Friday, July 13, 2012

Keeping it all together

GRC (Not the Nutrition Guys) is a term commonly used to abbreviate Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance in the safety industry.  It is supposed to be an organizational cohesion that coordinates the efforts of everyone in a business so that guidance (Governance) is uniformly applied to all the sub-groups, and the subgroups share information and resources openly.

School Districts and Universities typically show significant separations between Risk Management (aka insurance claims management), Facility Safety (building and equipment maintenance), Public Safety (security), and personnel safety (actually training staff and students).

Interdepartmental separations occur, too.  Why is it the automotive shop student is given protective eye wear, while the theatre shop student has to provide his own?  The disparities are numerous and sometimes frustrating.  It affects the supply of safety information, safety goods, safety training, and maintenance.  When properly implemented, it answers the question of "Who's going to pay for this?"

For the governing administrators to do their jobs effectively, it is critical that they understand the wide variety of environments under their care.  In the theatre, this means that we have to pull-back the curtain and expose ourselves to the scrutiny of other non-theatre people.  This is hard.  We spend our entire careers trying to create magic and not let anyone outside of the theatre process know how it really works.  This is the exception.  When it comes to safety - everyone has to know and understand.

Don't stand there and tell everybody that your theatre is safe.  It's not.  This blogger sees brand new theatres that are constructed unsafely all of the time, and few new facilities come with any significant amount of operational safety training - everybody just brings their old bad habits with them and go on with little or no thought as to how they might make cultural changes to their work process.

In the 70's, the phone company ran a series of advertisements that said: "To communicate is the beginning of understanding."  The theatre plant is a perfect example of how important this is.  Maintenance workers need to access equipment and understand what is 'special' theatre equipment and know when they can work on it, and what is 'off limits' so that only specially qualified personnel are brought in to service it.  Good examples might be:
  • Dimmer Racks:  The air filters need to be cleaned regularly.  This may require that the power to the dimmer rack be disconnected because there may be live electrical parts within.  Chasing-off the cleaning crew and then not having the filters serviced may cause the dimmers to overheat and malfunction, or even catch fire.  At a minimum, it will shorten the life of the equipment.  This applies to the air filters for the workspaces around the theatre, too.  I've seen clogged air filters and air grilles in follow spotlight rooms, on stages, in dimmer rooms, and on dimmer racks - all preventable if the theatre staff would engage with the maintenance staff.
  • Stage Rigging:  Equipment must be inspected regularly by qualified personnel.  Most janitors and building maintenance crews are NOT trained or experienced enough to perform this task.  The maintenance of the stage rigging falls into this category.  The oil field rigging, construction rigging, or ship rigging backgrounds that some maintenance workers might have may be of some use, but without a knowledge of theatrical systems and how they are used, the resulting 'fixes' may be dangerous, incompatible with the theatrical operational needs, or aesthetically undesirable.
  • Fire Curtain, Smoke Vent, and Fire Doors:  Inspections and maintenance present challenges similar to the Stage Rigging.  Corrections that are not compatible with Fire Codes, Theatre Operations, and the Audience's enjoyment of the presentations must be prevented through the use of knowledgeable people.  Hire a consultant of you need one - this is where your Risk Management Department and or your Safety Office may be able to assist in securing the necessary funding.
Finding a balance with safety equipment provision policies, cost deferrals, and training budgets can only be achieved if the various participants can speak openly about the needs of their buildings and operations.  It also requires that the administrators truly understand and acknowledge just how dangerous a theatre plant is.  They care about bad brakes on buses, broken playground equipment, football helmets, and toxic fumes in the chemistry lab - why should your performing arts venue be any different?

Blogger Norman Marks on the Sustainable Business Forum site has a series of articles that help to explain GRC:

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