Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Better Ladders - Safer Work

You've all seen it - the late night infomercial for the Little Giant Ladder.  You may even have one for getting to some of those difficult to reach places.  This year at LDI, these guys outdid themselves BIGTIME.  They introduced a extensible A-Frame ladder with a safety cage work platform at the top.

"Alas, the old trestle ladder, 'Rickety' was unceremoniously taken out to the dumpster, cut to pieces with a chain saw, and laid to rest.  A few onlookers mourned his passing, as they held-back signs of PTSD from sitting atop it with their legs entangled in the rungs while they wrangled a twenty pound ellipsoidal light into position.  Splintery's friend, 'Skateboard' was also cut to shreds and tossed into a cold, dark dumpster to be forever forgotten.  Even his wobbly, non-locking casters were committed to the recycle bin in a final tribute to stupidity.  The local laundromat is expected to see a sharp decline in stained underwear noted one person.  "For every inch the trestle ladder shifted unexpectedly while you were on it, there was a proportional brown streak in my whitie-tighties" they reminisced."
Don't be fooled by the picture at the right -- the new CAGE ladder can extend the working platform height to 13'-4", providing a reach range to 19'-10".  This can get you up to many electric battens and pipe grids while providing a easy to move, stable work platform.  Imagine being able to SAFELY use BOTH HANDS AT ONE TIME.  What a radical concept for a ladder!

Notice the wide stance, too.  And the best part is that ONE PERSON can move it around.  The fiberglass frame is electrically non-conductive while providing a strong structure that is lightweight like an aluminum ladder.

More info about this can be found at:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Eye on Safety: Bubbly Foam Injures party-goers' eyes

Foam Party (not subject incident)
On May 26, 2012, the Collier County Health Department was notified by law enforcement and hospital personnel that approximately 40 persons had sought care at local emergency departments because of severe eye irritation and pain. Patients reported that they had attended a foam party at a local nightclub the night before. Syndromic surveillance activities carried out by the Florida Department of Health identified 35 patients who had visited an emergency department in Collier County on May 26 with a chief complaint related to eye injuries.

Foam Party (not subject incident)
At foam parties, soapy foam is sprayed onto the dance floor while participants dance. The foam is distributed from blowers on the ground or attached to the ceiling, and several feet of foam can accumulate. Foam parties can last for several hours while foam is dispersed intermittently throughout the night. Products used at these events to produce foam contain ingredients similar to those in soaps and shampoos, such as sodium lauryl sulfate. Some formulations used at foam parties are proprietary, and chemicals, chemical compositions, and concentrations are unknown. For use at a foam party, the product is purchased in a highly concentrated form and diluted with water before use. This was the third foam party of the year at this nightclub.

An investigation was initiated by the Florida Department of Health to determine the extent and severity of the injuries. Using contact information obtained from medical records, patients were contacted and interviewed over the telephone. An incident-specific questionnaire was developed to obtain information on demographics, foam party attendance, foam exposures, potential risk factors, symptoms and injuries, medical care received, and previous foam party experiences. Additional attendees were identified by asking interviewees if they had attended the party with another person, and if so, were they willing to provide the contact information for them.

Foam Party (not subject incident)
Medical record abstractions in Collier County hospitals identified 30 cases of injury related to the foam party. Interviews, contacts provided by local law offices, and additional medical record abstractions from ophthalmology clinics, urgent-care centers, and neighboring county hospitals led to the identification of an additional 26 cases. A total of 56 persons meeting the case definition were identified during the investigation out of approximately 350 persons thought to have attended the party. Thus, an estimated 16% of attendees suffered eye injuries as a result of this event, and 43 (76.8%) of them received medical care.

In all cases, injured persons reported getting foam in their face, with 44 (96%) of interviewed persons reporting eye exposure. Almost 90% of interviewed persons reported rubbing their eyes after exposure to the foam. Eye irritation (94.6%), severe eye pain (91.1%), pink eye/redness (87.5%), decreased visual acuity (81.3%), and conjunctivitis (76.8%) were the most common injuries (Table). Of note, half of the cases (38) were diagnosed with abrasions of the cornea. For those persons who sought medical care, the average number of visits was 3.2. In 11 cases, patient's visual acuity could not be tested in at least one eye during their initial medical-care visit because they were unable to open their eye or read the first letter of the chart. Among persons interviewed, the average duration of symptoms was 7 days, ranging from less than 1 hour to more than one month. In seven cases, symptoms had not completely resolved at the time of the interview (i.e., more than one month after the injury).

Although some persons experienced minor eye irritations related to foam exposure, many experienced more serious eye injuries, such as decreased visual acuity (39), conjunctivitis (43), and corneal abrasions (28). This investigation highlights the range and potential seriousness of eye injuries that can result from exposure to foamed atmospheric effects used in the entertainment industry.

The entire report can be found at:

Not discussed by the CDC, but equally important, is the likelihood of slip and fall injuries.  The foam can conceal trip hazards, and persons falling-over can strike hard edges or sharp corners of railings, tables, and chairs, and fall down stairways.  Additionally, someone that falls down may not be seen by other participants or Crowd Managers, and cold be trampled or create additional trip hazards.

Remember what your momma used to say:  It's all fun and games until someone gets their eye poked-out!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ladder Safety now a smartphone application

NIOSH has released its first smart phone application (app) for mobile devices.  This free app is aimed at improving extension ladder safety by providing real-time safety information delivered via the latest technology.  Falls from ladders are a persistent source of workplace injuries.

Misjudging the angle at which an extension ladder is set-up is a significant risk factor that can be reduce and prevent falls. If an extension ladder is set too steeply, it is more likely to fall back or slide away during use, and if it is set too shallow then the bottom can slide out. The NIOSH Ladder Safety phone app has an angle of inclination indicator which uses visual and audible signals making it easier for workers and other users to set an extension ladder at the proper angle of 75.5 degrees.

The NIOSH Division of Safety Research tested and patented the concept of the app’s inclination indicator. They compared existing ladder positioning methods and found that the indicator improved both the accuracy and efficiency for extension ladder positioning. The Ladder Safety app also includes other information about ladder safety including ladder selection, inspection, accessorizing, and use. While it may seem obvious, we have to say it: for your safety, use the app to set the proper ladder angle before climbing an extension ladder.

 The app can help workers prevent falls and is also a tool for employers who want to ensure a safe workplace. The app is available through the NIOSH website, the Apple App-storeExternal Web Site Icon, and Android Apps on Google PlayExternal Web Site Icon. It works with most SmartPhones that have inclination sensors.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What's actually dangerous (besides your theatre)?

The folks at put together this interesting infographic:
You are more likely to die falling into the orchestra pit.
You are more likely to die falling from a truss or catwalk.
You are likely to be injured in the shop.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Keeping your workplace healthy one germ at a time

Reduced transference of biological agents pays-off in reduced worker-hours lost to illness, so there is a definite incentive to keep washrooms a germ-free environment. Maintaining a sanitary workplace may require multiple changes to the washroom facilities. The goal is a 'touch-free' design so people don't have to come in contact with the germ / virus carrying surfaces.   Each place you come in contact with the surfaces raises the likelihood of accidental transference.  Washroom operations, like every other aspect of our work and personal life can be viewed as a process.  Layout the steps in the process, assess each item for ways to improve it, then implement the improvement.

Eliminate the scenario where the patron washes hands and drips across the floor top find the paper towel dispenser or air dryer. Dry floors stay cleaner, look nicer, and reduce the likelihood of slip-and-fall accidents.

Things you can do to improve washroom sanitation:

Toilets: No-touch flush mechanisms.

Toilet Stall surfaces and hardware: Antimicrobial coated hardware, solid plastic privacy panels (germs love to get into wood cores), minimal touch latches, and easily cleaned surfaces without grooves and surface textures that can harbor germs, bacteria, and mold spores.  Add sanitary wipe dispensers so patrons can wipe-down seats, railings, diaper changing tables, and door latches at-will.

Wash Sink Areas: No-touch soap dispensers at each washbasin, no-touch water nozzle with pre-heated water (with option to get cold water, but not the default mode of operation), and no lips, edges, or grooves to collect residual water.

No-touch paper-towel dispenser:   Above each sink bowl (install it behind a hinged mirror) so wet hands and faces don't create a path of drips across the countertop and floor. Paper towels must be available to wipe-off faces, arms, and other places where air blowers don't reach. To encourage the use of the air-dryers, post a 'think-green' message to give people a reminder.

Warm-air Hand-drying Jet:  The type that is molded into the sink assembly is best, however, wall-mounted units should be placed between the sink bowls, with the waste-paper receptacle immediately below an opening in the sink counter-top.  With this arrangement the water droplets are blown into the waste bin and the waste bin acts as a bit of a noise muffler for the air blower.

Exit Doors:   If possible, remove them completely; if they must remain, then add motion sensors so they automatically open as you approach from the inside, and/or re-orient them so they swing outwards so that they can be pushed with elbows instead of requiring hands.  Adding a remote door activator (push-button on the wall like those used for wheelchair access) is also a good way to do this, as you can bump them with your elbow to open the door.

The suggested layout also improves the operational efficiency of the washroom operations as patrons are not crisscrossing the space and bumping into each-other.

Washrooms should be cleaned at least twice daily, minimum, usually after the lunch-hour and again after the end of the work-day. The daily use of antibacterial sprays on ALL surfaces (except the ceiling) can further reduce the life-expectancy of germs / viruses. Disposable (single use) sanitary wipes saturated with disinfectants should be used in lieu of detergent-based reusable mops and rags, which are proven to re-contaminate and move infectious bacteria from place-to-place.

Information Resources:

National Pesticide Information Center: Selecting the Right Antimicrobial Product:

Center for Disease Control (CDC): Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008.

EPA-Registered Disinfectants:

Product Resources:

Bradley Advocate wash sink system.

SurfaceClean (Kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria) pretreatment for SurfaceAide XL and also for day-to-day use.

Lysol (Kills 99.9% of household bacteria). Also see their Mission for Health : Partners in Prevention page

Windex Multi-Surface Anti-Bacterial (Kills 99.9% of household bacteria).

Monday, September 16, 2013

ESA and TAKE1 Insurance host webinar on Live Event Safety

September 16, 2013 — Asserting that the live event production industry can no longer take a passive approach to life safety, Take1 Insurance, the leading insurance provider to the entertainment industry, today announced that it was teaming up with the Event Safety Alliance (ESA) to host the industry’s first webinar focused on producing safer live events. According to Scott Carroll, Executive Vice President and Program Director of Take1 Insurance, the precedent-setting webinar will take place on b>Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 2 p.m EST and is open to anyone involved in the business of producing and staging live events.

A 60-Minute Introduction to Producing Safer Live Events” will be held on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 2 p.m. EST (1 p.m. CST, noon MST, 11 a.m. PST).  Webinar Registration is now open at:

“The time for discussion is over and the time to take action is at hand,” Carroll stressed today. “For years we have emphasized the need for live event producers to take the time to prepare for the unimaginable and now, thanks to the leadership position taken by Jim Digby and the Event Safety Alliance, the industry can utilize the ESA’s“Event Safety Guide” to prepare complete emergency action plans that include having the right insurance coverage in place.” Carroll emphasized that, “Investing 60 minutes to learn more about the issues involved in producing safer live events is not too much to ask of any of us, given the number of incidents that have occurred over the last several years. It is our hope that ‘A 60-Minute Introduction to Producing Safer Live Events’ is the first in a series of additional Take1 sponsored topic focused webinars that involve a broad range of industry professionals in a very important discussion.”

“Due to a series of tragic accidents, life safety has become a major concern to many within the live event industry,” explained Jim Digby, founder of the Event Safety Alliance. “Whether you work directly on productions or provide support to them, everyone has a role to play in ensuring the well-being of our performers, workers, and audience members. In this webinar, leaders from ESA and Take1 will detail the importance and responsibilities of event safety for those who promote, produce, and insure live events. You’ll learn more about the mission and activities of the ESA, along with our vision for the future, as well as the solutions offered by Take1. Most importantly, we’ll discuss critical tools and resources currently in development, and how the insurance industry can work with the ESA to create safer live events.”


A week after the Event Safety webinar, the Event Safety Alliance will take its message of “be prepared” to LDI 2013 (November 22–24, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada) where it will host a presentation entitled “The Event Safety Guide: The Future of Safe, Responsible Show Production” on November 23, 2013 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

At 3:30 p.m. the same day, the ESA will host a 90-minute roundtable discussion entitled “You Are The ESA”, also at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Equity Actors Association in the UK provides Safety Resources

All Equity Organisers, together with Musician Union Officials, are roving Health and Safety Inspectors under UK Health and Safety legislation, and as such, have automatic right-of-access to any workplace where there is a health and safety issue.

A high number of  legal claims taken-on by Equity on behalf of members concern accidents at work that should not have occurred.  If the accident is the result of employer negligence, Equity will do everything possible, including taking legal action,  to ensure the member is treated properly.

For more information and 19 downloadable safety documents, visit:

Monday, September 9, 2013

BECTU Website is good Safety Resorce for the UK and others

BECTU - Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph Theatre Union - a organization that serves many purposes for the technicians in the UK provides numerous links to safety-related documents that can be helpful no matter where you are on the planet.

They have links to the Creative Industries Safety Passport program, Training information, Health & Safety Craft Cards, and an incident reporting form for accidents and near-misses.  Although the incident reporting form is meant for use  by the UK's Theatre Safety Committee, it can be used by anyone trying to organize accident information for their own use or for sharing with others.

Friday, September 6, 2013

OSHA Hammers Away AGAIN About Ladder Safety

Falls from ladders continues to be a leading cause of injuries and deaths, so OSHA has teamed-up with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the American Ladder Institute, the Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety & Health (elCOSH), and The Center for Construction Research and Training to bring you more training materials.

Visit the Campaign to Prevent Falls in Construction at:

Previous discussions about Ladder Safety can be found at:

Industrial Safety and Health (ISHN) magazine has a good article on fall prevention:
ISHN September 2013 - PPE - Serious About Preventing Falls

The following flash video provides testimony from accident victims, family members of those that didn't make it home, and provides good examples and advice about how to select and use ladders.

The OSHA web site is full of downloadable fliers, posters, training guides, and information, too:

Working in the theatre is just like working on a construction site, so treat it with respect.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Event Planner fails to recognise crowd motivation risks - 20 injured in mele.

Friday, August 9, 2013 - Event Planners for Korean cell phone manufacturer LG Electronics failed to do a thorough risk analysis for a promotional stunt and twenty people ended-up injured, with seven being sent to the hospital.

It idea was to release helium-filled balloons in an open park, and each balloon would have a voucher that could be redeemed for a new smart phone that was valued at KRW 950,000 Korean Won (~$851 US).  Enthusiastic attendees planned their assaults on the balloons in advance and arrived at the event with sharp sticks, BB Guns, and knives on poles.  The ensuing melee after 100 balloons were launched was a disaster when greed over-took common sense.

"LG Electronics deeply regrets that a number of Korean participants were injured during an outdoor promotional event in Seoul, [South] Korea," a statement from the firm said.

"We can confirm that seven participants were hospitalised and, although none of the injuries were serious, LG takes full responsibility for the unfortunate situation and has offered to cover all related medical expenses.

"LG is investigating the incident to ensure that such an occurrence can be avoided in the future."

The company added that other planned events had been called-off because of concerns for attendees safety.

One regional TV channel has dubbed the event "World War G" - a comparison to the film World War Z in which zombies scramble over each other to climb over a wall.  The new phone is a model G2.

Phone:  Smart.
Event Planner:  Not so smart.

Never underestimate the motivational power of of greed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Another gust of wind up-ends a portable stage

2013-08-12 ~6:00PM - In Germany on the Island of Sylt, a mobile stage with a fold-out apron and pop-up canopy was caught by high winds and flipped on it's side.  No injuries were reported.  It is apparent from the video that there were no anchors employed to keep the stage secured to the ground - the staging company was relying on dumb-luck and gravity to do the job.

Video text translates as:
"On Sunday, about 18 O'clock, a strong gust of wind was recorded at the big event stage the Super Sail event, and it turned-over.  The stage was lying on it's back, there were no casualties. The Westerländer firefighters secured the structure, and salvaged the stage in the hours that followed."

Ocean + Wind-powered Boats = HIGH LIKELIHOOD FOR WIND.  This was foreseeable.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Risk Management for Rigging from ProSoundWeb

Andrew Martin, the originator of ATM Flyware, wrote a good guide for managing your show rigging assets in the March 28, 2013 edition of ProSoundWeb.  The article provides a short overview of Risk Management Guidelines and provides a series of example graphics to show you specific points of concern to watch-out for.
Example of SpanSet / Round Sling Inspection Points
The article can be found here:

Monday, August 12, 2013

Guess what? - OSHA is looking at theatre shop operations

Below is an article published on the Department of Labor's web site:

Trade News Release Banner Image

Region 3 News Release: 13-1492-NEW (osha 13-72)
July 25, 2013
Contact: Leni Fortson      Joanna Hawkins
Phone: 215-861-5102      215-861-5101
Jersey City, NJ, theatrical equipment company cited by US Department of
    Labor's OSHA for exposing workers to workplace safety and health hazards

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Acadia Scenic Inc., which builds scenery for the entertainment industry, with 22 safety and health violations, including two willful. The citations followed an April inspection, prompted by the agency's Health-High-Hazard Top 50 Local Emphasis Program and its Amputations and Combustible Dust Emphasis Program. Proposed penalties total $49,600.
The willful violations, with $28,000 in penalties, were cited for a lack of guarding on hand-fed circular ripsaws and crosscut table saws. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
The 19 serious violations, with $21,200 in penalties, include the company's failure to keep the workplace clean and orderly; prevent accumulations of explosive dust; provide railings on stairs; establish or implement a written respiratory protection program for workers required to wear respirators; have fire extinguishers mounted and readily accessible for use; and provide an educational program on the general principles of fire extinguisher use and hazards involved for workers expected to fight incipient stage fires. The company was also cited for failing to provide machine guarding for a miter saw; provide spreaders and nonkickback devices on two hand-fed circular ripsaws; properly adjust a work rest on grinding machinery; determine each employee's exposure to methylene chloride; provide appropriate gloves and eyewash facilities for workers using methylene chloride-containing adhesives; and develop and implement a written hazard communication program that includes training for workers exposed to hazardous chemicals. A serious violation occurs when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

"Each of these hazards threaten the company's ability to provide employees with a safe and healthful work environment, and should be corrected immediately," said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA's Parsippany Office. "OSHA will continue to hold employers responsible when they fail to protect their workers."
Inspectors also cited the company for one other-than-serious violation, which carries a $400 penalty, for not recording a workplace injury on the employer's OSHA Form 300 Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
Acadia Scenic Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, ask for an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Parsippany or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's area offices.
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

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wind Gust Topples Stage Canopy in Shelby North Carolina

2013-08-10 - Preparations for an evening concert were disrupted at the end of the sound check for one of the bands as a wind gust from an approaching storm blew the overhead lighting and canopy support trusses over.  A band member from The After had just stepped off of the stage when the structure toppled.  The show was set-up at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds near Shelby, North Carolina.

Picture Tweeted by The Afters
The picture from stage left shows a disturbing lack of safety preparation and recovery efforts.

The band’s opening act, The Afters, was doing a sound check around 3:30 p.m. when the wind picked up and the stage started shaking.

“This storm suddenly came in and suddenly I hear 'get off the stage!'” said The Afters’ lead singer Josh Havens, in a cell phone video shot by MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard.  “And we're running, jumping off the stage.”

MercyMe’s stage manager witnessed the collapse.  Joel Bench is used to setting up and taking down stages – just not like this.

“The wind just picked up, the roof lifted a little bit,” said Bench.  “Then it started tilting and just kind of eased down.”

“Luckily we had people watching and eyes on it, and they started screaming and everybody started running and took off safely,” he said.

Reports from the event tell of lightning in the area which should have caused the stage to have been evacuated long before the collapse occurred.  Lightning strike and weather warning applications for smart phones and dedicated lightning strike monitor tools ( are commonly available and should ALWAYS be monitored, especially if there are visible adverse weather conditions.

John Huntington's ControlGeek site has a thorough run-down on the actual weather conditions:

Brittany Spangler, administrative assistant for the American Legion World Series, said “The World Series officials are all devastated, but in the end, it was safety first for the artists.  We’re sad, but you can’t really stop Mother Nature.  We weren’t aware that the winds were going to get that high.”  Commentary:  The venue should have had a weather service monitoring the local and regional weather.

Fortunately, no one was injured and the scheduled event that was expecting as many as 10,000 2,500 attendees was cancelled.  Hopefully, the event promoters and staging company have learned from this near-miss.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

ISO Signage Directive: Clear Pictograms for Universal Understanding

The British trade group Industry Committee for Emergency Lighting (ICEL, has issued a Technical Statement that clarifies the recent change in Emergency Exit Signage in the UK.  It is excerpted here with additional commentary as it applies to US signage.  Note that the US is moving towards the ISO 'running man' standard for egress signage and the common red or green  EXIT  sign is gradually be replaced in US buildings.

It is not enough that a safety sign can be seen. It is essential that each sign is quickly understood and that an installation of signs quickly and clearly conveys their intention and continues to confirm the message.

Research has identified that the key requirements for an acceptable safety sign are:-
  • Conspicuity:  The capacity of a sign to stand out or be distinguishable from its surroundings and thus be readily discovered by the eye.  It is the noticeable contrast between a sign and its background, attributed to an exogenous (unplanned) or andogenous (planned) mind-set, with the display having features that attract attention to the sign.  Conspicuity is considered a subjective outcome.
  • Visibility:  The physical attributes of a sign and its contents that allow for detection at a given distance, although legibility may be uncertain.  Visibility is considered an objective stimulus.
  • Legibility:  The physical attributes of a sign that allow for differentiation of its letters, words, numbers, or graphics and that directly relate to an observer’s visual acuity.  Legibility is considered an objective stimulus.
  • Understandability:  That which enables the observer to correctly perceive the information content of letters, numbers or symbols grouped together, or other meaningful relationships on the sign.  Understandability is the character of a sign that leads to comprehension of its intended message, and depends on legibility and other considerations of contents and time restraints.  It is considered a subjective outcome.
When considering a design for an effective escape route it is important that the exit path and any potential obstacles are well illuminated (the centre line of any escape route should be lit to a minimum of 1 Lux [the US NFPA 101 Life Safey Code uses a similar, but different standard]) and the route should be marked with well positioned signs that clearly indicate the direction towards a final exit and on to the “place of safety”.

The signs should be positioned so that each sign is always within a readable viewing distance and each sign shall be located so that it is visible to reconfirm the correct route at every intersection or change of direction so that evacuees can move along the escape route quickly and safely.  However, in some environments (public buildings, retail areas, etc.) there may be a great number of sign boards, building furniture and visual obstacles that could confuse evacuees in an emergency.  This is why safety signs must be easily seen and understood and, in today’s multinational society, it is essential that the meaning of signs does not rely on any specific language.

The Legal Situation

Standardization across Europe was one method of increasing a wider understanding of safety signs. Therefore, the European Community (EC) Safety Signs Directive (92/58/EEC) was published and adopted as ‘The Health and Safety (Signs and Signals) Regulations’ in England during 1996. This piece of legislation set out simple ‘Pictogram’ sign formats to be used within the European Community.

The Regulations showed the intrinsic features required for emergency escape (egress) signs as being white on green, with pictorial symbols of a running man, a direction arrow and a door.  These intrinsic features avoided the use of words in any of the escape signs and set out escape route guidance by showing the running man with an arrow down for when the escape route went straight on, arrow right for right turns and arrow left for left turns.  The Regulations simplified the vast range of text signs that had previously been used.

The only problem with the EC Safety Signs Directive was that the pictograms supplied were of a different format to those shown in ISO documents and some National Standards such as BS 5499. Here are the three formats currently seen in use in the UK:

In 2011, it was decided by many of the National Standards bodies to consider adoption of a single pictogram format as shown in ISO16069.  The British Standards Institute (BSI) adopted this format in the latest edition of the BS5266:2011 standard, which is considered the ‘de-facto’ emergency lighting standard for the UK.

The members of the Industry Committee for Emergency Lighting (ICEL) recognized that a further change in sign format could cause further confusion within the already confused market and therefore decided to introduce the ICEL Clear Sign Campaign.  It is a UK legal requirement for businesses to conduct risk assessments for fire safety and evacuation and it is of course vital that the emergency escape signs are of a legal format.  The current position includes the following key issues:
  • Text only signs (like the common "EXIT" or "SORTE") are not legal and should have already been replaced.
  • BS5499 Pictogram signs (with or without supplementary text) are legal but should only have been used when expanding an installation already incorporating similar signs.
  • Pictogram only signs with the same format as shown in The Health and Safety (Signs and Signals) Regulations / EC Safety Signs Directive (92/58/EEC) are legal but should not be mixed with other sign formats on any installation.
  • From 2012 the new ISO16069 Pictogram signs will also be legal but again should not be mixed with other formats on an installation.
  • The latest proposals do not only identify the ISO16069 sign format, there are also references to ISO 3864-1 and ISO 3864-4 to provide detailed information relating to the safety color and contrast color.
The images above show the different appearance of the ISO Pictogram symbols used in these EXIT signs but the key differences between the Health and Safety (Signs and Signals) Regulations / EC Safety Signs Directive (92/58/EEC) pictograms and the ISO 16069 versions include:
  • ‘Straight on’ is depicted by an arrow facing up in ISO 16069 (and in BS 5499) whereas the Safety Signs and Signals Regulations do not state which way the arrow should be used.
  • ISO 16069 allows the use of supplementary information such as diagonal arrows (for stairs up or down) and in certain instances the use of text (e.g. to distinguish between a normal exit that may also be used for escape and an exit that is perhaps intended only for emergencies and may lead to an exit door that is fitted with a security alarm).
Initially, the best advice is to use internally illuminated emergency sign luminaires with the minimum number of sign formats to avoid confusion.

Almost all escape route scenarios can be clearly indicated with the basic ISO 16069 pictogram signs conveying the messages ‘straight on’, ‘go left’, ‘go right’.

The technical features required for these signs are:
  • The luminance of any area of safety color of the sign shall be at least 2 cd/m².
  • Within either the contrast color white or the safety color, the minimum luminance divided by the maximum luminance shall be greater than 0.2.
  • The ratio of the luminance Lcontrast to the luminance Lsafety color shall be not less than 5:1 and not greater than 15:1.
  • Signs shall be illuminated to at least 50% of the required luminance within 5 seconds and full required luminance within 60 seconds (this is significantly different from the US standard where the signs must remain continuously illuminated).
Although these factors can appear to be complicated, the principles are well known by reputable emergency lighting specialists and should be assured by specifying products supplied by ICEL member companies.

However, Local Authorities and Fire Authorities can require new installations to be of either format – EC Safety Signs Directive or ISO 16069 until the situation is resolved by an amendment to the Directive – So check to be sure you are supplying the correct format for your facility.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fire Door Safety - the UK Perspective

Reading British books and manuals can be challenging for us in the States - it's like we are two countries separated by a common language.  None-the-less, it can be informative and insightful to see how they do it across the pond.  When it comes to Fire Doors, the British Standards (BS) tend to follow the International ISO standards more closely that we do in the US, where we mostly link to ANSI (albeit, the US ANSI standards are gradually migrating to be aligned with the ISO standards as well).

The Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (that's "Architectural Hardware" in US English) has produced a set of guides that show good examples of Fire Door hardware and the associated signage.  Part 1 provides a general overview of Fire Door purpose and function, and Part 2 delves into the Maintenance required and provides good examples of problems you might look-out for.

You can download these two guide books here:
Part 1 - Overview: & Escape Doors Part 1.pdf
Part 2 - Maintenance: & Escape Doors Part 2.pdf

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Blow This! Littelfuse Publishes Electrical Safety Handbook

Littlefuse, a company long known in the electrical and electronics industries for fast-acting circuit protection devices, has published a 76 page Electrical Safety Hazards Handbook that is free to download as a PDF.

This isn't a simple Do This, Don't Do That pamphlet.  This extensive guide explains the history, physics, body physiology, relevant safety codes, hazard analysis, and offers suggestions about how to minimize exposure to a variety of workplace conditions.  It also includes a chapter on Arc-Flash safety.

Numerous Annex Chapters are provided that cover key Electrical Terminology, Arc-Flash calculations and tables, an example Hot Work Permit for those thinking about risking their lives tinkering with energized circuits and equipment, Electrical Safety Resources (with live links), and much more.

The booklet concludes with an Electrical Safety Quiz and an answer guide for checking your knowledge.

Download your copy here:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hose me down, but not with hydralic fluid

Lock-Out / Tag-Out (LOTO) is probably most commonly thought-of in terms of electrical safety, however, pneumatic, mechanical, gravitational, and hydraulic forces must always be considered, too.  Hydraulic systems in the theatre are uncommon due to the potential mess that can be made when hydraulic fluid leaks from a system.  Non-the-less, the extreme pressure inside of some hydraulic hoses is a potentially lethal source of energy.

Very small cracks or pin-holes can expel hydraulic fluid at extreme velocities, much like a high pressure water sprayer or pneumatic paint gun.  These high velocity fluid jets can not only penetrate the skin and inject hydraulic fluid into your blood stream, they can cut through fabrics (gloves, shirts, pants) and do damage just about anywhere.  If you get sprayed in the eye it can do permanent damage to your cornea, or worse cause total blindless (yet another reason for safety glasses!).

Hydraulic fluid can be hot, which can lead to unnecessary burns; it can be flammable, which can lead to fire hazards; and it can be very slippery, which can lead to slip and fall accidents.

Safe-T-Bleed company has introduced a pressure bleeding manifold valve the facilitates the safe shut-down of hydraulic lines before they are disconnected for service.  The Hydraulic Energy Control Module (HECM) can be used in-line with any system line up to 5000 psi.

The product web site has several pages of good-to-know info about OSHA compliance with hydraulic systems - visit and get your LOTO knowledge up-to-date.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Violinist Dies After Fall Into Orchestra Lift Machinery Pit

2013-07-16 - Moscow, Russia - A 40 year veteran of the Bolshoi Theatre died Wednesday at a Moscow hospital as a result of injuries sustained from a fall into the machinery pit of the Orchestra Lift.  Violinist Viktor Sedov, 65, was found lying on the pit floor about 2:30PM Tuesday when a theatre employee making a routine fire safety round found Sedov lying unconscious on the pit's concrete floor.  He was taken to the Sklifosovsky Hospital where he passed away the following day.

The accident happened in the New Stage venue, one of four venues in the Bolshoi Theatre of Russia complex.  The Main Stage venue had recently gone through significant architectural modifications, and it is suspected that Sedov entered the unlit sub-stage entry platform behind the orchestra lift and stepped out in the darkness to where he believed the Orchestra Lift Platform was positioned.  In the old configuration of the facility the platform was at the same level as the bottom of the pit.  The lift platform was up at a higher level and he plummeted into the machinery pit.  One report says the fall was about 6 meters (19 feet), but this may be the total depth from the stage, and not the depth from the sub-stage entry platform, however, another news report says that he fell from the stage level. Part of the facility reconstruction involved the addition of many levels of subterranean storage and workspaces, so it may be that the Orchestra Lift pit did extend down 6 meters from the substage platform.

On Wednesday, the Bolshoi's press secretary, Katerina Novikova, said the cause of Sedov's death will be determined by a special commission.  A decision regarding further legal action will be made depending on the outcome of the police inquiry into the incident.


In this accident, there are several causal factors to consider:
  • Inadequate illumination of the walking surfaces.
  • Lack of guardrails to protect workers from falls.
  • Lack of interlocks on doors leading to hazardous workspaces.
  • Solo workers in unobserved workspaces.
We can learn from other industries' Best Practices and incorporate those procedures into our daily regimen.  In the sport of SCUBA diving they use the Buddy System - participants NEVER dive by themselves - there is always someone with you nearby that can you rely upon to help you if you need it.  Theatre facilities should have a similar policy.  There are 1000's of scenarios where a single person in a theatre can be injured and not be able to call for help.  If you have a co-worker with you the odds of both person's being incapacitated are significantly reduced.  Simply put:  Don't go into the theatre by yourself!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fire Mars 4th of July at Milwaukee's 100 Year Old Miramar Theatre

An early morning electrical fire in the basement of a theatre turned nightclub was detected by an alert employee while cleaning-up about 2:00AM Thursday, July 4th.  A faulty power receptacle is thought to have been the starting point of the fire which caused more smoke damage than anything else.

“We had an electrical fire in our office basement that basically didn’t burn like flames of fire, but it had heat and just lots of smoke, and we had the whole place filled up with smoke,” said owner William Stace.  Fortunately, no one was injured.  The facility will be closed for business until further notice.  According to Stace's employee, Aaron Ohlsson, the venue is critical to the Milwaukee music scene, and several live music acts that were scheduled for the weekend were looking for other places to perform.

The Miramar Theatre owner, Stace, said that although he was frustrated by the timing, he was glad that the damage was minimal.  Smoke damage clean-up is estimated at around $6,300.  Stace said that due to the 4-day holiday, his insurance agent was unavailable, and that cleaning crews could not start to abate the smoke damage until Monday at the earliest.  Getting the place aired-out was the main priority.  The acrid smell of smoke lingers in the theatre, and soot is everywhere.  In retrospect, he says getting a few days to calm-down and rest will be OK.

Further news are available at:

Information about the venue can be found at:

Side notes:
  • Look carefully in the videos and you can see numerous code violations, so the fire trucks may return unless these issues are resolved.
  • The comment about the whole place "filling up with smoke" is worthy of consideration.  Remember that it was the rapid build-up of smoke at both The Station Night Club and the Kiss Nightclub in Brazil that resulted in numerous deaths.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Cirque du Soleil suffers tragic loss of performer during show accident

MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada - Saturday, June 29, 2013.   In a yet-to-be-explained equipment failure, one of the aerial performers in Cirque du Soleil's fell about 50 feet from above the show's massive 3-axis moving stage into the forestage pit during the fight scene at the end of a performance.  The pit is nearly 4 stories deep.  Sarah Guyard-Guillot, 31, mother of two, came loose from her safety cable and disappeared into pit unexpectedly.  The show was halted, the audience informed that they could obtain replacement tickets for a future show, and were dismissed.  The show has been suspended indefinitely pending an investigation into the root cause of the accident.  Guyard-Guillot, mother of two young children, was pronounced dead at a hospital late Saturday night.  It is reported that her safety harness was intact with her costume when she was recovered from the accident site.  She was a trained acrobat and aerialist, originally from Paris, France.  She had performed in the industry for about 22 years.
Sarah Guyard-Guillot  1979-2013

This is the first performance-related death that the troupe has experienced in over 30 years of show production.*  Guyard-Guillot was one of the original performer's in the show when it opened in 2006, and had performed the show since then.

An extremely through and rigorous safety program is entrenched in the companies' culture, so this has been shock to those that work the shows in a tight-knit group.  Cirque's safety managers have been very transparent and informative by sharing their safety culture and knowledge at numerous industry events like the annual USITT convention, LDI convention, and UNSCA's Entertainment Innovation Conference.

The death comes at an unfortunate time for the circus, a reportedly $1 Billion (US) company which employs 5,000 people globally, including 2,000 at its headquarters in Montreal, Canada.  Cirque maintains around 19 touring productions in operation worldwide, yet has recently reduced it's workforce and is trying to reign-in its expenses.

Cirque du Soleil's founder, Guy Laliberté, said in a statement:  "I am heartbroken. I wish to extend my sincerest sympathies to the family. We are all completely devastated with this news.  Sassoon was an artist with the original cast of KÀ since 2006 and has been an integral part of our Cirque du Soleil tight family. We are reminded, with great humility and respect, how extraordinary our artists are each and every night. Our focus now is to support each other as a family. " 

A thorough write-up about this incident can be found at Jim Hutchison's Jim On Light site:

Local news coverage:

* In 2009, a Cirque performer died in Montreal after sustaining head injuries from falling off a trampoline during training. Oleksandr Zhurov, who was 24, hailed from the Ukraine and was known as Sacha. There also have been several injuries during Cirque performances in the last decade. Actors have been hurt during performances of "Zumanity" in Las Vegas, Nevada; "Corteo" in Portland, Oregon; and "La Nouba" in Orlando, Florida.

The same night as the deadly fall during , Cirque's newest show, "Michael Jackson: ONE," held its opening night performance at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. That production experienced its own trouble the previous week.

On Wednesday, June 26, 2013, Cirque reported that an acrobat taking part in one of the final preview performances suffered a mild concussion after slipping through slack rope in the show's "Stranger in Moscow" scene. That performer, who is expected to return to the production, missed a protective pad below the actors and landed hard on the stage.

2013-10-29  - Nevada OSHA has finished its investigation into the death of Sarah Guillot-Guyard, the Cirque du Soleil performer who fell 94 feet during the climactic scene of Ka on June 29, 1013 and later died.  OSHA determined that accident happened when the wire rope she was suspended from broke. According to the report, the wire rope “was severed due to the rapid ascent of the performer, ultimately causing the rope to be freed from the sheave/pulley and scraping against a shear point.”  OSHA officials cited Cirque du Soleil with six proposed citations and more than $25,000 in fines and MGM Grand with three citations and a $7,000 fine.  Cirque du Soleil and MGM are appealing the fines.

One of the citations for Cirque du Soleil includes a failure to “protect or prevent Ka employees from striking an overhead grid during the Ka show at the Ka Theater.” Reporting for the Las Vegas Sun, John Katsilometes wrote that “This matches reports from those familiar with the Ka staging and fatal incident that Guillot-Guyard did hit the metal grid over the stage as she ascended high above the Final Battle scene, which jarred the rope connecting her to her harness.” Katsilometes also reported that Cirque du Soleil will be appealing the fine:

    In a statement that also referenced Cirque’s internal review of the incident, [Cirque du Soleil spokeswoman Rene-Claude Menard] said: “Cirque du Soleil completed an exhaustive review of its safety policies and procedures in the wake of the tragic accident involving Sarah. We have redoubled our efforts to ensure the overall diligence and safety of our performers and crew. We have received and reviewed the OSHA citations. We have initiated the appeal process as part of OSHA’s administrative protocol. Safety always has been the top priority for Cirque du Soleil, its performers and crew members.”

On the KTNV website (, Krista Hostetler listed the citations OSHA has proposed. They are:

Summary of Cited Violations

Cirque du Soleil:
- NRS 618.375 (1): A General Duty Citation was issued because the employer did not protect or prevent KA employees from striking an overhead grid during the KA show at the KA Theater. $7,000 proposed penalty.

- The first part of the General Duty Citation was issued because the employer did not provide proper training for the KA Battle Spearman Warrior employee involved in the accident in the use of equipment and tasks used in the Ka show, battle scene at the KA Theater.

- The second part was issued because the employer had a Fall Protection Program with construction requirements that do not apply to theater settings because the KA Theater is regulated by Nevada OSHA general industry standards. $7,000 proposed penalty.

- 29 CFR 1910.132: This citation was issued because the employer did not properly assess the workplace for hazards that required personal protective equipment at the KA Theater, including opensided floors, bloodborne pathogens and other potentially infectious materials, pyrotechnic dust cleanup, and not finalizing a hazard assessment for the performers. $7,000 proposed penalty.

- 29 CFR 1910.132: This citation was issued because the employer did not certify that a workplace hazard assessment had been performed and did not include the date the hazard assessments were conducted. $0 proposed penalty, grouped with the proposed citation above.

29 CFR 1904.32: This citation was issued because the employer did not include on the OSHA Form 300 Log of Injury and Illnesses, the object or substance that directly injured or made a person ill, which prevented a trend analysis and kept the employer from recognizing and conducting employee training involving recurring injuries in accordance with Nevada Revised Statute. $3,300 proposed penalty.

Nevada Revised Statute 618.379: This citation was issued because the employer removed equipment from a fatality site on June 29 before Nevada OSHA authorized the dismantling and removal of the equipment (38 feet of wire rope that was attached to the victim at the time of the accident). $935 proposed penalty.

MGM Grand Hotel & Casino:

- NRS 618.375: This General Duty Citation was issued because MGM Grand employees were exposed to hazards due to deficiencies in the Cirque du Soleil Fall Protection Program with construction requirements that do not apply to theater settings because the KA Theater is regulated by Nevada OSHA general industry standards.

- 29 CFR 1910.132: This citation was issued because MGM Grand employees were exposed to hazards due to the deficiencies in Cirque du Soleil hazard assessments for the KA Theater that included opensided floors, bloodborne pathogens and other potentially infectious materials and pyrotechnic dust cleanup. $7,000 proposed penalty.

- 29 CFR 1910.132: This citation was issued because MGM Grand employees were exposed to hazards due to deficiencies in the Cirque du Soleil hazard assessments because Cirque du Soleil did not certify that a workplace hazard assessment had been performed and did not include the date the hazard assessments were conducted. $0 proposed penalty, grouped with the proposed citation above.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Gut Feeling Can Prevent Accidents

A Pat Benatar benefit concert scheduled for Friday, June 21, 2013 was cancelled at the bequest of her stage crew.  Upon arrival to the venue, an outdoor covered arena in Iverness, Florida, the crew was presented with a stage platform that they did not think was robust enough for the show.  Rather than risk the potential for a structural collapse, they requested that the promoter have the stage structure inspected and reinforced.  A local engineer was brought-in to certify the stage, but the caveats included with the inspection did not satisfy them in time to mount the show.

An article at Celebrity Examiner ( describes the scenario at length. Below are some picture released by Pat Benatar and her husband Neil Biraldo that show the deficiencies they found.  It is noteworthy that a performer and crew would postpone an event until it can be presented safely, rather than throwing caution to the wind and saying "Damn the torpedos - full steam ahead!

Just because it might have worked doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a second look.   If something looks ‘hinky’, give it a good going-over.

WalkerFest Stage
Upstage End Looking Towards Downstage Right

I’ve seen stages with these types of support legs before, and they are generally pretty strong as far as static column loading, which may have been the assumption by the engineer that allegedly certified the stage.  He may have not been considering the lateral dynamics of movements on the stage during load-in, performance, and strike.

The lack of regular diagonal (cross) bracing would make it a wobbly experience.  Note that the 2x4 diagonals shown along the upstage end are not pinned in place to fix their length, instead, they are only pinched against the suport legs with C-Clamps, a connection that can slip loose when loaded becasue it is only held together by friction.

WalkerFest Stage
Understage View Looking From Upstage Towards Downstage Right

The understage picture shows the manufacturer’s Quick Connect Braces along the downstage row of support legs, but does not show any other intermediate braces or braces along the side stage support legs.

Surprisingly, the manufacturer’s catalog ( has a chart of the required number of diagonal braces (not cross-braces) that are recommended for stages of various sizes, and it appears to advocate only installing the diagonal braces at about 50-90% of the perimeter locations, with none at the interior supports; whereas their competitor, BilJax (Model ST8100,, also sold as AlphaDeck in Europe, recommends a higher number of X-Braces along both axes and between the interior support legs.

The stage in the photos appears to be about 54” tall (as measured by counting the hole spacing in the legs), and according to both Granite and BilJax, stages over 48” tall should have two sets of braces at the recommended minimum spacing.

Stages need diagonal bracing along both axes,  not just one, and all support legs should be braced to prevent them from being skewed from vertical by unexpected circumstances.

The 2x2 or 2x4 stringers seen running along beside the support leg feet do not appear to be attached to the support legs, but even if they were, they would only serve to keep the feet spaced relative to each-other, not to counteract any parallelogram type collapse of the structure.  Diagonal X-braces would both prevent the legs from tilting away from vertical and provide sway-bracing for the entire stage structure.

The foot-pads on the ends of the support legs are resting on what appears to be a dirt arena floor (but it could be dust on a concrete floor, or a canvas drop-cloth – it’s really difficult to tell from the pictures).  Note the plywood square ‘mud seals’ lying adjacent to each leg – they were NOT installed, so the legs could sink into the surface below if it is not a concrete deck.  The ground surface appears dry in the picture, but that doesn’t mean it will stay dry; nor does it mean that the ground is dry and compacted below the visible surface.

HEY!  Er, ah, HAY!  What's that hay doing under the stage?  It's a fire hazard that should have been removed, too.

Show Some Moxy.  If it 'just don't look right', then verify that it will be safe.  Risk Analysis is part of your job!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Load-out ends tragically for stage worker in Milan, Italy

June 19, 2:40 AM, Milan, Italy - 34 year-old Egyptian stagehand Farouk Abd Elhamid Khoaled was killed during a load-out accident after the close of the KISS Monster Tour 2013 show at the Forum of Assago arena.  Reports vary by translation, but the general consensus was that three workers were operating either a fork lift / boom lift or a freight elevator (language translation web sites don't seem to agree on this) to move some scaffolding and crates to the loading dock.  The lift was overloaded and began to oscillate, pitching Farouk into the path of a shifting load where he was crushed.  One of  the other workers, 21, was transported to the hospital with serious injuries and the third was unharmed.

The original Italian news article can be found here:

Load-out (strike) can be one of the most dangerous operating periods during an event,  People are tired, it's late at night, and everyone tends to be in a hurry to get it over-with.  This is the time to be one the look-out for ill-conceived operation of lifts, hoists, dollies, trucks, carts, and other machinery.  Don't let your guard down!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Spring Storm in Thailand Topples Stage and Kills One

June 17, 2013 - Phuket, Thailand.  A poorly built stage canopy and adjacent speaker towers fell-over during high winds at Paphan Hin public park.  One person seeking shelter near the stage was crushed and killed instantly by the weight of the speakers that fell on him.  The stage was erected for a Prison Fair where furniture and other goods fabricated by the prisoners are sold to benefit them.

Witnesses say a 62 year old man that was a motorbike taxi driver, Mohammad Poksakul, sat near the stage and when a 60 kph wind gust pushed the canopy sideways, it forced the 10m tall speaker tower over, which in-turn, fell on to him and killed him.
The victim lies covered-up, stage canopy at right, stage left speaker tower in background.

Toppled Speaker Tower at Stage Left - Note lightweight scaffold framing.
The base does not appear to haven any anchor plates.

View of Stage Right Canopy Supports - Note that they only provide vertical support - no lateral stabilizers, the base was not anchored to the ground.  The orange straps appear to have been guy-lines that tore loose from their attachment points.
Concert season is windy season everywhere.  Be alert to bozos that do not understand how to secure the stage.  Be alert to promoters that don't evacuate the area when storms approach.