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:


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!

Hump Day Lighting Porn – Catalyst and DL3 Demo Room Footage from 2010 at High End Systems!

Having downtime has allowed me to dig up gigabytes and schmigabytes of video content that I’ve either A) got sidetracked during and never got to finish, B) decided for some reason that I needed to prioritize something else, or C) completely forgot about having altogether!  I found some really fun stuff last night while searching through content — a demo from 2010 at High End Systems of the Axon media server and DL3 digital lights!

I hope you enjoy it!  Please excuse my giggling at one point for a few seconds, I was having a frigging blast!  Thanks a lot, Richard!

Check out some High End Systems lighting demo porn from 2010!  From the Vimeo Channel:

Lighting Porn! High End Systems – Catalyst Media Server Demo, 2010, Austin, Texas from Jim Hutchison on Vimeo.

or if you prefer YouTube:

A Grim Reminder of the Latest Deaths in Our Beloved Industry Before Summer Work Kicks Off



You there, with the rigging bag.

You there, with the crescent wrench and fearless attitude.

You there, sporting the “supervisor” face but looking at your cell phone when motors are moving.

You there, new guy and new girl, who are googly-eyed at the awesomeness but should be watching their own backs and paying attention to the work.

The summer season of outdoor music and theatre has started, and no matter if you’re doing corporate shows, theatre, music, or art production, this post needs to serve as a reminder.  Along with orgs like PLASA and the Event Safety Alliance, is doing everything they can to NOT have a summer like the last few we’ve had – and what I can do is provide a reminder of the hell that we as an industry have seen, not to mention the families of those killed in these accidents and disasters lately.  If I might reiterate, what we do is entertainment; it may pay the bills, but if you see something less than safe happening or took place in putting something together that you might not feel 100% about once it was finished, SPEAK UP NOW!

YOUR DUTY:  It is your duty to the safety of others and your own personal safety to keep your head in the game once you are onsite.  This includes WEATHER concerns, Safety concerns,

To address an email I got from a guy out there who prefers to remain anonymous out there, who asked me what would happen if a person got fired for refusing to do something unsafe.  My response was something along the lines of:

  1. You are probably working for a company that is a time bomb of fail waiting to happen — don’t be the fuse, and don’t feel bad about not wanting to die at work.
  2. Regardless of Fact #1, you should probably consult an attorney before you go thermonuclear.  Most attorneys do so for free.
  3. Call people like OSHA, PLASA, USITT, anyone you can think of if something shady is going on.  So you lose your job – don’t for a second think that the industry won’t be behind you for saving lives.
  4. You can file unemployment in a case like that – a company doing shady safety work will sooner than later be discovered, it would not be in their interest to fight your claim.  But, your mileage may vary, and frankly, some people have better luck than others in life at these things.
  5. Feel good that you aren’t in that situation anymore, and get right back out there and find another gig if you lose yours.  Do the right thing.  Having deaths on your conscience is good for no human, no matter how little of a part you played in the process.

That’s my opinion, anyway.  That’s what I’d do.  An industry that won’t take care of people who keep it safe is not an industry anyone should participate in, regardless of the possible profits.  Money is less valuable than lives.

Here’s a reminder of sacrifices have been made to further the standardization of safety in our business – please forgive me if I overlooked one close to you, all you have to do is email me and I will append this post.

APRIL 5, 2013: 
RIGGERS, TAKE HEED:  Houston Dean Williams slipped and fell to the stage floor while moving around a beam in San Antonio at the AT&T Center.


MAY 6, 2013:
A man was killed when a PA stack fell on him
at a protest rally in Moscow.


APRIL 17, 2013:
Boston Marathon Bombings claim the lives of three marathongoers, wounding several dozens.  Let’s not forget, this was at an entertainment function.

Boston Marathon Explosions TOPIX

March 15, 2013:
A video wall came apart and fell on stage hands
in Miami for Ultra Music Festival.  No one killed, fortunately, but several people were hurt.


June 16, 2012:
1 dead, 3 wounded at a Radiohead concert in Toronto, Ontario


December 15, 2011:
1 person was killed and 8 people injured when truss collapsed
in Trieste, Italy at a Jovanotti concert.


August 19, 2011:
5 people killed and 70+ injured when a storm blew over a stage
at the Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium.


Perhaps the worst of them all lately…  August 15, 2011:
At the Sugarland show at the Indiana State Fair, a storm blew over an outdoor stage loaded with audio and lighting truss, killing 7 people and injuring 58.


May 13, 2010:
A young lighting tech in West Palm Beach fell to his death from a catwalk while working on a show.


July 27, 2009:
A Pepsi Battle of the Bands in Guangzhou, China experiences a huge, sudden storm that tips over LED screens and injures several dozen.  Reports of people killed were removed from the web, so I think it’s fair that we can assume several people died in this accident.


July 16, 2009:
At a Marseilles, France tour stop for Madonna’s Sticky and Sweet tour, a stage roof collapsed, killing 2 stage hands involved in the load-in.


Let’s also never forget the Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake truss collapse in August 2003:


Just don’t forget.  Also, don’t forget that you are responsible for yourself out there, and when you’re putting equipment together, keep in mind that your diligence will mean the difference between you and others going home on the bus and going home in the ambulance – or even worse, getting a ride home with the coroner.

Be safe out there, Road Warriors!


It is So Mocha Frappin’ Hot Outside. DO NOT DIE, People!

Have you ever seen a bird burst into flames whilst gliding majestically through the air?

Yeah.  It’s f***ing hot here in Oklahoma.  I don’t know how YOUR forecast is looking, but you’ll need some Xanax when you see this one:


Okay, look – if you’re not careful in this heat, you’re going to get really sick, or maybe even die.  This is serious sh*t here, people!  We do NOT want another situation like the one that happened in Chicago in 1995 that killed 750 people because of the heat, or the 225 killed in the heat wave of 2006.  That’s just in the United States alone!  We whiny entitled Americans should remember the heat wave of 2003 in Europe, where 14,802 people died because of the heat wave.  Estimates have been made of up to 40,000 deaths being blamable on the 2003 European heat wave.

What is most important is to not act like an ass when you have to be out in the heat, with respect to paying attention to your body and what it needs.  We lighting folk do work out in the sun often, especially in the summer, and we’re often demanded to do it faster, harder, and before showtime.  Take that how you will.  But when you’re out there in the beating sun and it’s gonna reach into the 100’s (or hell, even the 90’s) and you’re going to have to be there, you have to be smart about it.


  • Drink lots and lots and lots of cool liquids, water is best but Gatorade and the sports drinks are “ok” if you’re also doing water.  You need a LOT of water when it’s this hot out, folks – 16-32 ounces per HOUR.  Gatorade is good for the salts and minerals you have to put into your body that get lost in sweat.  You need water, too.
  • I know they’re delicious, I know they’re nutritious, but DON’T DRINK BEER AND BOOZE WHEN YOU HAVE TO BE OUT IN THIS HEAT!  You cannot win!
  • Dress appropriately to the heat.  Wear some serious sunscreen if you have no sleeves or pant legs, and make sure to get sunglasses!
  • Unless you absolutely have to, don’t go outside much during the day and stay in the AC if possible.  The best way is to just not go out in this crap.  Seriously!  I know that’s not easy, but it is the BEST WAY to stay cool.
  • This sounds so simple, but WATCH EACH OTHER ON THE JOBSITE!  It’s easiest to just make sure everyone’s feeling ok, and to not let anyone be a hero and try to do something stupid, like work without having enough to drink and not drinking it.
  • Provide water.  You can afford it, just take a couple of hundred bucks out of your bottom line and take care of your people.  Get a couple of coolers, make sure to prepare and get some ice, and make sure to have LOTS AND LOTS of liquids, both water and a minerals and sodium drink (Gatorade, PowerAde, whatever).
  • Try to make a shady place to be if you don’t have one.  A Handful of packing blankets over the top of two semis parked together makes a hell of an awesome canopy for the shade to happen.  Pop up tents are nice too, and they’re really not that expensive.
  • If you’re someone who has people that hump their gear and set up in this kind of heat and you don’t do ANY of these things because you want to save money or whatever lame-ass excuse you can come up with, you should go into another business where you don’t have to work with people.
  • Make sure to get the loaders out of the truck!  Don’t forget about them!
  • Truss is HOT AS HELL when it’s been sitting in the sun!  Don’t get a Gusset Tattoo!
  • Cable is amazingly pliable in this heat!
  • Fixtures, which are usually BLACK, get ree-donk-u-lusly hot in the sun.  Just be forewarned.
  • Make sure you have lots of airflow on your power distribution and dimming gear!
  • You CANNOT make it all day on one Nalgene full of water in this kind of killing heat.
  • DO NOT be a hero in this heat, you can’t handle it.  You’ll end up being a dead or sick hero.
Take care of each other, everybody!