Saturday, March 31, 2012

Outlets, inlets, receptacles, plugs, jacks, whatever you call them, they oughta be correctly mounted

Alex, I'll go for $1,000 for "Places you shouldn't stick your finger.  Ever."

Note the missing cover plate and the uninsulated wiring sticking out.
Should not have an ungrounded outlet in a commercial building - or any building for that matter.

Note the extension box pulled off the wall.

Note the box and ground conductor completely missing.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Well, it seemed obvious to me...

A cruise ship passes a small desert island.  Everyone watches as a ratty-looking bearded man runs out on the beach and starts shouting and waving his hands.

"Who's that?" asks one of the passengers.

"I have no idea," replies the captain. "But every year we sail past and he goes nuts."

Why don't we see the obvious?  Here we have a brand-new facility where the sound folks have commandeered the paint storage cabinet from the scene shop and hauled it to the control booth so they could lock-up their microphones...

On the other extreme, these folks have re-purposed a wooden book case to store flammable paints and solvents.

Let's think about our actions so we can be safer this year!  Ask yourself: "Why are we really doing this?" before you act.  Get to the root cause of the need so you can choose the best and most appropriate solution to a problem, not just the quick path to a 'make-do' remedy.

Show me a little tail, please

The crimp oval on the left is done with a bit of the cable exposed above the metal, as it should be.

On the right, we have one that came-up a bit short.  To get full strength out of the crimp it must be compressed down around ALL of the cables.

Copper crimp ovals are preferred over aluminum ovals due to reports of cracks and splits in the softer aluminum.  Check your cable terminations regularly to see that they holding-up and were done correctly.
Common tool manufacturers for compression fittings are:
Also notice the split link used to connect the chain back to itself.  This device is not rated for overhead lifting and, therefore, should not be used for stage rigging.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ring-toss in the dark anyone?

Ever try to find a door knob in  total darknes?   It's not so easy.

This product is designed to fit around most standard door operators and provide a clue as to where the exit is located.  Great for storage rooms, restrooms, and anyplace that there may not be emergency lighting installed.

Product resources:
GBC Safety Glow (
SafeGlow (

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blog, Blog, Blog...

Other Safety Blogs of interest:
ON Stage Lighting:
The Theatre Safety Zone:
Simplified Safety:
SafetyAtWorkBlog (Australia):
Annuvia Safety Services Blog:
OSHA Pro's OSHA Blog:
Erich Hart's Prop Blog:

Emergency preparedness from the other side of the pond

Good guidance is often hard to come by, particularly for free.  Most standards to which we must operate are usually published by somebody that wants a chunk-o-change for the priviledge of reading the rules by which we must abide.  In the United States the NFPA manuals & books, ANSI standards, ASTM standards, PLASA / ESTA standards, and most Buiding Codes are priced anywhere form $20-30 bucks up to several hundreds of dollars.  Now that's not so bad if you only need one of the books, but for most of us in the theatre industry, we need maybe 15 to 50 of these to cover our collective bacon on all of the hazards and project types we are typically exposed to or involved with.  This can really add-up quick.  Especially when they change with locality and adoption dates.  Think about this the next time you hire and Architect, Engineer, or Theatre Consultant - part of your fees go to keep this library up-to-date so that they can prescribe the best and most current designs that satisfy the local code requirements.

There are a few free publications out there, too.  So here are some good resources that won't break the bank:

American's with Disabilities Act (commonly known as the ADA):

Occupational Health Safety Administration (OSHA):

National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH):
(Great ladder safety info here!)

And with a big thank-you for the United Kingdom government:
This is a set of Fire Safety Risk Assessment Guides that clearly and logically cover many different types of performance venues.  They may be metric (oh, the horror!) and they may be formatted on funny sized paper, but doggonit, these are good guides!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Who knows where that thang's been!?

Every time you approach a microphone (or maybe everytime a microphone approaches you) you have to ask yourself:  Does anyone have a condom that won't muffle the sound?

Really.  Where has that thing been?  Did the last singer / lecturer have herpes or some other orally transmissible disease?  Another solution comes to the rescue:  Mic Check ( is an individually packed, alcohol- saturated wipe that can kill many of the germs on the surface of the mic.  Great for wiping down many types of musical instruments, sound and lighting consoles, and just about anything else you might come in contact with - living or dead.

It makes a great companion to the Microphome cleaner product that gets down into the pores of the windscreen foam (see:

If you still don't  believe this is a good idea, then go to:

Say "Ahhh"

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chicago Area Theatre Experiences Roof Failure

Midway Theatre's roof partially collapsed Friday, March 23, 2012. The building is at 721 East State Street in Rockford, Illinois has been vacant since about 2003.  Fortunately, no one was in the building during the collapse.

“We talked with the property owner and we ordered him to get some immediate shoring on the remaining trusses and get us an engineering report on the temporary shoring so we know it is done properly,” building code official Seth Sommer said. “Then, he will be working toward a permanent solution.”
Photo courtesy of Rockford Fire Department
Downtown architect and River District Association President Gary Anderson said the building is a historic Rockford landmark. Opened in 1918 with its signature 90-foot clock tower and curved stone facade, it serves as the eastern architectural gateway to downtown Rockford.  It is a building the Rockford Historic Preservation Commission was able to save, Anderson said, and it is listed among the city’s officially designated historic landmarks.

Although it was used as a movie house for many years, it was transformed into a community theatre, served as home to the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, and used as office space and a TV production studio for a time.

Entering buildings that used to be, or might make a good production space is risky.  One of the first things most building owner's let-go is the roof's weather seal, and this can lead to rapid rotting and rusting of structural members and ceilings, particularly plaster ceilings. Other hazards in old building can include rotted flooring and stair wells, asbestos, and mold spores due to decaying fabrics, animal feces, and even animals.  A few minor holes into a building can allow pigeons, rats, and sometimes larger animals to infest the space, and that will accelerate the rate if decay.  Further dangers include blocked exit routes, so should an entry path become blocked, there may not be another way out.

Old buildings can be wonderful treasures to restore, and can bring economic revitalization to downtown areas, but until they have been inspected by professionals and the necessary steps taken to shore-up structural elements, seal roofs, and mitigate health hazards, don't go poking around in them.

Less junk to carry, less junk to drop

When you climb up over people's heads you have to keep the tools you carry to a minimum, otherwise you'l be doubling your work-out and you may be getting your "thangs all tied in a knot."  The guys at StageJunk aim to make your life easier and safer.  They introduced the Racheting Ultimate Focusing Tool at LDI 2009, and they had it out in full force at USITT 2010 in Kansas City, too.  It continues to delight and amaze those that use it.

This tool is machined from billet aluminum, so it's really strong, lightweight, and dang near bullet-proof.  It'll lighten you wallet by a c-note, but it's worth every penny.  They put a lot of thought into this little bugger:  It fits most focus knobs known to mankind, breaks screw pin shackles loose, fits a wide variety of C-clamp and other cheeseborough securements, and has a built-in continuity tester with an LED indicator for checking lamps and power plugs (not receptacles).  It has a machine-cut knurled traction surface on most faces, too, so it won't slip out of your sweaty hand.  The corners are all rounded so it won't poke you either.

Put this on a lanyard and you'll be carrying a whole lot less up the ladder with you.  Less stuff up - less stuff to fall back down.

Find-out more at:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Its nice to have ICE

Like they ask in the theme song to the movie Ghost Busters - "Who ya gonna call?"

ICE - In Case of Emergency
Have you put ICE in your mobile phone?

Eight out of ten people carry no next-of-kin or emergency contact details with them. Yet 80% (or more) carry a mobile phone, most of whom have it with them all the time.

There is no simpler way of letting the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel know who to contact should you be involved in an accident than by using ICE.

Standing for In Case of Emergency, ICE entries in your phone's contact directory will allow ambulance crews and police officers to quickly contact a nominated person who can be informed of the incident.  Putting "ICE" along with a name and telephone number will enable the emergency services to contact your family in the event of an emergency.  Most emergency responders are trained to look in the contact directory of an injured person's mobile phone and see if there are any ICE entries.

Multiple entries are always a good idea.  If your only ICE contact is with you in an accident, then the emergency responders won't have an alternate person to call.
  1. Type the acronym ICE followed by a contact name (for example, ICE - mom or ICE - David) into the address book of your mobile phone. 
  2. Save their phone number to both your SIM card and your phone's internal memory - if the phone is broken they may still be able to read the SIM card.
  3. Tell your ICE contacts that you have nominated them.
The other half of the equation:  Sign a Medical Power of Attorney (POA) for each person on your ICE contact list.  Telling them you are injured is one thing, allowing them to do something about it is another.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Save Your Canadian Bacon is a great web site to visit.   actsafe  is a leader in promoting workplace health and safety in British Columbia’s performing arts and motion picture industries. This site has a monthly Safety newsletter, Library resources, Training courses, Posters, and much more.  This information covers a wide range of safety topics.  Good info regardless of your nationality!

Friday, March 23, 2012

We're dark on Mondays . . . and when the power goes off

Nothing like a blown fuse, tripped breaker, or general power outage to leave you wondering where the nearest flashlight is.

Pelican, the makers of really cool cases and flashlights, has solved that problem.  Check them out at

They offer flashlights with  photoluminescent  parts that 'charge-up' from both the flashlight's own output, and the ambient light.

Their LED lights will run for a claimed 50 hours.  Just look under Lights : Recoil™ LED Series on their web site, or go directly to:

SabreLite 2000PL (
SabreLite 2010PL LED (
StealthLite 2400PL  (
StealthLite 2410PL LED (
Little Ed 3610PL LED (
Big Ed 3700PL (
Big Ed 3750PL Rechargeable (

And if you already have a Pelican flashlight, some models have the  photoluminescent  shrouds available for retrofit - just go to the accessories page.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Way-finding: Which way out?

If I was in a hurry to get out of some place, like, say . . WHEN THERE IS A FIRE, I'd want to:
A:  Be able to read the evacuation map in a hurry,
B:  Be able to read it in the dark with the power out.

Hand Scrawled Fire Evacuation Route Sign (8 1/2 x 11)
Here's a good idea that can help those things come together:
  • Make the map large enough that you can read it without squinting.
  • Make the lettering bold and easy to read, say 1/4" (6mm), minimum (no hand-written letters either).
  • Place a "YOU ARE HERE" arrow or marker that is REALLY BIG AND OBVIOUS.
  • Then print the sign on clear film and mount it over a sheet of  photoluminescent  material.
That's where the folks at EvacMap ( can fix you right up.  They can do your graphics for you, or you can provide your own.  Their  photoluminescent  sign frames are just what you need.
Another source for these types of sign frames is Accuform Signs (  They also offer special sign frames for  Severe Weather Plans .  Another time when the power may not be functioning and you don't want to evacuate the building, but instead, you want to relocate everyone to a safer location within the building.

Things that go Bump in the Dark

Boom-Boom, Out Go The Lights! (Stray Cats covering Pat Travers covering Little Walter)  Well, that's what happens when you bonk your head really hard (yet another reason to wear a hard-hat!).

Maybe this will help:  Knuffi ( soft edge bumper guards are a product that is available in both  Photoluminescent  and  Fluorescent.  These foam wedges, angles, and rounds are designed to fit over beam edges and around corners.  They have self-adhesive tape backing so that you can peel-and-stick them to clean surfaces.

You can get these from:

American Permalight (, or

Knuffi. (
These create a personal crumple zone around low-lying beams, shelves, brackets, conduits, air ducts, or other junk stickin'-out around the theatre.  Don't be bonkin' your noggin'!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rise and Shine

What would a Safety Blog be without some mention of health issues?  If you live in / for, work in / for, or go to the theatre, you may be a candidate for gettin' lucky.  We don't want any accidents to happen when the lights go out, so wrap your Knight in shining armor!  The first glow in the dark condoms allowed by the FDA for disease and pregnancy prevention.   Global Protection Corporation's Night Light® glow-in-the-dark condoms are manufactured to the same standards as typical condoms, and provide the same protection and safety. They’re just much more fun!  With a unique combination of fun and protection, Night Light will provide a night to remember.  If you're not a brave-enough soul to test drive one of these, then go down to your local movie rental house and check-out a copy of director Blake Edward's 1989 classic Skin Deep starring John Ritter.  It might change your mind, or at least loosen it up a bit.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Electrical Room Fire at Golden State Theatre

2012-03-17 - Monterey, California.  A fire was reported to the Monterey Fire Department at around 12:17AM Saturday morning after four people tried to control the flames with a hand-held fire extinguisher.  Damage to the building was minimal and contained to the electrical room.  Most of the damage was smoke spreading to other parts of the venue.

A total of 16 fire crew members dealt with the incident, responding with four engines, a ladder truck, and a chief officer.  Upon arrival, firefighters detected smoke on the inside of the building, set up for fire attack, ventilation and forcible-entry operations, and then entered the room, where they found the fire still in progress.

"[It] Turns-out a plastic water pipe from a sink in another part of the building melted, leaked water into the electrical room and helped put out the fire before we got there," Roth said. "That certainly helped contain the fire to that single room, which was fortunate. If a building that large goes up, the whole block could go up.

The root cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Photo Credit:  Warren Dewey

The 1600 seat theatre underwent a renovations several years ago and is used for cinematic presentations, live shows, church services, and events featuring a large Wurlitzer Organ.

More information about the venue and pictures can be found at:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

EPA Seeks Comments on Environmental Health in Schools

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released for public comment the K-12 School Environmental Health Program Guidelines for States, Tribes and Territories.

In December 2007, Congress enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). Subtitle E, Section 504 of EISA requires the EPA, in consultation with the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services and other relevant federal agencies, to develop voluntary guidelines to assist states in establishing and implementing environmental health programs in K-12 schools.

Exposure to environmental hazards in schools can negatively impact the health of students and school staff. Unhealthy school environments can affect attendance, concentration and performance. In carrying out this statutory mandate, EPA, with assistance from its federal partners and feedback from stakeholders, developed these draft voluntary State K-12 School Environmental Health Program Guidelines. The guidelines are primarily intended to be used as a resource for the establishment of a state, tribal, or territorial K-12 school environmental health program.

Your feedback will help in the development of useful guidelines to states, tribes, and territories that will better support healthy school environments for our nation's children. We encourage you to review the draft guidelines and provide comments by April 13, 2012. Please visit the EPA's Office of Children's Health Protection School's website at to post your comments.

The EPA is also happy to announce the release of a Request for Applications (RFA) which will provide funding for implementation of the draft voluntary guidelines. Eligibility for funding under this competitive solicitation is limited to states, tribes and territories. Total funding available is expected to be $750,000 and applications for up to $150,000 will be accepted. The closing date for receipt of applications is April 10, 2012. For more information, including a copy of the RFA, go to:

Commentary:  Scene Shops, Costume Shops, and Paint / Chemical Storage Areas are not the only hazardous spaces in the theatre plants.  Hazards can be physical, electrical, and thermal, too, and may be affected by these guidelines.  Most importantly, the key directive in this document focus on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) which is directly related to asbestos (think: Fire Curtains), (saw) dust, mold, mildew, poor ventilation (think: rotting drapes and carpets), and sanitation.  Old florescent lights may have ballasts with PCB's in them, too, so this may be an opportunity to get them upgraded to energy-efficient, color-correct LED lights.  Shops, clean-up areas, restrooms, orchestra pits, trap rooms / basements, and storage rooms all are susceptible to poor IAQ conditions, so making sure that your performing arts venues are included in environmental studies and corrective planning can help you to get your facilities up-to-date and keep your students healthy.

PLASA Protocol Speaks-Out About Safety

The entertainment industry organization PLASA (recently joined with ESTA) offers free monthly magazine titled Protocol.  It's always chock-full of good information, and this month is no exception.  There are several good articles aimed directly at stage safety:
  • Rich Wolpert and Delbert Hall’s Tech Tips column expands on Rigger's Fids in "Fids, Part 2" - If you don't know what a "rigger's fid" is, or want to know more about how to make and use them, this is a great series.
  • Jim Utterback with Joe Aldridge, Eddie Raymond, and Alan Rowe following up with his on-going series on Safety, this one on "Risk Assessment”.
  • Gary Justesen from Oasis Stage Werks writes about "Seeking Shelter From The Storm" and the inspection and operations protocols for Outdoor Stages with a sidebar discussion about event cancellation insurance by Neil Huff.
  • Richard Cadena and Alan Rowe discuss "Lithium Battery Hazards" and how not to burst into flames while flying.
You can get your own subscription to this fine journal at: and yes, you can read it on your mobile device, too, with reader apps available.

While you are there, cruise on over to and sign-up to be a PLASA member.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Industry Professionals Form Event Safety Alliance Organization

The creation of the Event Safety Alliance was announced to the public at the TourLink 2012 conference in Phoenix, Arizona during the open panel “Outdoor Show Safety Solutions” on January 28, 2012. This panel was moderated by Jim Digby and featured founding members of the Event Safety Alliance who represented all areas of our industry, from insurance coverage to structure fabrication.

The Event Safety Alliance is a group of entertainment industry leaders that have come together to address the immediate need for universal safety standards for the production of live events.  The newly formed group is based out of Austin, Texas and has posted a web site with more information.

Check them out and sign-up for their newsletter at:

They are also hooked-up with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

The groups is so new they don't even have a logo yet [updated: see above!], the ink is still drying on the bits, but they are tackling event safety head-on and plan to publish a Best Practices Guide in the near future.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Another one's down. Another one bites the dust.

March 5, 2012 - Reggio Calabaria, Italy.  One stage hand was killed and two other injured as a space frame style stage truss structure collapsed and fell forward into the stage right side tiers of audience seating.  Fortunately, the incident occurred during the initial set-up of the equipment and there were no audience members present.
Photo courtesy of Life In Italy

The incident happened about 2:00 AM preceding the planned show the following evening.  Witnesses say one side of the stage structure slipped and collapsed sending the overhead trusses filed with lighting equipment onto Matteo Armelini, age 32.  He was killed instantly under the weight of the equipment.

Experts will now have to decide whether the collapse was caused by the failure of the Palacalafiore Sports Center’s parquet flooring to bear the weight, by poor structure design, or by human error during the erection of the structure.  The evening’s concert was cancelled.  The Reggio Calabria public prosecutor’s office has opened an inquiry and placed the entire structure under judicial seizure. Firefighters who provided assistance at the scene are seeking to establish the dynamics and causes of the incident.  Forensic police scientists have also been called in.

The stage for the Laura Pausini concert was the middle sized unit of three different stages used by the Faenza-born singer.  The stage set-up required fifteen articulated trucks to transport all the equipment.

At 1:00 you can clearly see the broken sport court flooring that could have possibly initiated the collapse.

This fatality comes just three months after a 20-year-old man was killed preparing the stage for a show by Italian rock star Jovanotti in Trieste.  (

Looking at these pictures and correlating them to images of other similar truss collapses shows that they almost never fall straight down, but instead topple to one side as the corner joints give-way.  More attention needs to be placed on diagonal bracing to help prevent this type of failure mode.

For those of you rigging these types of structures:  it's time to review the proper assembly instructions with the manufacturers and make sure that all the parts are being installed properly.  Checking load limits (not guessing - actually calculating real loads) and checking the structure components for signs of stress, like kinks, cracks, and metal fractures should be done for each and every build.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Audience Platform Collapse Injures 30

Stockholm, Sweden - Friday, March 2nd, 2012 — A section of a VIP platform collapsed during a performance by Swedish disc jockey Avicii at the Globe Arena.  About 30 people fell some 4 meters (~13 feet) when the floor of the structure caved in.  Police spokeswoman Inger Qvennerstedt says about 20 concertgoers age between 15 and 17 were taken to hospital.  She says most of the injuries were minor, but one was "very serious."

Organizers say a second performance by Avicii scheduled for Friday was canceled.  The cause of the collapse was not immediately clear.

The video posted on YouTube shows a very enthusiastic crowd jumping up and down in sync to the beat of the music, which can create tremendous live loading on a structure.  The camera finally pans down to show the gaping hole in the platform at around the 1:20 marker.  Note how visibly the security staff is dressed!

More information can be found at: