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Call "911" or not...

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by reggie98, May 16, 2009.

  1. reggie98

    reggie98 Member

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    How would react in the following situation.
    You are standing in a small playhouse, organized as a non-profit. You ook over your head and notice that the lighting fixture seems to be wired with an asbestos whip. You look around further and see more evidence of asbestos wiring. You make mention of this situation to the "person in charge", he replies that he's aware of it, but didn't think it was a problem. Do you: keep silent and walk away; call the local Health Department; call Electrical inspector?
     
  2. MNBallet

    MNBallet Active Member

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    If you're talking just the 3' wiring comming from the light, you shouldn't worry, just wear gloves (most of us do for focus anyways,) and wash your hands. You're not chewing on the wires. If you're really concerned, you could look into jackets to cover them up. Or do the research in what it would cost to rewire all the inventory. In reality, since this place is a "non-profit" they don't have any money and a call to anybody will result in a shut down and the theater could be closed for weeks. There are still plenty of buildings that have abestos insulation around pipes that are far more dangerous than what's wrapped around the wires.
    Money is tight everywhere, so your options are: 1, take precautions (gloves, wash hands) 2: come up with the money to rewire or get jackets, (or whole new inventory: yea right!) 3: risk the theater closing and make a phone call.
     
  3. mrb

    mrb Active Member

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    thats some bad advise. asbestos is a problem when disturbed. Asbestos insulated pipes are no problem at all if they never get touched. The asbestos fixture wires are moved all the time and the asbestos flakes off. Dont rewire an asbestos fixture either as they have asbestos pads under the lampholders and possibly other asbestos inside.
     
  4. MNicolai

    MNicolai Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    MNBallet is right. You can advise them to replace their inventory, but odds are that they simply do not have the money, and calling it in will result in not only a shut down, but possibly bankrupting the theatre. Being closed for a couple weeks isn't terrible, but if they have to cancel shows, risk fees/fines, pay for all the wiring to be replaced, and try to bring back the audience members they originally had to refund ticket prices to, that can kill small non-profits, and I don't think you want to be "that guy."

    That said, I'm not saying don't fix it. The wiring should be replaced, but typically with non-profits replacing wiring is something they would opt not to do, and instead save up money to replace the fixtures in general, or simply put the money towards staying in business. The asbestos wiring insulation is simply not as dangerous as the general insulation. You'd have to play around with the wiring to shake enough particles off to pose a serious threat to you, but walking around in an old attic with the insulation everywhere could be a whole 'nother dumpster of trouble.
     
  5. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Much like Radon, asbestos is something to be avoided. Still, we tend to over react sometimes. I grew up in Ambler PA. We had a pair of white mountains and when the wind blew, it was like a snowstorm. It was asbestos from the old closed Madison Asbestos plant.

    The EPA came along and plowed it about turning the town into a blizzard. They then covered the hills over with six inches of topsoil and went home. Given all of this, I would think 40 years later that Ambler would be a hotbed of cancer and asbestosis. It isn't. You should avoid asbestos, radon, and smoking. But, a 911 call over the wires on a light seems a bit over-the-top. When I see such lights being used, I tell those concerned, "You know, that's Asbestos." I suggest to them that they should retire those fixtures, then I sit back and watch the show.
     
  6. MNBallet

    MNBallet Active Member

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  7. KeeperoftheKeys

    KeeperoftheKeys Member

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    Just wondering, is asbestos cabling (and other material) easily recognizable?

    You hear a lot about it but at the moment I don't think I'd recognize it if I was looking at it as I have no idea what it looks like...

    Maybe someone can post pictures?

    AFAIK if left undisturbed it's not supposed to be dangerous...
     
  8. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Thick and puffy like white felt. Sometimes almost a "drywall" finish. Not to be confused with fiberglass which usually has a distinct braided. (Although asbestos can have a "braid like" finish.)
     
  9. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    See the three white leads from fixture to plug? (Earlier, non-grounded fixtures only had two wires.)
    [​IMG]

    A bigger pic:
    [​IMG]

    On later fixtures, the leads were colored black, white, and green.[​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2009
  10. Smurphy

    Smurphy Member

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    I am pretty sure this is a big thing. I am not sure the police are the way to go. Maybe another agency. A quick google search should point you in the right direction. Asbestos is not a nice thing and probably should not be taken lightly.
     
  11. LightStud

    LightStud Active Member

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    Difficult to take the hysteria seriously considering there's NOT ONE single case of illness or death solely attributable to asbestos insulated wires on stage lighting fixtures. Thousands (millions?) of lights, thousands of stagehands, for about 100 years and continuing today, and not one reported case.

    Were it not for unscrupulous lawyers, it's likely the general public would have never heard of mesothelioma--2,000 new cases a year out of a possible 300,000,000.
     
  12. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Yea, the shipbuilding industry as well as heating and boiler builders abused their workers for many many years until a groundswell of lawsuits developed. These people used to come home coated with the stuff! As is often the case, once the ball started rolling, government swung to the opposite extreme. These days, the sight of a single piece of asbestos sends people into an EPA clean up frenzy. Somewhere between the two extremes lies the truth. Often, I think the cleanup effort puts more people in danger than the original offense. (imho) (see story about Ambler in my prior post.)

    To me it makes sense to avoid something we know is harmful. Smoking is harmful too so I avoid both. Can't say which is worse.
     
  13. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    No comment beyond past comments - less about the wire, more about the silverly particals floating about as you sweep the floor or move about in the catwalk of concern for me. Whips, a lot less asbestos about them than a pipe,. on the other hand none, less a concern but not a 911 concern.

    As said before, cut and bag the whips plug and all, than cut and bag what you can from what's left with protection... Whats left in fixture is minor with asbestos or wiring and easy to dispose of safely without requiring a new lighting inventory.

    Me, I'm more woried about the dust in the air than the fixture whips. This all given any cancer you might have been exposed to potentially most likely is ten years from now and you like I 15 years ago when I was wiring fixtures with a spool of asbestos heat wire I found back stage... one doesn't know but one does do better with time. Would I use fixtures with asbestos whips these days - this given years of using them or removing and bagging them?

    Were I doing a show, I think I would require asbestos abatement by a professional before I did the show or touched the lights upon seening them. My health ain't worth further exposure to asbestos. This given the house such fixtures already has that dust in it and even if the fixture whips were changed, the already fallen off paticles - the more dangerous part of it is now in the air is a risk hard to abate short of closing down the place and paying large bucks to clean up.

    Still though, yea I could deal with asbestos whips - mostly upon sight getting a bag around the whip and cutting if off into the bag, than dealing with the insides seperately with protection. Fixtures are easy, me I'm more worried about crawling about in a grid and seeing silvery flakes to the dust I stur up.

    Doubt I would design at a theater with as asbestos whips, nor at a theater without flame trated scenic elements or safe plugs. Still though that's me these days and not me from the past.

    I did seemingly survive the exposure while replacing bad asbestos whips for new asbestos whips and all the dust in the grid over the years. That said, might not have - its a chance of yes or no with one, amount of exposure and a chance. These days, I don't work on stage and say when someone brings me their fixture they got from school and it's got an asbestos whip on it, I tell them than bag and trash it before discussing any resale price or wiring advice on it. Got thru the mail a box spot that was also asbestos, long gone in simple enough to remove upon site.

    That said, communication is necessary. One don't just go bagging and trashing upon site someone else's property - you first communicate than either do so or walk away. If a number of fixtures and or whips to trash, don't remove them, get protection for yourself in trashing in placce.

    Anyway some thoughts.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2009
  14. awhaley

    awhaley Member

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    You've got a lot of us talking about it...

    In the end you have to make the decision, and you'll bear the consequences. None of us are (to the best of my knowledge) experts in the field of asbestos risk assessment and mitigation... so you're really asking the wrong folks and you should take all of our advice as just that, friendly advice; go on to seek expert answers in the expert places. :)

    For me that would be the first step - consulting an actual expert in the field, describing what you're looking at, how many of them you're going to work with, what their general condition is, what the ventilation in the working environment is like, etc. If they don't ask you questions about all of that, you're not talking to an expert.

    Then I'd take their advice.

    If I couldn't get a satisfactory answer from an expert for whatever reason, I'd personally politely refuse to do the show, and I'd very politely explain my concerns in writing to the producer and venue managers. The TD is going to call you and give you several good sounding reasons why the instruments are safe... telling you that as long as the fibers are bonded to the cable it's not a problem, and giving you some stuff he read in a magazine about what 'flavor' asbestos is the dangerous kind... etc. I'd politely explain again (and follow up IN WRITING) that I'm not comfortable working with them, both from a personal safety and a professional liability standpoint. In my (not a lawyer) opionion, this counts as due dilligence. If I continued working in the space, asked electricians to touch the lights knowing that I was potentially exposing them to life threatening toxins, I would consider myself negligent and exposed to both lawsuits and plain bad karma, regardless of whether or not I was actually exposed to the carcinogens.

    By making sure that my issues are in writing and on file with the venue, the producer, and anyone else who I have a conversation with about the issue, I've got evidence that I did my part to inform the appropriate people of the issue and to keep myself reasonably protected from blame.

    But that's just what I'd do if I couldn't reach experts. You're dealing with an issue that is big enough to generate career ending lawsuits or (however remote the possibility) life ending illness... so you should take the time to follow up with the right people. Ask the asbestos expert what your risks are, and where you can find an explanation of that in writing if you ever need to prove it to someone else. Ask a lawyer what your liability is in the situation, how to minimize it, and what your obligation to report it to the authorities. (I would GUESS that you're not in a position to have to report this... but this is a BIG 'ask your lawyer!' sort of thing...)

    Hope my answering while telling you to go ask someone who can give you legit answers helps a little!

    Art Whaley
    Art Whaley Design
     
  15. reggie98

    reggie98 Member

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    Is asbestos bad?? If you ask anyone that worked for Johns Manville or lived in the town of Manville, N.J., they would tell you, yes. This is sort of a case where: do I turn a "blind eye" to the situation and walk away; do I force the theater to do the right thing? I agree totally with Ship that removing the fixture whips only prevents further contamination. The particles are already on every floor, in every crack, crevice and on every seat cushion. I can't imagine how the facility could ever be cleaned up. Positive preasure ventilation with HEPA filters, airlocks and workers in moonsuits? Wipe down or vaccuum every object in the theater?
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2009
  16. quarterfront

    quarterfront Member

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    I keep trying to reply to this thread but I just can't do it.
     
    Jay Ashworth likes this.
  17. TimMiller

    TimMiller Well-Known Member

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    do what my highschool did, put large blanket over entire school, send in workers in moon suits to remove asbestos, post signs around that say aesbestos, proper breathing appratius required beyond this point, and then continue to have class. Of course there was absolutely no protection for the students, but they are young and will be ok..... Thankfully i was not there yet, or i would have refused to go and gotten the EPA and several attorneys involved.

    A little off topic but depending on your police dept, they may tell you there is nothing we can do such as the time i called them when i caught some people illegally dumping on my land, and i was sure to inform them next time they will be held at gun point. Stupid cops, yet they arrested me for "tresspassing" on my own land, and yet i told them to get off first.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2009
  18. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    In the same circumstances, I think they would be responding to a "Shots have been fired" call at my house! :twisted:
     
  19. Kelite

    Kelite Apollo Staff Premium Member

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    Being in a very rural setting, shots fired (outside) at our place is nothing out of the ordinary. Rather, if there have NOT been shots fired for at least 2 weeks- please send someone to investigate! We prefer to maintain our marksmanship...
     
  20. jonliles

    jonliles Active Member Fight Leukemia

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    JD-
    You sound like you are ex-Navy. One of the things we did, back in my Navy days, is everyone that worked in the shipyards had an asbestos baseline physical. One of my Master Chiefs died from asbestosis - but that wa smore the exceptation. Typically the "yards" blamed it on insulation/lagging.

    Jon

     

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