Workplace Safety in Our Industry — An Awesome Primer from Sound Prospects

Another day, another reminder of how careful we all have to be when we’re out there defying the laws of reality:

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It’s no secret in our business that there are people out doing shows RIGHT NOW that should not be doing work, and companies that are one disaster from screwing up our peace and serenity with their incompetence.  There are also a lot of people out there who have never had their hands on a piece of equipment but feel qualified to give the rest of us advice on how to do things.

The opposite of the two aforementioned groups are folks like the ones at Sound Prospects in Switzerland; Sound Prospects recently wrote a great piece on workplace safety, and I needed to cross-post that article so people hear the safety chant from people OTHER than myself, Erich Friend at Teqniqal Systems (and the awesome Theatre Safety Blog), Richard Cadena from PLASA and the Academy of Production Technology, among other people chanting the Gregorian chant of survival in our business.

Please check out the article at Sound Prospects, written by Alex Schoenknecht.  I recommend also checking out some of Alex’s other articles! — a few highlights from the Workplace Safety article:

Most Common Rigging Mistakes

1.) Unrated Hardware

It is essential that the Safe Working Load (SWL) of all components in a system is known and that the Safe Working Load for the weakest component is not exceeded. Hardware that does not have the SWL clearly forged into it is a “wild card”. Most industrial applications work on a SWL of 5:1. A component that will fail under a load of 5000 lbs. that is given a safety factor of 5:1 has an SWL of 1000 lbs. In the entertainment industry an SWL of 8:1 is the accepted standard.

2.) Incomplete Installation

Even though a component may have a sufficient SWL rating, it becomes a liability if it is not installed correctly. Installations should be neat and clean with hardware properly terminated. An installation that is neat and orderly allows for easier inspections and ensures that the forces on components, such as pulleys, are within the equipment’s design limits.

3.) Damaged Equipment

A piece of damaged equipment becomes the weak link and a liability to the system as a whole. Damaged components must be replaced immediately with ones that are of equal or greater rating. Replacing a broken part, even temporarily, with a substandard piece is putting the integrity of the system at risk.

4.) Wear and Tear

Even the best of systems wear out. This is why it is essential for maintenance to be an ongoing process. Most Countries require yearly inspections of all hoisting equipment. The owner must keep a maintenance and repair log. Since we are often lifting over head the operator must be aware of any changes in how the system is running and investigate the cause immediately to ensure that safe operation is not compromised.

5.) Improper Use

Using equipment for purposes that it was not designed for, or modifying equipment for other purposes, can easily result in overloading and failure. Many components also have strict guidelines as to how and where they should be used by the manufacturer. For example Spectrum 3 proof coil chain is suitable for suspending stationary loads, but if the load will be moving a Spectrum 8 chain is required. It is important to ensure that the components are appropriate for the application.

Thanks for the great article, Alex!

Do You Scream at Stagehands? STOP IT!

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Happy Saturday, Entertainment Industry!

I got a really interesting email last night from a local stagehand at a large concert venue in Colorado that would prefer that the venue and city in which he works be redacted, so I have done that.  But you have GOT to read the email below, it’s absolutely disgusting.  I hope you see it the same as I do.

Jim, hi.  Love the site, we here at [redacted] in Colorado read you a lot.  Next time you’re out this way, let me know so we can get you in here and get some better pics of the venue.  I don’t want to speak for all of the guys here, but I know that we all feel the same about this.  Do me a favor and don’t post my name and don’t post that I work at [redacted].  Thanks.

I have a really important question to ask, maybe you can give us some insight on why most of the crews that come through here feel it’s the right thing to do to scream at us all day.  Most of us here are people who are just as good at the jobs we do as the tours that come through here.  Why do you think they think it’s the right thing to do to yell at us to get us to do what they need done?  I went into the Army back in the 1970s and did two tours in Vietnam.  Every very good lieutenant that I served under was the kind of man that could motivate the men without raising his voice, and every time we had to go out on patrol with a squad leader who was a screamer was more times that not a really scary time because no one wanted to help the screamer.  Don’t the people out there driving the tours understand this logic?  To us, it seems like nobody gives a shit about the crew of the day.  We hump cases, we put trusses together, we take care of what they need because it’s our job.  We’re great at our job.  All we want is that people would treat us like we were humans and not a gaggle of stupid people who need their instructions shouted at us.

I’m just an old hippy who used to love my job but it’s hard to get new people to come to the local after they see how we’re treated.  Nobody wants to work somewhere with shitty tour crew yelling all day long.  Any normal person would be just as bitter if they had to put up with this bullshit all day every day.

Keep doing what you do, you give us some sane time before and after the yelling.

[redacted]

Wow.

I suppose the first thing I should say is that I’m sorry this is happening.  I have done my share of shows worldwide, and I don’t believe in yelling at the crew.  I believe that the best way to get the crew to do any and everything that you need done is to show up in the morning bright eyed, bushy-tailed, and with donuts and coffee.  It’s true that I get a lot of shit for that (especially the coffee and donuts part) but if I have to work with guys I don’t know and I know a hard day’s coming for the locals that day, it’s part of my job for the success of the show that they believe in the show that they’re assembling.  It’s not a secret that people will work hard for you if you make them feel like human beings.  It amazes me that people decide to take the douchebag route on their local tours.  I know many people who lead crews on tour, and it’s my pleasure to say that a lot of those people are really great guys and ladies who believe the same way I do.

Are you a screamer on tour?

The first thing I want to know is WHAT is it that gives you the right to screw up the attitudes for the shows that come after you?  Who the hell do you think you are that you can treat people this way?  I know that one thing you’re doing is making a reputation for yourself that assures that your career will be short-lived, because team leaders do NOT want to hire someone who creates a work stoppage in the middle of a busy show day.  Touring is hard enough as it is without you making all of the locals hate touring personnel without getting to know us.  I know a good handful of really unbelievably great programmers and LDs who don’t work because of their attitude — one of them is an awesome cook at a restaurant in Dallas, and another is an insurance adjuster in southern Illinois.  Is this the career path you’d rather have?  Something outside of the industry you love?  If you keep yelling, it’s coming.  I’ll definitely help you exit my industry if you feel that you need to screw up the harmonious and often very rewarding work that the rest of us call a career.

To be fair, we’ve all had local crews who haven’t been worth the paper their badges are printed on, and those days do suck.  I’ve had Labor-Ready crews that barely had the skill to not be selling crack out behind the venue, and I’ve had non-Union riggers who dropped cell phones and sets of keys from the grid.  Those are rough days.  But even in those situations, it does you NO JUSTICE to scream at people.  When you’re out on a B or C market tour, you should expect to have these things happen — just recently in February 2013 in Los Angeles, I had a Union stagehand at the Event Live LA show tell me “I’m not pushing those fucking towers, one fell on my buddy and messed up his back for life.”  It was fine with me, all I needed to do was go tell his Freeman foreman that the guy wouldn’t do his job and I got someone else on the crew that would push those towers out to the truck.  I didn’t need to yell.  Sometimes you just get a hand who wants to be a jerk on the jobsite because of whatever reason there is — but just as many times as that’s happened, I’ve been able to smile at somebody who wanted to be a Summer’s Eve in at crew call, tell a few jokes, and get that man or woman to get on board with the work that needed to be done that day.  It’s amazing what can be done when you inject a bit of happiness and compassion into people’s daily existence.  If that doesn’t work, you always have the crew chief to help them get motivated, or to get someone who wants to work on your crew.

All of this is just as applicable to stage hands, too — if every day that you work is another day in hell, maybe you should get yourself into another line of work.  We’ve all got more to do in the short amount of hours in the day without having to put up with your shit attitude.  Seriously.  The large majority of us treat you all with the utmost respect and admiration because you make our days easier.  There’s no reason to act like a jerk when we’re only trying to do OUR jobs, too.

Industry pros, ask yourself:
“Do I think it’s OK to scream at my local crews in order to get the work done?”

If your answer is anything other than NO, maybe you ought to look into working with another industry’s people.  We don’t want you in our business.  You screw it up for every one of us every single time you take your personal problems out on a local stagehand.  I know the service industry is hiring, it might be a good idea to lose your God complex and see how it feels to be in service for a while.  That’s more of a humbling experience than death.

As for the talent?  Well…  as long as they keep paying, karma will sort that out on its own.

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Stage Doesn’t Collapse – But It Could Have

In this time of year when everybody is having some sort of fair and providing entertainment, we’ve come to expect to see accidents. Well, I’m very happy to report that in this case, there wasn’t an accident. The potential for one was clearly there – between poor staging and the possibility for bad weather – but this time somebody used their smarts and made the right choice!

This particular event was actually last week, but some more details have been released since then. I’m certain that you’ll be surprised to see who actually made the decision in this. So, I won’t keep you any longer.

In a message from Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo:

A MESSAGE FROM PAT AND SPYDER REGARDING THE POSTPONEMENT OF OUR CITRUS COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS SHOW

To clear up what happened tonight and to put to rest any and all rumors…

Deborah Nader, the promoter for the Citrus Fairgrounds charity fundraiser show, failed to meet the contractual obligations for safety.

Our crew arrived first thing this morning to find substandard staging and unsafe conditions…and Nader was nowhere to be found until approximately 3pm!

Despite the repeated attempts of our representatives insisting that the infrastructure of the stage be fixed, by approximately 5pm the situation was still not resolved and it was deemed not safe to put one single piece of our equipment on that stage. We even had an independent structural engineer called in to assess the situation. He concluded that the stage was indeed unsafe and required that it be “modified” before anyone would be permitted to perform on it.

Read their message in its entirety here.

Pat and Spyder also released some photos to the Celebrity Examiner of the substandard staging with this statement:

Neil and I regret that we had to postpone last Friday night’s show in Florida. The safety of our fans, crew, and band must always come first. With the tragedy at the Indiana State Fair a few years ago, staging and production requirements are at an all-time high. The production and staging requirements were unacceptable. There simply was no option. We apologize to everyone who came to see us. But safety is paramount. We are working to reschedule the performance. In the meantime, all monies have been set aside until the show can be played. Thank you to all who support these three great charities.

Under stage bracings Credit: Benatar & Giraldo

Under stage bracings
Credit: Benatar & Giraldo

Photo of Stage at WalkerFest in Florida Credit: Benatar & Giraldo

Photo of Stage at WalkerFest in Florida
Credit: Benatar & Giraldo

You can read the entirety of the Celebrity Examiner’s report here.

Thankfully, this time around we can all breathe a sigh of relief and hopefully learn something more from this non-event.

Thanks to Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo and to the Celebrity Examiner!

Truss Falls at the Feast of the Pinion Party in Lages, Brazil

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brazil-accident-pinion

Well, it seems I have spoken just a moment too soon.  At least no one was hurt, apparently.  There’s not a lot of news on the accident, but it seems as though it was the design and a rigged piece of gear that failed.

In Lages, Brazil, a truss component of a stage design fell last night onto the stage deck – from the article at Porto Menina:

Lages / SC – The Central Committee Organizing (CCO) of the 25th National Party Pinion reports that the unforeseen event that occurred yesterday afternoon Tuesday (27) at about 16:30, involving the Stage National solved ASAP not affecting the show Alexandre Pires and SPC.

The problem was the breaking of a part of the column structure lighting, when changing the map of light needed to show the SPC, remembering that each show has a different map.

Also said that the show just happened in To Thwart National Stage from 22:30, as scheduled.

More news as I can find it on this accident — but I guess we have to count one for the disaster pile.

Thanks to Mike Mallinson for this one.  The original article is here.

LEDs, Lady Gaga Smell-Well, and Projections at Nuit Blanche 2012

Did you go to Nuit Blanche 2012 in Toronto in October?  Laura and I did, and we took some photos that I’m just now able to get to after the trade show season.  I spoke with lots of people on the street at Nuit Blanche this year, and everyone seemed to have a great time — the only thing that was a bit hard to manage was the influx of people that were present downtown for this event.  There were some awesome exhibits and light installations — but anything interactive was pretty much mobbed with people and hard to really get a sense of the artists’ messages.  Regardless, it was a lot of fun!  Check out some photos below, and experience my entire trip with the photo gallery at the bottom!

There were some fun words at the top of this post that describe how f*cked up some of the Nuit Blanche-goers got, it’s worth a quick peek.  It’s totally true — lack of organization, and a real lack of general community.  Read the post.

As we walked by the Hudson’s Bay Company in Toronto we noticed this freaky storefront window scene that we had to stop and check out — and it was Lady Gaga’s perfume on display.  That’s some pretty crazy perfume marketing, huh!  I definitely liked the design enough to take photos…

Lady Gaga's Smellwell

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Apparently this perfume makes you smell like a psycho mad scientist:

Lady Gaga Does Window Displays

Oh, officially of course Lady Gaga had nothing to do with Nuit Blanche, but her display was part of MY Nuit Blanche, so that’s why it’s here!

Something that we saw but didn’t really get a chance to experience was Beam of Underground Sun by Arezoo Talebzadeh and Kaveh Ashourinia — ostensibly, they had taken some very bright LED sources and put them down under the street at several meters down.  Arezoo and Kaveh also added some powerful fans and some silk cloth under the street to give the effect of waves of light being cast up through the grate they chose in the street.  Check this one out, it is beautiful, especially with the photos of no people around it:

beam-of-underground-sun

This, however, is what the real Nuit Blanche Beam of Underground Sun experience was, which was different than intended I assume but had its own jua de vive, if you will:

It was still beautiful, just mobbed with people standing directly in the way of the beam and the overall everything of the piece.

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You can kind of see down into the shaft with the fan, the fabric, and the LED units:

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It was pretty cool to be standing in an intersection of Bloor Street with no one trying to honk at me or run me down!

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Probably one of the coolest things I saw this year at Nuit Blanche was the installation called Planes by Tricia Brown Dance Company — and it was awesome!

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…and behind the walls you can see a little behind-the-scenes action!  I almost didn’t want to see this — the movement of the dancers and the projections themselves were so riveting that seeing the how-to took away from it for me.  Ah, the life of making mystery for the audience!

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Check out the Gallery View below of the Nuit Blanche event in Toronto — and check out the official Scotiabank page on Nuit Blanche so you can see the intended (and actual) views of the art from this year’s show!

Incandescent Cloud

This has been making the rounds, but with good reason!  Caitlind r.c. Brown created a cloud out of 1,000 functioning and 5,000 donated burned out light bulbs for Calgary’s Nuit Blanche. For those of you who don’t know, Nuit Blanche (All Nighter, or literally “White Night”) is an all-night public arts festival. I personally have always really been drawn to the concept of Nuit Blanches, and would love to work on one. The closest thing I personally have been to is Santa Monica’s Glow, which was wonderful and an idea I really hope to see expanded on.

In Incandescent Cloud, pull strings glimmering like rain hang from the cloud. Nuit Blanche attendees could manipulate the cloud’s luminosity using those strings, creating random small flickers singularly, or working in teams to pull the strings at the same time. It is a wondrous installation, and I’m sure must have been a blast at Nuit Blanche!

Check out some photos and video below:

55,000 LEDs Make A Cathedral

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Jeff Waful initially posted this on Twitter from Colossal Design, but I can’t not repost.  This thing is spectacular, even the pictures make it look like it was a spiritual sight.

First, check out this quick video of the cathedral – this entire thing was for the 2012 Lichtfestival in Ghent, Belgium.  The cathedral kinda stole the show, dontchathink?

That thing is UNBELIEVABLE!

it’s just…  captivating.  I don’t know what else to say about it.  SHOULD HAVE…  SENT A…  A POET…

There is an unbelievable set of photos of the 2102 Lichtfestival on DJ.271’s Flickr album.  I highly recommend checking that out!

Jeff Waful, Huey Lewis, and “The Umphreys” – Jeff Waful +1 Episode 2

Oh please – stop doing whatever it is you’re doing and watch this video.  Jeff Waful, the lighting designer for Umphrey’s McGee (and a f*cking cool guy, taboot) has another episode of his stellar concert industry interview show Jeff Waful +1 on the Relix Magazine website, and after Warren Haynes on the first episode, he has raised the bar that extra bit that gives creed to what we’re all doing out here – living the dream.

Early As F*** Phish Fix – TAB at Bear Creek

Well, I am up early today.  Oh, am I up early.

I needed a pick me up to get out of bed this morning – and since I am SO AWAKE RIGHT NOW and want YOU to share in on the earliness of this early hour, here’s a bit of Trey Anastasio Band doing Push On Till the Day at the Bear Creek Festival in Wisconsin.  Did you see the sick lineup?!  Oh my goodness:

Check out this video – if it doesn’t wake you up, then try some strong coffee:

I love festival lighting.  I have had my face rocked SO many times at festivals just like Bear Creek.

Thanks, YEMBlog!

$35,000 Per Life, and A Search Warrant for IATSE #30 – Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse Update

So, it’s been a little while since we’ve had to see the images of the Indiana State Fair collapse during the Sugarland show on the grandstand. I want everybody to see some of these images again, I think the only way to freshly get it in your head is to see what happened.

First this happened:

Then all of these people did this:

I just read two articles on the collapse and the aftermath. One of them said that the families of the fallen concertgoers were each given $35,000 for their dead loved one and that the Indiana State Fair attendance is lagging due to the “incident,” the other article said that the IATSE Local in Indianapolis, IATSE #30, is experiencing some grind from the lawyers from the state of Indiana. From an article at the Indy Star:

Lawyers for the state and a stagehands union are working on an agreement to turn over documents relating to the Indiana State Fair stage collapse.

A lawyer for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 30 said Wednesday that he was willing to hand over apprenticeship training files on stagehands who were working at the fair when the accident occurred Aug. 13.

Local 30 stopped the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration from conducting a search of its Indianapolis union hall last week. The agency had obtained a search warrant requesting employment disciplinary records, apprenticeship training records, certificates, licenses and other documents.

“We are trying to resolve this in a nonadversarial way,” said William Groth, the lawyer for the union. “We want to cooperate. We just think a search warrant is the nuclear option.”

Marion Superior Court Judge David Shaheed on Wednesday extended a stay of the search warrant until Nov. 3.

Chetrice Mosely, a spokeswoman for the Department of Labor, said “both sides have agreed to enter a discussion as to how to resolve this. Our goal is to get the records so we can do a comprehensive investigation,” she said.

This is a real bummer. I don’t really have much to comment on about this, I just wanted to share these two stories, as this is still fresh in the hearts of the families and IA brothers and sisters still mourning the loss of their cherished.

Then there was this article

INDIANAPOLIS — Two high-level investigations into the fatal Indiana State Fair stage collapse may not be released in time to help prepare for next year’s fair, the fair’s director said Tuesday.

Indiana State Fair Executive Director Cindy Hoye told a group of lawmakers that information from separate investigations into the stage collapse that killed seven people may not be complete until mid-April.

The state has typically done much of its work for its three-week-long summer fair by that point.

The state hired international engineers Thornton Tomasetti to investigate the wreckage of the stage.

The state also hired Witt Associates to assess the fair’s emergency preparations. Witt has completed much of its work but will wait until the engineers complete their investigation before issuing a report together with them, Hoye said.

“We’re progressing right now with looking at our emergency preparations, we’re doing a lot of front end work,” Hoye said after the meeting. “I think that report will clarify and put a snapshot on some of the things we need to do.”

There is more to this article of course, here – what we should be taking away from this whole thing is the amazing amount of bureaucratic inflighting and policy clouding will be involved with the results of the collapse by that time.  Let’sd hope not much – but we can all watch the news and determine how good this situation is going to come about once it becomes filled with politics.  I sincerely hope for the sake of the hearts of those involved that this time is the one exception.