Balcony rails and falls

BillConnerFASTC

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NFPA is currently looking at balcony rails, specifically sight line constrained rails. The incidents in arenas and stadiums over the past several decades initiated the study, but right now it's the same requlation.

The team researching came up with two incidents in performing arts facilities over 20 years. One was ruled suicide and should not be considered. The other was in the Chicago Theatre, and in one Tribune article was labeled balcony. I'm pretty sure I found before this was in the lobby, but not sure where. If you know of the incident in have information that can clarify, please share.

If you know of other fall incidents over sight line constrained rails, please share.

Thank you.
 
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BillConnerFASTC

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It's the term used in codes for railings which exempted from the usual guard requirements because if the realities of sightlines. The usual 42" guard rail required where there is a fall hazard is permitted to be a 26" rail because it is constrained by sightlines.

Make sense?
 
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RonHebbard

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Can you clarify "sightline-constrained rails"?
@Jay Ashworth We've flogged this one to death before here on Control Booth. During the construction of an opera house with four balconies, ALL of the construction workers, the lads who'd been with the site from the third basement on up and were intimately familiar with it had to abide by all rules and amendmants which, in downtown Toronto, meant we could be no closer to a balcony edge than two rows of seats without a full-wank fall arrest belt / harness and lanyard.
On the other hand:
Once opening night and the folks dressed to be seen (more than to see) arrived, the world was their oyster and one and all were free to prance elegantly down even the steepest steps of the fourth balcony in their 70's and 80's wearing their stiletto heels and floor length gowns hiding not only their varicose veins and spindly legs but where they were placing their feet on the stairs they'd never trod on in their lives gawking around taking in the new venue they'd never been in sans their glasses and contact lenses. The glare off their jewelry was enough to blind those beside and behind them yet the elegant opening night patrons were permitted to descend all the way to the balcony rails where the stairs ended, then stand there preening and gawking regardless of which balcony they may have actually possessed tickets for.
The comparison between construction and public opening was startling to say the least. The full wank get-up I had to wear to merely walk across any of the balconies leaning over the rails merely to insert my Shure tone generator in any of the many mic and line level XLR's was understandable from the POV of the general contractor but the contrast with the public attending for the first time was startling.
Over the edge of the balconies, the various designers and PEngs had spec'd and approved two tubular pipes running across essentially the entire width of each balcony. Each pair of pipes were intended as one to hang lighting instruments from and the other to stand on while hanging and focusing said lights.
You should've heard the BELLOW the GC emitted when he first caught site of the dimming and lighting sub contractor merrily traipsing across one of the balcony rails with a test lamp in one hand and a Motorola walkie in the other. I was standing on the apron when the GC bellowed and took the heat since he ASSumed it was one of my guys.
EDIT: Missed a word and corrected a tense.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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BillConnerFASTC

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And yet, despite Ron's narrative of people on the precipice, no substantiated reports of falls. Every project with a balcony temporart guards to 42, then PPE, even for the cleaners.
 
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RonHebbard

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NFPA is currently looking at balcony rails, specifically sight line constrained rails. The incidents in arenas and stadiums over the past several decades initiated the study, but right now it's the same regulation.

The team researching came up with two incidents in performing arts facilities over 20 years. One was ruled suicide and should not be considered. The other was in the Chicago Theatre, and in one Tribune article was labeled balcony. I'm pretty sure I found before this was in the lobby, but not sure where. If you know of the incident in have information that can clarify, please share.

If you know of other fall incidents over sight line constrained rails, please share.

Thank you.
Is it possible the EXTREMELY low incidence of falls over balcony rails is due to the positioning, and close attentiveness, of FOH managers in general and ushers in particular? Several venues I've worked in position their burliest ushers at the bottom end of stairs leading down balconies and have others stationed at the top to help any patrons potentially requiring assistance to safely descend.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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BillConnerFASTC

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I don't know Ron. Working on doing some research - GoPro's over head and under seats to watch movement and feet. Compared to stadiums and arenas, I suspect the relative low exposure - theatre people enter and sit, and leave at end, and some at intermission while sports are constant coming and going throughout the event - is a factor. And not as much standing during an event. Maybe alcohol - but that is not a reason to be kept safe. I don't like blaming victims, no matter how foolish they behave. I think there may (still) be a modicum of decorum associated with the - say - ballet - as opposed to football (either flavor).

But the fact is it's a very unresearched subject. And if you have difficulty envisioning the research google and watch "The Stair Event". Anyone need a graduate degree level thesis project that could likely make a difference?
 

RonHebbard

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I don't know Ron. Working on doing some research - GoPro's over head and under seats to watch movement and feet. Compared to stadiums and arenas, I suspect the relative low exposure - theatre people enter and sit, and leave at end, and some at intermission while sports are constant coming and going throughout the event - is a factor. And not as much standing during an event. Maybe alcohol - but that is not a reason to be kept safe. I don't like blaming victims, no matter how foolish they behave. I think there may (still) be a modicum of decorum associated with the - say - ballet - as opposed to football (either flavor).

But the fact is it's a very un-researched subject. And if you have difficulty envisioning the research, google and watch "The Stair Event". Anyone need a graduate degree level thesis project that could likely make a difference?
18 minutes of Canadian content in need of a 'Double Like" button. Thanks Mr. Bill ( Intentionally sans Bat Call ) for calling this to everyone's attention.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

teqniqal

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Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas
I don't recall who designed the system, but I did see some drawings of a balcony guardrail system that was motorized so it would be 'up' at all times except during the performance. The patrons would arrive, freak-out that they had a guard rail in front of them, then when the show began and the houselights went down, the railings were lowered to the 26" position, then during intermission and after the final performer's curtain-call, the railings would rise again. I gotta think it was god-awful expensive - but I liked the concept!

I did notice an amazing consistency in Louisville during the USITT theatre tours that many, if not all, of the venues had 2" x 1/4" steel strap top rails that were perfectly tilted so the patrons would see them edge-on. Painted black they were very unobtrusive.
 
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RonHebbard

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I don't recall who designed the system, but I did see some drawings of a balcony guardrail system that was motorized so it would be 'up' at all times except during the performance. The patrons would arrive, freak-out that they had a guard rail in front of them, then when the show began and the houselights went down, the railings were lowered to the 26" position, then during intermission and after the final performer's curtain-call, the railings would rise again. I gotta think it was god-awful expensive - but I liked the concept!

I did notice an amazing consistency in Louisville during the USITT theatre tours that many, if not all, of the venues had 2" x 1/4" steel strap top rails that were perfectly tilted so the patrons would see them edge-on. Painted black they were very unobtrusive.
In flawless alignment with the sight lines of your average seated patron, presuming all of your average seated patrons are average in stature and possess great posture.
Yep! That's working out perfectly for average little ol' me.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

teqniqal

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Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas
In flawless alignment with the sight lines of your average seated patron, presuming all of your average seated patrons are average in stature and possess great posture.
Yep! That's working out perfectly for average little ol' me.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
Bring a pillow to sit on! :clap:
 

Footer

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I am amazed that falls haven't happened more or at all... especially in the arenas... With as steep as some of the upper levels get in the newer places it freaks me out even walking up there.
 

BillConnerFASTC

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I have not seen it- I don't do av - but I was told it lowers to main floor.

One of those things that makes me crazy. First its white, as was the screen housing. AV designers seem not to think about what is seen. They only had to check a box to get both in black. Second, this should have been mounted on balcony rail but architect objected - so there's $20,000-25,000. Plus it blocked the followspots when stored/up so had to have rails modified to offset follow spots from centerline.
 
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BillConnerFASTC

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Well, it probably depends who is speaking for the architect at that moment. Thursday there was concern from one voice that they had done a lot of work to design and build the balcony rail so lighting was possible and convenient and the stage lighting contractor did not use it in their initial hang. I'm trying to get a few lights moved to it.

I've worked on a few projects where the architect was a single individual, but not many, so which desk is speaking?
 
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RonHebbard

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I like the panto for that projector! Does make me curious, what sort of access for maintenance?
@tjrobb I was fairly certain Gala Spiralift had an inverted pantograph PJ mount which hid flush to a finished ceiling and lowered all the way to the floor for installation and maintenance BUT I couldn't find it on their site.
This should link you to two models by Draper, one for lighter and the other for heavier, PJ's that meet your needs. From memory; the models were Draper's SL and SLX series inverted ceiling mounts.
https://www.draperinc.com/liftsmounts/projectorlifts.aspx
@tjrobb
Edited to add further details of SLX lifts; Note models descending up to 28' below finished ceiling.
  • Maximum lifting capacity up to 350 lb (158 kg).
  • Six models available: 10' (305 cm), 14' (427 cm), 17' (518 cm), 21' (640 cm), 24' (732 cm), and 28' (853 cm) extension capacity.
  • Optional Environmental Airspace Housing to isolate projector from environmental airspace above ceiling.
  • Optional ceiling closure panel available in white (standard) or black.
  • Ceiling finish kit optional. Kit includes ceiling trim ring and closure panel (order when Airspace Housing is not required).
  • Optional universal-style bracket for easy attachment of a variety of projector models.
  • Installation of factory installed cables for video and projector control available.
  • Lift finish available in white (standard) or black.


Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 
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