Last year’s outdoor concert season brought a disturbingly high number of stories about stage collapses. The collapse of the stage at the Indiana State Fair before a Sugarland concert that killed 7 people was the most high profile, but there were lots of others.
Unfortunately, the finding by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration to levy $80,800.00 in fines did nothing to improve concert performers’ and audience members’ safety. It just shifted the focus away from where it needs to be.
Particularly surprising was OSHA’s inclusion of the local stagehands union (IATSE) on the list of those that were fined.
I was reminded of a time when I was the vice-president of our stagehands local (also IATSE) when a Pink Floyd concert was held at our local arena. It was a sort of “greatest stunts” tour, and it included the flying of a giant pig over the audience’s head.
At the time I thought little of it, as the riggers on the tour were clearly competent, and they took lots of time to test the installation and make sure that it was safe for everyone in the building.
Had I known that I was potentially putting the financial well being of our union in jeopardy, we might have been forced to deal with the flying pig in a very different way.
Stagehands, who are hired by the local promoter or venue to assist the performer’s touring crew, are in no position to make the final determination on whether the installation is safe. Even if engineering diagrams and stress and load bearing engineering specs were made available to us, we were not qualified to analyze them. That’s like requiring the popcorn vendor to certify that the popcorn was packaged in a sanitary manner. Their job is to sell the popcorn.
In the case of the Indianapolis stage collapes, Local 30 of the IATSE was fined $11,500.00 for four violations related to securing the roof.
I don’t mean to make light of any safety concern, but if a stagehands local is going to be ultimately responsible for an equipment package that they are exposed to for a single day, then it could bring the concert industry to its knees.
The only solution here is for the structures that are used for outdoor events to be certified by the manufacturers and for the users (promoters) of these structures to honor the limitations that the certification mandates. No “after the fact” fine levied on somebody why was just doing their job is going to change anything.