heck is someone supposed to get to it if they can't even see it!?

Keeping a tidy house (or shop or stage) is a never-ending task. It requires that all personnel understand that you can't pile stuff in front of electrical panels and fire protection equipment.  It doesn't matter if it is 5 seconds, 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days, 5 months - it can't go there.

So, what's a facility manager to do?
How about if you MARK THE AREA CLEARLY ? has a solution:  The offer BIG round floor-mounted signage dots that are 17.5" diameter.  The electrical panel sign at left is one example of what they offer.  They make custom-worded signs for other applications, too.  For added durability, they also offer a clear epoxy resin sealer kit so that you can apply a protective coating over the signage dots.

They also offers their Superior Mark floor tape that is THICK and has beveled edges so it doesn't snag on rolling stock.  You can get it in 36" pre-cut strips with 45 degree interlocked corners so they are easy to install and get the proper distance from the panelboard face.  The strips come in six colors.  Red is best for Fire Protection Equipment, and Yellow is best for Electrical Equipment.

For the panel face you should install signage that fit the available space that looks similar to this:

Note that for high voltage panels that the clearance must be greater, and also note that the clear space is IN FRONT OF THE PANEL - not measured from the wall faceNFPA 70 NEC Reference:  Chapter 110.26.

The code also requires that the width of the clear area be the greater of:
a.)  The width of the equipment, or
b.)  A minimum of 30".

Monday, January 16, 2012

Life's a Grind - Don't go Blind

Bench Grinder Safety Checklist

29 CFR 1910 Description YES NO²
From the Abrasive Wheel standard:
215(a)(2)  Do side guards cover the spindle, nut and flange and 75% of the wheel diameter?
215(a)(4)  Is the work rest used and kept adjusted to within 1/8-inch (0.3175cm) of the wheel? 
215(b)(9)  Is the adjustable tongue guard on the top side of the grinder used and kept to within
 1/4-inch (0.6350cm) of the wheel?
215(d)(1)  Is the maximum RPM rating of each abrasive wheel compatible with the RPM rating
 of the grinder motor?
215(d)(1)  Before new abrasive wheels are mounted, are they visually inspected and ring
From other OSHA standards:
22(a)  Is cleanliness maintained around grinders? (Clean-up dust and scraps.)
94(b)(2)  Are dust collectors and powered exhausts provided on grinders used in operations
 that produce large amounts of dust?
133(a)(1)  Are goggles or face shields always worn when grinding?
212(b)    Are bench and pedestal grinders permanently mounted?
304(f)(4)  Is each electrically operated grinder effectively grounded?
305(g)(1)(iii)(A)  Are fixed or permanently mounted grinders connected to their electrical supply
 system with metallic conduit or other permanent method?
305(j)(4)(ii)(F)  Does each grinder have an individual ON and OFF power control switch?  
1.  Extracted from OSHA Publication No. 2209. This check list does NOT include ALL elements of
     29 CFR 1910.215; it is a only a guide.
2.  A mark in this column indicates a need for corrective actions.

A Bench Grinder Safety Gauge is available from Rockford Systems:

An example list of injuries involving Bench Grinders can be found here:

Remember to wear proper PPE - Face Masks, Eye Protection, and a leather apron to protect your torso from flying parts and pieces.

NEVER GRIND ALUMINUM - The resulting dust can be explosive!  Use a hand file to clean-up rough edges.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sulleberger on Safety

"Management at every level is responsible for safety. Safety should be a core business function because it is too important to be managed by exception."   Sullenberger writes on the Sustainable Business Forum.  Chesley Sullenberger knows just a thing or two about Safety and Leadership - he's the guy that landed a passenger jet in the Hudson River just moments after encountering a flock of birds that killed the engines on take-off.  Everyone got home OK that day.

How is Safety a 'sustainable' element for show business?  Sustainability is the act of keeping both the environment around you alive and healthy - and yourself alive and healthy.  The 'yourself' can be individuals, groups, businesses, or entire planets.  Green initiatives are all about a sustainable world in both the business sense and the human survivability sense.

It is essential that you get Sully's point across to the management of your venue or production company.  Without the survival of the workers, performers, and the audience - there will be no show.  We all need to be healthy and well-functioning to be effective at our jobs and in the enjoyment of the shows we attend.

Check-out Sully's words at: Values Start at the Top

Also check-out the link at the bottom of the article to another writing of his "Aviation Safety is a Team Sport"

Friday, January 13, 2012

Alert Notice on Temporary Structures Published by SCOSS

2012-01-11 - UK - The Standing Committee on Structural Safety (SCOSS) is the independent body established in 1976 to maintain a continuing review of building and civil engineering matters affecting the safety of structures in the UK.   SCOSS aims to identify in advance those trends and developments which might contribute to an increasing risk to structural safety.

SCOSS has published a 4-page Alert on Temporary Stage Structures that discusses the ramifications of the numerous stage structure collapses that plagued the entertainment production industry over the past few years.  The report highlights the required and recommended procedures for engineering temporary stage structures in the UK.  Although this is a UK based organization, the guidelines discussed and referenced in the document are good reference information for anyone involved in the show industry.

The Alert can be downloaded here:

Big Valley Jamboree country music festival (2009-08-01)-post collapse

Links to prior related blog posts:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Dude, that's so retro!

Sometimes you just need to retrofit your existing hardware to bring it up to current safety standards, or at least to "best practices."  For counterweighted stage rigging, this may be the result of your annual inspection for safety and upgrades.  Many older counterweight arbors were not equipped with spreader plates to help keep the weight bricks in-place in the event of an arbor crash.  For more information about arbor crashes and maintenance, see these resources:

The spreader plates are flat metal pieces that keep the two vertical weigh guide rods from bowing apart and allowing the counterweights to come loose.  Best Practice is to insert a spreader plate every two feet in the weight stack.  To calculate how many spreader plates your arbors should be equipped with just take the height in inches between upper and lower arbor frames and divide by 24.

Many stages have a spreader plate that is painted RED inserted just above the ballast weight (aka: "pipe weight") to provide a visual reminder to the weight loading crew that they should stop removing weights at this point.
At the USITT Stage Equipment Expo in Charlotte, North Carolina, Steven Rees, owner of Graybeard Solutions, introduced the Retrospreader™.  It is a two-piece assembly that can be installed on an existing counterweight arbor without disassembling it.  Steven has done his homework on this item and it has been stress-tested and patented.

The Retrospreader™ can be ordered to fit any two-rod arbor. More information can be found at their web site:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Electrical Safety in the Theatre

Electricity can pose a serious hazard in the workplace, however, it is unlikely that we’ll be doing much without it in the foreseeable future.  Lighting, sound, rigging, projection, and tools all require it.  A 12-year study by the National Instituteof Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) identified 244 workplace deaths thatwere the direct result of an electrical accident.  Misuse or neglect of electrical equipment puts employees at risk of electrical shock, electrocution, fires, and explosions.  Making your crew / staff / guests / employees aware of the risks and teaching them to following basic safety principles will help reduce the chance of electrical-related accidents at your venue.

Basic Electrical Safety Principles

It is important for employers to be aware of the risks associated with electrical equipment. When planning or performing work on or near electrical equipment or machinery, the safety tips that follow will reduce the risk of an accident:
  • Plan ahead; consider possible problems that may occur and how to prevent them.
  • Use the right tools for the job including procedures, drawings, and other documents.
  • Identify all potential hazards in the work space, including the risk of electrical shock.
  • Test every circuit and every conductor; every time, to ensure that they are powered-down before service.
  • Train workers to ensure that they have the skills and experience required to perform work around electrical equipment.
  • De-energize all electrical equipment and conductors before beginning work.
  • Treat electrical equipment and conductors as energized until lockout / tagout (LOTO) and grounding procedures have been implemented.
  • Wear protective clothing, including hard hats, insulated clothing, and gloves.
  • Only use insulated tools.
  • Determine approach boundaries and comply with suggested minimum clearances for power lines or exposed conductors.
Electrical Safety Regulations and Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a number of regulations relating to workplace electrical safety. Some important regulations include 29 CFR 1910: Subpart Electrical:
 The following National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards cover electrical safety:
Checklist of Workplace Electrical Safety Practices
  • Require employees to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when working on or near electrical equipment.  Depending upon the Arc Flash Hazard present, this may involve donning special clothing, gloves, hoods, and face shields.
  • Inform employees as to the location of potential electrical safety hazards.  Inform them before they enter the work area AND mark the specific hazards with signage, barrier tape, etc.
  • Establish an effective lockout / tagout (LOTO) procedure for working on electrical circuits and equipment.
  • Use safe work practices to prevent shock or other injuries.  De-energize live equipment, discharge capacitors, use lockout / tagout (LOTO) procedures, wear the appropriate level of PPE, and never work alone.
  • Only permit trained or approved personnel to perform maintenance or work on electrical equipment.  Thinking you know what you are doing is not the same as being trained and certified.  Have a second person check you work afterwards to ensure that wiring connections are the proper polarity (Hot, Neutral, Ground), and that covers are re-installed after work as is completed.
  • Ensure that all portable electrical tools are grounded or insulated properly.  Use Portable Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) if the power source is not already protected.  Inspect all cords and devices to ensure that cord strain reliefs are properly clamped to the cable casing.
  • Install and cover electrical boxes and fittings in accordance with the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) and other regulations.  When removing covers, make sure that screws are not lost (use magnetic holders to retain loose parts where practical).  When working at height, secure covers with safety lanyards before removing the final attachment fasteners.
  • Have someone who is trained and certified in the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) inspect the electrical system regularly.  This includes cleaning-out the dust and dirt from inside Dimmer Cabinets, Floor Pockets, and Circuit Breaker Panels; Replacing / Repairing broken switches & receptacles; Repairing / Replacing broken or overheated lamp holders; and checking the wiring lugs in feeder panels with an infrared thermometer to ensure that they are tight and not overheating.
  • Train appropriate individuals in the use of fire protection equipment and emergency response procedures.  Know the difference between a Safety Program and an Emergency Preparedness Plan.  A Safety Program, if well implemented, may save you from ever needing to implement your Emergency Preparedness Plan.
  • Develop procedures to replace and dispose of damaged or defective electrical cords, circuits, or other electrical equipment.  Implement a ‘Tag and Bag’ process to identify and mark equipment that must be repaired or replaced.  Do not store defective equipment where it may be accessible to the casual user so that it is not inadvertently utilized.  Assigning Inventory Numbers to equipment can help to log and track items in the repair process, and also may help you to track repair expenses.
More Information:
ESFi web site:
Electrical Construction and Maintenance Magazine:
Mike Holt web site: