Harnesses/ safety lines


Active Member
my school does not think it is safe for students to go up in the catwalk because there is a wooden catwalk without rails of any sort and if you step off the path you go plunging through the ceiling down into the auditorim. from what i have heard in the past they were not very concerned about it, but over the summer in the summer theater someone put his foot through the cieling, so im not allowed in the catwalk. anyay, mentioned to the assistant principal one day that it might be a good idea to put some sort of harness or safety line up there so that if someone falls they dont die. i was wondering if anyone else has this situation and what they have done to solve it. i know how to belay (sp) and so does my light guy so that is taken care of if that were to be part of the safety system, i think the best solution is probably a line running across the catwalk that people can just hook onto, but if anyone has any suggestions, they would be greatly appreciated!
we have the same problem with adjustiong our trees. students arent aloud to climb the ladder to them our director doesnt like to do it. let me know where i could get a high quailty low priced(not cheap) safety harness?
a harness is relatively easy to find, i dont know about prices, but you can get one at EMS or another camping/climbing store, my concern is more what to do with it as far as having a line to attach to that is set up in a way that will still let me move freely without getting too complex.
Most harnesses cost about $800. If you are going to put a line in, you need to have OSHA inspect it after it is installed. Plus you have to have have OSHA certified harneses. Now of course, when I use harness, it's usually doing rigging or being a truss monkey, but I'm also at hights of 4 stories, etc. So, yeah if your catwalk is that unsafe then maybe it would be a good idea in looking into a fall arrest system though they are very costly.
i will mention it to my assistant principal, i dont think the catwalk is that bad, the paths are wide, and from what ive heard people walked on it before there were actual platforms, just walkin along the rafters, but its better to be careful and safe than to fall through a ceiling and die. i didnt know harnesses were that much! that really is alot, but ill talk to the admin and see what they are willing to do.
From what I can gather, this is something that you would not want to do yourself. You would probaly be better off having some company instal it for you, that way they have the leagal responsiblity if it was not installed correctly. Although, as always, you have to consider the ever present $$ issue. (if only everyone had more $$!)
Peter said:
(if only everyone had more $$!)

If everyone had more money, prices would quickly rise to reestablish the status quo. Money has very little intrinsic value - its worth is in the goods and service it will buy. An increase in the money supply without a matching increase in the goods and services available is the reason my house, for which I paid $39,900 in 1979 is now appraised at $120,000. It didn't get any bigger (but my tax bill did). It's called inflation, and the government is the only one that really profits from it.

There's less than $30 in raw materials in an $800 safety harness. The rest is in the labor to build it and in the testing to prove OSHA compliance and in the liability insurance premiums the manufacturer has to pay (probably the biggest single chunk).

of course i wouldnt install the system myself, i asked a contractor putting in our new sound system about it today, and he said that you need a belay certification be be allowed to use a safety line, otherwis it is still a liability.
Is it feasible to install railings up there? Or would they be in the way of what you have to access? (Yeah, I know, its only money...)

jwl: railings would probably get in the way, i was thinking of putting a wire above me or to one side that i could duck under as a precation, rails might work, but i would end up trying do duck under them to access the lights.

avkid: in order to be allowed to hold someone on a safety line or be climbing and be liable yourself, you need a certification that you are a professional, if i dont have the certification the school is liable for putting an uncertified person up with the equipment, it is called belaying to have the end of a rope to climb a wall/mountain etc that is able to stop the rope from moving.
you can go to an construction store in toronto there is one called acland granger but for the states i dont know of any. You can get a fall arest rope. and a belt for aobut 120 bucks canadian. but all it is is a belt and a seatbelt like band almost like a spanset with carabieners on each end but really big ass ones. so the down side of this is if you fall you will fall about 2 to 3 feet depending on the lengeth of the band. then you hang there for about 23 hours as rescue crews come for you or someone pulls you up make shore you have a cell if you are rigging alone then. now the way you use this is you clip it on the bars as you go its really good if your using a tall lader your riggin at an odd postion. on your cat walk you could just attach a steel cabel (air craft cabel) from one lengeth to the other. and clip on to that. i would have a safty enginering compnay do that though. but all in all your looking at aobut 350.00 worth of matierials and what ever the labour is to hook up the cable.

Jon Hirsh
Blackhorse Productions
there is a company called Protecta, (www.protecta.com) that makes exactly what you're looking for. Its called the ARIANA system, basically a high tension wire rope systen that you can clip on to at any point to do your business. Check their website, there should be more details there.
On a second note, I got my harness from a local supplier called Hamisco Industrial Supply, and it was $350 for a body harness, 4ft shock absorbing lanyard, i-beam support, and another support that wraps around pipes (like the railings in most catwalks).
ccfan213 said:
a harness is relatively easy to find, i dont know about prices, but you can get one at EMS or another camping/climbing store, my concern is more what to do with it as far as having a line to attach to that is set up in a way that will still let me move freely without getting too complex.

thats where i got mine, but i havent used it in the theater yet, just for climbing at the gym. we have a new school so new autidorium. but hey those catwalks in the phantom of the opera movie looked sweet.
I would think that a horizontal life line system would be in order with your school. Same type of rig used for stage hands when walking upon a truss set up.
On the lighting tree, different fall protection will be in order such as a vertical fall arrester.

Fall Protection is not repelling gear. Places like Eastern Mountain Sports, Galleons, REI sell rock climbing repelling gear, not fall protection. There is major differences between what if you fall while using will break your back, and what when using fall protection proper will save your life.

There are also many components of these systems, and they are for use only with proper instruction as to their use, proper care and inspection, than with a rescue system in place for rescuing a person once they fall.

In order to have anything like this installed at your school, you would need a rigging company such as Sapsis Rigging amongst a few, to come out, assess what’s needed, train the users of the system and the instructors for rescue.

Once a piece of fall protection shows wear or is used, you buy a new one - this is to save one’s life not designed to be economical. On for instance the vertical fall arrester, it needs to go in for a yearly inspection for re-certification.

I seriously doubt that you can use a belay system in your situation.

Again, first a repelling harness is unless a rescue harness with the appropriate certifications not something to wear. Second, even if you own your own fall protection, leave it in the car. Most insurance companies will only ensure for gear owned by the insured company. Personal gear is far too chancy. Repelling gear has it’s uses and applications but it is not fall protection. Something is also not better than nothing in cases like this.
For work in the theater (and work just about any place else in the USA) standards are ultimately set by OSHA, and harnesses, safety lines and any other fall protection and fall arresting systems must meet those standards.

One would presume that recreational climbing gear is of sufficient strength/design to save one's life in an accident while climbing, and that the standards for recreational climbing gear (if there are any) are adequate. (Maybe there is an organization that sets such standards, just as softball helmets must meet a standard by National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.)

But the point is moot – the theater is a work place, not a rock wall; safety issues have to follow OSHA regulations.

I suggest you check out http://www.sapsis-rigging.com/UB.ArticleIndex.html. You need a full body harness (you don't want to tip out of it), some form of shock absorber (would you rather a shock absorber took the fall, or your back?). some form of attaching yourself beside where you are working, and (in my opinion the most important) a rescue plan in case someone falls. This may mean doubles of the harnesses, or a genie or scaff tower, and people trained in rescue, as well as climbing. However, I suggest you call a professional, who is experienced in stage and entertainment industry rigging and fall protection. A recreational climbing store is probably not the best place for this.

My $0.02

the short answer: The "catwalk" you describe will not meet standards for a "real" catwalk, and thus DOES require fall protection. (catwalks must have toe kicks, hand rails at certain heights and strengths, etc...)
OSHA has very strict rules about what type of fall protection can be used, where, equipment, training, etc...ANSI type III full body harness, load limiters, lifelines, etc...
Your only safe,legal, and liability options are to have the school hire a professional rigging company to provide the equipment and training.
Hope this helps, good luck, and stay safe.

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