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Demfys Fyssicopulos, You Left Us Too Soon

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The industry is mourning the passing of Demfys Fyssicopulos, favorite programmer/LD to many high profile acts, from Prince to Black Eyed Peas, Tupac’s hologram at Coachella, and Maroon 5, just to name a few.  Demfys was a hilarious guy, very friendly, always had time for me at trade shows, and was one hell of a lighting artist.

The news from Facebook is that Demfys passed away in a surfing accident.  We’re so sorry to hear of this, you will certainly be missed.

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Photos courtesy of Demfys’ company page.  Feel free to leave a comment here in memory of Demfys, or check out his Facebook page — the sympathy is swelling, this is a major loss for our industry.  You’ll be missed, good sir.

Ken Johnson, Father of Drum Tech Killed in Radiohead’s Stage Collapse in Toronto, Wants Answers

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Just over a year ago, Scott Johnson was onstage under a massive roof structure in Toronto, Ontario tuning drums for Radiohead’s upcoming show that night.  This would be the last time he ever tuned the kit again, as later that afternoon the roof structure came tumbling down on top of Scott and three other people.  The others made it.  Scott Johnson was killed.

A year has passed, and Scott Johnson’s dad, Ken, is destroyed.  He’s also pissed at how long this is taking, getting some justice for his dead son — who was doing the one thing he loved to do more than anything.  All he wants is answers, but the Crown hasn’t any for him.  From an interview article at The Spec:

Ken has been searching for answers ever since, crying daily over the loss of his only child, waiting to hear who’s to blame.

The Ministry of Labour recently announced 13 charges against concert organizer Live Nation, a staging company, and an engineer.

A postponed trial is expected to begin Thursday.

“I want to be there,” said Ken, weeping over the phone. “I want to see the people involved and hear what they have to say.”

The charges include eight against Live Nation Canada Inc. and Live Nation Ontario Concerts GP Inc., under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The ministry alleges that Live Nation failed to ensure the stage was adequately designed and that every employer complied with the act.

Optex Staging & Services Inc. faces four charges, and engineer Domenic Cugliari is charged with endangering a worker, resulting from his advice or certification.

The maximum fine against a corporation, if convicted, is $500,000 per charge. Individuals face $25,000 per charge or up to a year in prison.

Ken Johnson, who works for a scaffolding safety association in England, is hoping the trial results in some “lessons” for those involved.

“Maybe people should have done some things differently,” he said. “Whatever the outcome of the trial, I just hope that it’s fair and honest.”

He said Scott was an honest, hard worker living his dream. Tuning drums for Radiohead was a pinnacle in his career, reached after years of determination.

“He always wanted to be a performer, but realized that wasn’t going to pan out,” said Ken, who used to cart his son around to perform small shows as a teen. “This was the next best thing.”

It breaks my heart to read of how this is going.  I know legal matters take time and accidents of this nature need investigated — but one has to wonder just exactly what is going to come of this, who is going to pay, and why.  “Scott’s message in life was to be fair, and none of this is fair,” said Ken Johnson, interviewed over the phone. “I still cry every day.”

Scott had been on the road with The Killers, the Australian Pink Floyd Show and Keane over the previous 8 years, taking on Radiohead in his career as the pinnacle of his performance.  Scott’s dad also talks about calling home once a week or more, spending time with his folks via Skype in his hotel room while on the road.

A memorial fund has been started for Scott Johnson that donates drum kits to students, along with other awesome positive acts for young musicians.  Visit the Scott Johnson Bursary Fund for Young Musicians.

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Stage Collapse in Phuket, Thailand – One Dead, One Injured

Unfortunately, a stage roof has collapsed in Phuket, Thailand due to a huge windstorm that blew through and tipped over the stage.  From a post at English language station Phuket Wan:

PHUKET: Wild winds toppled part of the structure supporting the stage at Saphan Hin public park in Phuket City tonight, killing one person and injuring a second person.

The death occurred on the final night of the Phuket Prison Fair, at which furniture and other goods from jails across the south of Thailand are on sale.

Phuketwan carried a report earlier today warning of severe winds that ripped Phang Nga, tearing the roofs off at least 20 homes around Phang Nga Town.

The structure around the stage on Phuket toppled about 7.40pm on the final night of the fair.

Officials at the Phuket-based Southern Meteorological Centre (West Coast) were forecasting gusts of up to 60kmh and warning small boats to stay ashore tomorrow.

Predictions give Phuket a 60 percent chance of rain over the next few days. The weather is expected to worsen on Friday and Saturday.

So far Phuketwan is the only English-language news outlet to report the dangers posed by the severe weather and to record tonight’s death.

My guess is that no one planned on the storm happening, and there was definitely no safety officer on the scene to clear people out.

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Part of the larger stage, a green-room type tent covering:

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As quick as it went through, it was gone.

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No news yet on the actual number of injured, but the once person killed seems to be from a solid source across multiple outlets.

People, be careful out there.  Mother Nature doesn’t care where we decide to do a show, she’s coming whether we like it or not.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a concert or a jail show like this one — safety first, last, and always.

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

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HEY!  YOU! 

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, JimOnLight.com 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.

RIGGERS-NOT-SKYDIVERS

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

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

 

April 2013’s Top 20 Posts

April 2013 has not been a fully happy period in our industry, at least on the accidents front.  Unfortunately I have to report that a lot of the top 20 posts that were read in 193 countries all over the world were stories I reported where injury or death to our stage hand brothers and sisters.  At least their names will never be forgotten, at least by me.  Ever.  In order to go where we’re going, we have to remember how we got here.  It’s not all negative, but get ready to relive some disaster in our business.

The most read post in April of 2013 from JimOnLight.com:

A Rigger Dies after a 100 Foot Fall at AT&T Center in San AntonioRIGGERS-NOT-SKYDIVERS

April 2013’s Most Read Post #2:
The TO THE ARCHIVES link on JOL!
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #3:
San Antonio Rigger Falls 100 Feet to Death at AT&T Center
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #4:
Lighting 101:  Luminance VS. Illuminance
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #5:
New Footage of the Demolition of the Famous Texas Stadium
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #6:
Let’s Be Safer, At Least in the Entertainment Industry
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #7:
A Time-Lapse of the Maroon 5 Overexposed Tour Load-In
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #8:
Memorial Fund Established for Dean Williams, Rigger Who Fell at AT&T Center in San Antonio
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #9:
UPDATE – Ultra Music Festival LED Wall Accident
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #10:
Jim Hutchison Leaves CAST Software, Opens Lumen Buddha Studios, A Lighting Industries Think-Tank and Design Studio
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #11:
INDUSTRY ACCIDENT – Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Video Wall Falls on Workers
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #12:
Something Horribly Wrong is Going On at Wicked Lasers, UPDATED
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #13:
Recommended Reading on JOL!
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #14:
Radiohead Stage Collapse in Toronto — 1 Dead, 3 Wounded
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #15:
Gaffers and Grips — DIY Gaff Tape Key Fob
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #16:
LER:  Luminaire Efficacy Rating
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #17:
DARTH FADER
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #18:
LED Freerunning:  Lighting Emitting Dudes
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #19:
Mycena Lux Coeli — The Coolest Mushroom I Have Ever Seen!
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April 2013’s Most Read Post #20:
Pilobolus’ Shadowland Review
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Memorial Fund Established for Dean Williams, Rigger Who Fell at AT&T Center

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A memorial fund has been established for Dean Williams, the Houston-based rigger who fell and died at AT&T Center on April 5, 2013.  Dean leaves behind a wife and baby daughter.  The fund has been established for his wife, Haley, and Lydia, his 3 and a half month old baby.  Dean was caring for his family, and now they need help.  Like any of our fallen brothers and sisters, if you can help out, I’m sure even a few bucks would be beneficial.

Dean fell from the primary steel at AT&T Center, allegedly when he unclipped to maneuver around a beam when he fell around 100 feet to the arena floor.  Dean was pronounced dead at the scene.  From KSAT in San Antonio:

The man had been wearing a harness connected to a safety line, Berry said, but he disconnected it to step around a beam, where he intended to reconnect to another safety line on the other side.

That’s when Williams lost his balance.

According to the AT&T Center’s website, a Romeo Santos concert took place at the venue starting at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Leo Gomez, spokesman for the AT&T Center, said Occupational Safety and Health administration inspectors had been in the building.

He said OSHA officials briefly talked with him about the incident, but asked he not speak about it while the investigation is ongoing.

Gomez said OSHA “released the building to proceed with its events,” which includes a Rampage hockey game starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Please be safe out there, everyone.  One second you’re unclipping to move around a beam, and the next second, there’s a memorial fund for your wife and infant daughter.  Please be safe, folks.  Our work in this industry isn’t worth a single Dean Williams, or Nathan Byrd, or anyone else who I’ve had to report on dying this year.

Please, please be careful out there.  For your babies and wives and dogs and cats, please be careful.

UPDATE: San Antonio Rigger Falls 100 Feet to Death at AT&T Center

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Update on the terrible accident at AT&T Center in San Antonio last night, Thursday, April 4, 2013 — the rigger’s name is confirmed as Dean Williams, 43, of Houston.  Dean leaves behind a wife and 3 month old baby girl named Lydia.

From KSAT 12 in San Antonio — allegedly, Dean unclipped to move around a beam and fell (bolding is mine):

Berry said the incident occurred just before 2 a.m. as crews were working on the stage after a concert.  The man was walking on the catwalk.  He had removed his safety harness to move around a beam when fell to his death.  The worker has been ID’ed as 44 year-old Dean Williams from Houston.

I’m so sorry to hear of this.  Please, for f*ck’s sake, be careful up there, everybody.

Rigger Dies After 100 Foot Fall at AT&T Center in San Antonio

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Unfortunately, I have to report that a brother fell and was killed at the AT&T Center in San Antonio last night.

From KENS 5 in San Antonio, bolding is mine:

SAN ANTONIO — A crew member working on a catwalk at the AT&T Center fell about 100 feet to his death Friday, said Paul Berry, spokesman for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.

The crew member was working to remove lighting from a recent concert when the accident happened.

Berry said the worker disconnected his safety harness and slipped on a center beam while attempting to reconnect to another safety line.

The worker reportedly landed near the stage where other crew members were working.

The rigger’s name is reported to be Dean Williams, but I’ll make sure to confirm.  I’m so sorry for his family, I’m certain he will be missed.

Radiohead Stage Collapse in Toronto — 1 Dead, 3 Wounded

Scroll down for updates, please.

Oh no, not again.

My buddy Elie sent me this link from CBC News.  Radiohead‘s stage collapsed this afternoon — CBC News reports that a person is dead and at least 3 others are injured.  Toronto Star is reporting that it’s one dead and one injured critically.  It’s nice and calm here in Toronto today, I doubt this was weather-related.  From CBC News:

A stage at Toronto’s Downsview Park has collapsed in advance of a scheduled Radiohead concert, killing one person and injuring at least three, according to Toronto EMS.

Calls came in to emergency crews at about 4 p.m. ET. One person was transported to Sunnybrook Hospital in serious condition while two others assessed at the scene have minor injuries.

CBC’s Maria Nunes was driving by the park when she noticed the commotion. From her vantage point. she could see five ambulances, two police cars and a firetruck.

The 7:30 p.m. concert is cancelled. Gates had been scheduled to open at 5 p.m.

Some people at the park ahead of the show are saying on Twitter that the area has been cleared by emergency crews.

Police say the park wasn’t full but there was a considerable crowd of people already waiting for the show, and they are now leaving the area. The park is a frequent site of concerts, and 40,000 people were expected for tonight’s sold-out show by the hugely popular English band. The opener was to be Canadian act Caribou.

The weather in Toronto at the time of the accident was seemingly calm, with temperatures in the high 20s and the forecast calling for light winds.

More as it develops.  Radiohead was playing at Downsview Park near downtown for the North by Northeast Festival.  They’ve since cancelled the show.

Somebody taped the news broadcast below:

Update, Saturday, 7:13pm Eastern:

Most reports are saying that one person was killed, and the consensus is either three wounded or “several” wounded.  I spoke with a friend who was heading down early to see the Flaming Lips show later in the evening, and she said that there are lots of folks heading away from the Downsview Park area.  Police are asking people not to head to the area so that everything can be secured and investigated.

Story at the Montreal Gazette
Story at the Globe and Mail
Story at the Guardian
Story at the Province
Story at Canada.com
Story at NowPublic

I’m so sorry to have to report of the injured and killed again.  That is my least favorite part of writing.

More as I find it.  I’m not sure if this is even the time to bring it up, but there’s a creep around the place that Radiohead is playing at Sneaky Pete’s tonight; something not a rumor is that all ticket holders are being refunded for the show.

From NowPublic:

Update, Sunday, June 17, 5:51pm:

CNN posted an aerial flyby and an article of the Toronto stage that came down yesterday.  See below:

Thanks, @mcpoley, for tweeting the link.

—————————————————————-
Update, Monday, June 18, 2012, 9:55am:

I have to report that the name of the one man killed has been released.  Radiohead (and Keane) drum tech Scott Johnson, 33, was killed by what investigators are calling “a heavy, crushing injury.”  I’m so sorry to have to report that.  Another industry veteran down.  Investigations are being called “fairly complex,” but none of the outside investigation parties are being named at this time.

From the Toronto Star:

The provincial Ministry of Labour remained tight-lipped Sunday on details surrounding a stage collapse at Downsview Park that killed a drum technician for Radiohead and forced the cancellation of a sold-out show.

spokesperson for the British band identified the drum technician as Scott Johnson, 33, of Doncaster, England. Johnson also toured with another U.K. band Keane.

“He was a lovely man, always positive, supportive and funny; a highly skilled and valued member of our great road crew,” Radiohead wrote on its website. “We will miss him very much.”

As three inspectors and two engineers from the ministry scoured the scene Sunday, it remained unclear what caused the massive structure to crumble, crushing Johnson and injuring three others.

Johnson was pronounced dead at the scene after sustaining what police said was a “heavy, crushing injury.”

Ministry spokesperson Matt Blajer said the investigation is “fairly complex” but could not confirm the names of any involved companies.

Meanwhile, industry professionals are questioning the circumstances leading up to the fatal accident, which occurred on an otherwise bright and sunny day, with only light winds.

From Radiohead‘s website:

We have all been shattered by the loss of Scott Johnson, our friend and colleague. He was a lovely man, always positive, supportive and funny; a highly skilled and valued member of our great road crew. We will miss him very much. Our thoughts and love are with Scott’s family and all those close to him.

Rest in peace, Scott Johnson.  More as it develops.

Incandescent Traffic Lamp Manufacturers, Here’s Your Chance

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When you live in a place that sees a lot of snow per year – let’s just say somewhere like Chicago or other places in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio – you would think that dealing with snow is something that is just accepted. Sometimes it snows sideways in the Midwest.  I remember being a kid and walking home from school covered only on one side with sticking snow, and having our house covered on one side with snow 6″ thick.  Snow fills up anything in its way when it’s blowing like that – stop signs, traffic lights, store signs, billboards, you name it.

There’s one thing that seems to have been forgotten when designing LED replacement lamps for traffic lights – snow. This is one time when incandescent traffic lights win over their energy-saving LED opponents.  The incandescent lamps melt the snow that accumulates on them for the most part, whereas the LEDs do not generate enough heat to clear themselves enough to be seen.  What is happening right now is that in order to clear the traffic lights of snow, a person has to go out and clean the snow off by hand, and as they do that it’s like the theoretical savings of  having “green” traffic lights goes out in the wind like a well-placed fart.

Several accidents and one death has occurred due to this “new” phenomenon of snow covering up traffic lights that have been converted to LED sources. Places in the Midwest (and around the world, I assume) are having to send teams of men out to remove snow from traffic lights.  I mean, what are you going to do, install heaters?  Do they even make heaters for that?  Again, kiss the energy savings goodbye.

Is this a huge “oh my GOD” kind of issue, sending people out to remove the snow? I don’t think so. It’s the accidents and death that bother me more than anything.  Most motorist, however, have treated the situation of snow-covered traffic lights with caution, which means that human beings are still at least a little intelligent.  From an article at Huffington Post:

In Minnesota, where authorities have upgraded hundreds of traffic lights to LEDs, the Transportation Department occasionally gets reports of an obstructed light. But by the time a highway crew arrives, the wind has often knocked out the snow and ice, said traffic systems specialist Jerry Kotzenmacher. Minnesota is experimenting with weather shields.

One reason there have been so few deaths is that drivers know they should treat a traffic signal with obstructed lights as a stop sign, traffic experts say.

“It’s the same as if the power is out,” said Dave Hansen, a traffic engineer with the Green Bay Department of Public Works. “If there’s any question, you err on the side of caution.”

What exactly does this LED traffic light epic fail mean?  I think this is a really interesting area and time where incandescent lights have basically lucked into a way to completely change everything about themselves and gain a little reputation back.  What needs to happen now is that incandescent lamp engineers and LED manufacturers both need to hit the drawing board and figure out how to make their products better.  Let us not forget the energy consumption factor of LED traffic lights compared to incandescent light expenditures:  nearly 89% savings by using LED lamps.

Look, I am a fan of light.  I am not going to pick sides completely against one source, whether it’s LEDs or incandescent lamps, or plasma lamps, or my freaking dry yard on fire to provide a source of light.  I criticize and celebrate what needs to be criticized and celebrated.  Right now (actually years ago), LED traffic lights have given a nice Christmas present to incandescent lamp manufacturers and allowed them a chance to redeem themselves.  So, incandescent lamp manufacturers, here’s your chance to shine.  Take a few moments at least to talk about that in a board meeting somewhere.

For the rest of us, treat a snow-covered traffic light as if there were an outage at that intersection.  Learn from other people’s misfortune to avoid it from happening again.

Thanks, Reuters, for the photo!