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Senior Technicians/Stagehands and Harness Use

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by Jezza, Jul 2, 2007.

  1. Jezza

    Jezza Active Member

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    Ok, this is something that is well, starting to get on my nerves. I work in many theaters and venues in the New York area under the direction of older TDs, stagehands, LDs, etc. At these venues, we are commonly rigging or working at height. Being typically the younger and more agile once of the bunch, I typically offer and am happy to be the one to strap up, throw on my harness and work, whether it be climbing truss, rigging, working on the grid, going up in the lift, typical dangerous stuff that you SHOULD have a harness on for.

    Now OSHA standards regulate working at height very carefully and stipulates very exactingly when a harness should and shouldn't be used. Personally, I always wear my harness when applicable. Here is the issue: many older technicians and supervisors, and even some younger ones don't, and will criticize you for wearing a harness. I can distinctly recall two occasions when I was about to climb truss and start a focus when an LD or TD said, half jokingly "oh, you don't need one of those [harness], just get up there". Now, I know that they were kidding around, to an extent, but it allows insight into what they think of as safe and necessary.

    No I understand that when many of them started out, OSHA regs were not as strict and that OSHA didn't regulate theater heavily, however one would sort of expect and hope that as many of them have seen their friends and co-workers fall and become injured or die when they have not been clipped in properly or flat out not been wearing their harness, they would wise up and adjust to the new OSHA standards.

    Moreover, all of the venues are checked yearly to make sure that they are complying with OSHA standards. I know venues who will only put their harnesses up in the grid or lower their retracting lanyards for ladders when OSHA comes for their inspection, as opposed to having it available for technicians to use at any time. I find this irresponsible, lazy, and extremely unsafe. YES, there are situations when your up on a truss and you've got to do some crazy maneuver to fix that instrument, and you know if you didn't have the stupid lanyard on, or you weren't fighting with webbing and biners at your waist, you could get the job done faster. However, isn't your life more important than getting it done faster?

    What do you all think about this?
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Well, I just got done with a strike with the exact same mindset. One of our older IA guys who believes he is the head rigger (hes about 5'7, 50 some odd years old, has a long white beard, and always wears cutoff sleave shirts and a camo hat with a dear hunters logo). He enjoys going up in our 30' genie that does not have safety features and without the outriggers installed without a harness to its full height then standing on the mid rail of the bucket. I have to leave the stage when he does that. He then got hurt later in the day because he was using his hand as a hammer and messed up his wrist badly enough he was out for the rest of the day. We also had one guy today who liked to monkey up hollywood flats. Personaly, I always keep my harness in my car with my lanyard and large hook just so if I do end up going up, I'm ready.

    This is also in the theatre that has a 90' grid and to get to the loading rail you have to climb a 40' ladder from the pin rail. The ladder has no cage on it however it does have a safety cable but there are no carriers for it, so basicly you are cliping into something that will drop as fast as you do. It should have a retractor on it, but it doesnt. The sad thing is I can anything about it not being safe and there are 10 other people who will scurry up it without hesitation. Most IA guys out there that came from the rock world live in the world off "I wont fall because I won't let go". I can not tell you how many people I have seen scurry accross the steel without a harness.
     
  3. DCATTechie

    DCATTechie Active Member

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    I know what your talking about. I work at my local theater where I am usually one of two others to be in the air hanging whatever is around. I have checked OSHA many a time just to see what the rules are. And typically, at the height that i am working (on a cherry picker mostly) I am required to wear harness. I have never worn one. Now this is not my choice, I am perfectly fine wearing a harness, in fact i would rather wear one than nothing at all. But i have never seen a harness in any form at my theater. Show me a harness and i'll put it on, but im not going to go out of my way to buy one when they should be provided by the company who you are working for (proved in OSHA). I think that if you had some lying around in plain view, people would be more likely to wear one. But thats my opinion among many.
     
  4. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    It's funny I fall into a weird place between those worlds. I will lecture 'till I'm blue in the face about kids not wearing saftey glasses, or hearing protection. I'll be the first one to call somebody out for not using outriggers etc. Yet at the same time, I am from the " Just get it done" school. I teach people around me with a "Do as I say not as I do" , mentality. I'm guilty of breaking several rules, and I know it. I'm not justifying my posistion, I just finally realize I'm a much better teacher than practitioner when it comes to some safety standards. I think it's very important to instill in kids that the first thing you do is harness up, then climp up to the grid. Grab a dust mask then the palm sander. I also realize I'm horrible at following my own advice. So I say More power to ya, You put on that harness and when I can't walk or hear, or see, you can say "told you so!"
     
  5. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    You know, its your life not theirs. Life is enough of a game of Russian Roulette as it is. I'll admit that when I was younger I did some pretty stupid things. These days I use a modified version of the old carpenter's saying: "Think twice, act once." Anything that can stack the cards in my favor for living another day, and requires that little effort is worth doing.
     
  6. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Very true, I can't tell you how many times I have been up in a geni and said those magic words "Pull the outriggers!". I tend to take safety steps to a certain level. I rarely ever wear a harness in a geni, however I know when it is "safe" to go up in a geni without outriggers and when you need them. I think it all comes down to intuition. I know the loads of a geni, I know what happens when you have a pipe 500 pounds out of weight and you are trying to pull it in with 2 bull lines, two loaders, and two flymen. I know the working load of most things onstage. The stagehands I work with do not. The simply dont know what is in the relative realm of safety and what is not. They see the immediate job to get done and not what is or is not supporting what they are on.
     
  7. Jezza

    Jezza Active Member

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    See, here is the problem. Yes, I am guilty of all of this too. There have been times when I needed to get a focus done quick and the only way was to pull the outriggers out of one side of the lift or to unclip for a second just to get around the piece of steel and then smack the light. There are always exceptions and situations that will test what our priorities are. What is sad and also very telling about our lives, is that in the long run, we will typically forgo safety (to some degree) to get the job done. When it comes to the safety of others, be it performers, co-workers, or the general public, that is paramount, in all of our minds I'm sure. But there are times when we really gamble with our own lives, over a little thing like saving 25 seconds here or there by participating in unsafe actions. Its this vicious paradox....we all are completely dedicated to the craft and to the production, people in theater/entertainment have tremendous dedication to what they do, sometimes I guess, too much.

    The "Do as I say, not as I do" mantra, although used by many and myself on occasion, is possibly the most detrimental to the brains of an impressionable crew. Van, I am by no means calling you out here, but you raised a good point. This is utilized commonly by many in the business who have been around gear long enough and experienced enough to know what something is really unsafe or not--or rather maybe we should look at is as whether that person thinks it is unsafe or not. As we age, our notions of safety and comfort level with operations around the stage develop an inverse relationship. As we become more comfortable and seasoned, some levels and procedures of safety disappear. To some degree, this is inevitable and I know that I don't need a block and fall to lower in the cyc pipe at the main stage that I work at. A good wrap and a firm grip will do it just fine. I know that if I take the 4th leg of the lift out and lean out of the Genie I can just climb out onto that piece of steel and monkey around. However, the other impressionable crew members don't. They look at you and myself doing these things with some degree of art and finesse, because we are so comfortable with this practices, and they must assume that they will be capable of those actions themselves. This is dangerous. This is the wrong way to teach younger people the craft.

    Also, working with older people, there is always an element of trying to prove yourself, regardless of how secure one is with their skills or not. I know there have been moments when I've waived safety to one degree or another just to get something done quick and artfully, to show people I know my stuff, because that is exactly how they would have done it.

    Gotta go load out, more tomorrow.
     
  8. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Someone wants fall protection while climbing an eight foot ladder, I might if they walk about in such gear while not on the ladder make a joke, but I have total respect for anyone that wants to use the equipment using it no matter the situation. There are certain mandatary situations for using it, but in general a policy of beyond that, you want it in situations other than this, put it on.

    Full classes in climbing truss ladders, walking a truss, operation of machinery etc. are given frequently and you are not allowed to do so without certification by those professionally trained and even certified in anything from fork lift driving to climbing and safety. Also have two certified EMT people on staff, in addition to two fire men and a former Navy Medic that has scraped bodies off the ceiling after they hit their ejection seat lever while in a building, much less lots of others certified in first aid and my military training... let’s see, start the bleeding, stop the breathing, dirty the wound and don’t protect from shock. ... or was that inverse. TBA is further training on rescue of those after fall protection has happened. Those that train are able to, they are not always in the building.

    I”m just old school enough to have been raised without such gear. There is nobody better than I atop a wagging in the breeze castered A-Frame ladder and I would rather nobody but me on it anyway. At other times while playing Spider Man across a low grid during warm ups, the grid fell apart and down I went into the middle of the assembled actors... that was fun. Later, especially after a bosemens chair with my repelling harness 40' above the deck, I did started using real fall protection to the extent I could provide on my own and now work where it’s mandatary. (Most have their own fall protection that do shows but the shop gear is absolutely inspected by trained personel before each use. This to the extent of load testing vertical fall arresters according to their certifications for needed testing - believe it's every three years. Took part in one such test.)

    On the other hand, I’m also at times in the do as I say not as I do class or I have a bigger rear to chew than you do and often get the wink and nod if I’m standing atop my 4' ladder. Last week for the first time since the fall protection horizontal life line was installed above my pallet racks, I wore it - even forgot how to put it on - it was a new type of harness however. This as opposed to the last couple of times I was atop the pallet rack where I did at times not have such good balance and at one point me being alone in the shop late one Friday night with nobody due in until Monday. (This horizontal life line was something I asked for and supervised the install on following those near fall times. It’s only 14' and most likely I would be able to catch myself on the way down but boy would it hurt. This way at least while it would hurt, it would not be a question of how many lamps broke my fall on the way down.) Measure once, cut twice - I still often follow that rule but demand those I supervise do otherwise. On fall protection on the other hand, given I’m often not the one I’m sending up in anything from a lift to climbing the rack, fall protection is required by me.

    I also follow this at this point. No exceptions, someone tells me there is someone in a lift without it, while not the safety manager, my word is sufficient they comply, someone mentions this to me, I find out in making them comply. Ground support people not paying attention to their job, and or people in the area of a lift not wearing a construction helmet, they hear from me and comply. Not the safety manager but been around long enough that it’s enforced. A few weeks ago a 30+ extended scissors lift ran over a laser pointer. I was sitting chatting with a different shows crew chief and we all just kind of saw this yellow/black piece of gear shoot across the shop. Didn’t think much of it other than that the Shop Stewart is going to be pissed in knowing what it used to be. He had to go to great lengths to have the company buy this laser for him and it just became a semi-crushed golf ball when it met the tire of a moving extended scissors lift. As policy, I don’t agree with the concept of moving a lift about at full extension but was over ruled on the concept of having a ground guide for the lift. Obviously the concept of having a ground guide didn’t filter all the way down to those on the ground ensuring that where the vehicle was moving say might not run over a not so cheap laser under it’s wheels this day. What if it were say a cinder block, sand bag or something that wouldn’t crush given a 30' tower?

    Following this, I made sure the ground support assigned person did her job, much less everyone in the area as policy wore a hard hat in not listening to excuses. Also was told that besides observing that the person operating the lift did not follow policy about not moving the thing without ground support, he was not wearing his harness. Did some correction of education for this person also - more his fault than hers in many ways.

    Turns out the laser was personally owned by the crew chief of the show and it was not a shop tool. He for all intensive purposes had what was left of the tool roll to his feet, picked it up and tossed it in the trash, than proceeded to walk away from the room very calmly. This in ignoring questions of if he was upset by the ground support person.... Took it kind of well for a no doubt 20 year in the industry veteran that has been known over the years to kick people’s rear.

    Told him to put the crushed tool on my work table and if not repairable, I would replace it. Instead he replaced it that day in having more points to hang and submitted the receipt. All because the ground support person was not paying attention and doing her job and the operator of the vehicle 30' up in the air was moving the lift without having a ground support person actively paying attention to what she was supposed to be doing. This much less not wearing fall protection or if no ground support in doing her job while moving it, bringing the thing down. The operator was supposed to be a seasoned roadie. Not impressed.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2007
  9. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I just took a intensive 3 day class on theater safety at a nearby university. The class is aimed mostly at Highschool teachers but is often attended by college faculty as well. The text book was "Dr. Doom's" book... the titled something like "400 pages of how theater will kill you". It was a "fun" class.

    So there I was spending 27 hours in 3 days discussing teaching safety and maintaining a safe theater. Over and over I heard people discussing the same things that are mentioned above. Sometimes there isn't time to use the outriggers, sometimes you get busy and forget to use the hearing protection, Sometimes you just have to use the dangerous A frame to get the job done. Except in this case the people doing the work are 14-18 years old. Want to know where the Macho attitude starts? It's with kids riding the arbors or climbing the T-bar all the way to the loading gallery when the teacher is out of the room (AHH... things so dangerous I had never even considered them possible.)

    You know what the best part is? OSHA only applies to employees. If students are doing a light hang, there is no law requiring them to wear fall protection equipment so the district isn't required to even provide it.
     
  10. Logos

    Logos Well-Known Member

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    In Oz and the UK "duty of care" would kick in. Giving you and the school a duty to ensure "reasonable" safety precautions are taken even if not defined by law. This obviously then becomes a debate over reasonable and what that means.
     
  11. Jezza

    Jezza Active Member

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    Riding an Arbor? Christ. I've seen some high school techs do some silly things, potentially very dangerous things, but that is definitely a new one. Well, I'm heading out to work in the grid all day and re-do some linesets, lets see if there are any life lines up there or places I can clip into...
     
  12. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Jezza, I agree with you 100%. I think the "do as I say.." is detrimental. Unfortunately, as ship said in his post, e grew up in a time when that kind of stuff was not only not thought of, but not availible either. I also agree with ship in that if ther is a job to be done on the top of a 30 foot A-frame on casters, I'm probably the one doing it, for the safety of the rest of the crew. So, no hard feelings, I agree with you 100%.
     
  13. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Isn't that the point of this whole discussion? It's a all a debate of how much risk you are willing to take. We have Ship and Van talking about how they are willing to take personal risks (that others say may be excessive) for the good of show and the crew around them. Someone else talked about unclipping for just a second to reach just a little farther. Still others talked about people who feel bullet proof and don't think they need a harness at all. It's all a matter of personal risk assessment. We all see the same hazards but we assess them differently based on where and how we were trained and the culture of safety we currently work in.

    One of the things the guy teaching my safety class last week said was, "Is it worth risking your life so that the show goes on?" We've all been trained that the correct answer is Yes... the publicity is out, the posters are printed, the fliers have been mailed, the royalties paid, the audience is coming... but how stupid is that when you really think about it? As theater technicians we have this deep code of honorthat we all live by, sort of like samurai or something, ... but in the end it's just entertainment... is our code of honor really worth dying over? Is risking your life to unclip so that you can tweak that one last instrument REALLY worth it?

    Personally I'll go with the motto I read around here a while back. "There are old riggers and bold riggers but there are no old bold riggers".
     
  14. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Ummm... here for the fun of it, is an example where the answer was YES!

    I was doing a New Years show at the West Philly Arena (no longer standing) in the 70's and the lead act (The Ohio Players) decided not to go on due to an issue with the promoter. The audience was about 6000 less that happy drunk people. They started rioting! I was on the top of a 20 foot follow spot platform when the now riotous mob decided to tear it down! As luck would have it, the band saw what was happening and announced they would go on. (Whewu!!) This is one case where the show not going on might have cost me my life!

    As I said, it was a fun (or not so fun for me) example. In general, if the choice is profit or life, I will take life every time!
     
  15. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    It is much too easy to take short cuts and skip safety procedures. But, (and to belabor the point) these are bad habits to get into. One can rationalize the unsafe action, but it is still wrong.

    I don’t buy into the personal riskargument. (Although it may be applicable if you are working for yourself, but I’m not sure I want to go there and those are the exceptions.) Most likely, you are working for someone and the responsibility for your safety invariably falls on that party, whether it is a school district, employer, owner, or state. This responsibility may be established legally by OSHA, school rules, or other state laws. (Anything else, a good labor lawyer will catch, though that’s after the fact.) Because of the costs associated with a poor safety record (higher insurance premiums, higher medical insurance rates, rejection of bids for work, bad press, bad reputation, etc.), the “employer” is well within his rights to discipline you, restrict you, or fire you for failing to follow safety procedures. So from a purely mercenary point of view, taking a personal risk does affect others.

    Don’t get pulled into the “that won’t happen to me” macho mentality. Play the roulette wheel enough, and the house will win.

    Joe
     
  16. Jezza

    Jezza Active Member

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    This is sort of the argument I was trying to make. Funny thing--today we were on on the loading bridge and had to lean way too far out to get some of the bags on. Myself and one of the senior hands who I was with threw up our hands and said "No way!" I ran down, grabbed my harness clipped on to a beam that was close and tossed the bags on no problem. We are going to put up a cable line that spans the length of the bridge tomorrow to clip a harness or pull line onto to bring the bags or the sunday in closer to the bridge--its really great when you get to work with an older crew member who is as concerned about safety as I am.
     
  17. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    That reminds me of an install I was doing once. The guy I was with, my superior, was giving me grief cause I didn't want to stand with one foot on the edge of the grid and one on the t-bar rail, so I could brace myself to hold the 80 pound head blocks in place, over my head, while he cinced them down.
    <it was an underhung system, so we were attaching to the bottom of the I-beam>
    Gee, 80 ft drop to the bottom of the arbor well, with no harness? Ummmm, no thanks. I think you came up with a good solution with deciding to add a safety cable to your loading bay. Please for the love of God make sure it's good and stout and crimped correctly!
     
  18. Jezza

    Jezza Active Member

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    Ha, that doesn't sound like much fun at all. We are an overhung system so putting in the head blocks isn't really that much of a chore. Its just the blasted pin-rail that they put RIGHT between the grid floor and the beam that takes a little pit of manuvering to get it into place. Just did a few of those today...not bad, just tricky. However, the pin rail is great when you need to sunday off the lines.

    Now what WAS tricky was when our impact Mikita died and we didn't have a spare battery, was running a line from the compressor up to the grid and walking around the grid dragging behind us yet ANOTHER piece of line (hose) while we moved loft blocks around.

    Yeah, we think that safety line will be a really great addition. The way our loading bridge is set up is that they bridge itself is at about mid-thigh height, so if you were to let a bad pull you around a little, you would sail right off the bridge. So this safety line will serve two purposes. It will first off allow for a harness clip point, which is always good. But, it will also create a tensioned position from which you can attach a piece of chord to the linset wrachet it up close to the bridge so your not leaning out to put on bags or sunday off a set. This helps a great deal for some of our linesets which are difficult to access due to the f*cking sprinkler pipes and beams that have no business being where they are. And I will NOT be the one crimping or crosbying--I'll let the TD do that, that way if it fails, its not on me!

    Today was a good day for safety on the stage--it was slow pace, relaxed, methodical and repetitive. Its when your doing a load-in and there are 20 people on the stage doing 30 different things and you needed to get that truss in the air or that pipe flown or the instrument focued 5 minutes ago that **** starts to hit the fan and safety goes out the window.
     
  19. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Not persay a question of taking personal risks, more ensuring that if something must be done which could be very unsafe, it’s done by the most experienced person on the crew and done in their way. Also, that by way of experience while climbing the thing, a certain knowledge of what’s a normal creek and what to become immediately concerned about, much less rather me than someone else. What there abouts of 15 years professional experience and training and focusing lights off and on since about 1984. Not personal risk, doing it safely within the bounds of years training on say such a ladder rather than having someone else atop the ladder that might take a risk with it.

    As the case with say a A-Frame on casters. Done in my way means that I don’t want anyone on it but me, there is one person on each side actively steadying it and ensuring it does not move, than when it does move, and each time it moves I will have already climbed down to at least the mid point of the lower section. There is no reaching for another instrument out of balance or any short cuts taken. This means never surfing or riding the top of the ladder even for a short stint on the last few fixtures. This being an example of the last time I was on a castered A-Frame. Only reason it did not come off the caster unit as I normally do was it was bolted in by way of a very permanent way and house equipment.

    I expect Van also atop a ladder has had training by old timers on it, years of experience in climbing one and also would not off center or reach while on it. This much less ride the top. Different concept in the use of one than use of one most would think. Recommended no, and not a practice that is optimum choice. There are things such as the tie in to the power, figuring out structure etc. that is something just anyone is allowed to do. Not tolerance for personal risk, or I’ll do it but nobody else should, more management responsibility. Or in the case of the last time I was on the ladder, the only professional tech person in the building (community theater) - I did not want anyone else up on the ladder if I was in the room.

    Yes, you are correct about personal risk, but I don't think you understand it was not persay a question of risk, more out of safety. While I was in the building, I also would not let anyone touch the fly rail. Or if they were designated, and in fact for the most part experienced, while they operated it I kept within a certain distance from this person, gloves ready.

    Toss the A-Frame extension ladder on casters... Yep, that's an option. Had it had more sway to it than it did and that would have been done. Highly recommending that the casters are removed to the owners of the theater, yes that also happened in addition to a few other recommendations. To a certain point however, I accessed the situation and gear and decided to use it. This was on me using the gear and my own judgement of it. This much less an absolute supervision of those I chose to foot the ladder.

    A-Frame Extension ladders in general not the best but they are OSHA compliant I believe. On caster units... this one seemed not home made but none the less not my primary choice. Did I do it, yes in this last instance. Would I again, no. Kowing what this theater has available, I would specify it gets left in a corner and bring one, or that it come off it's frame. On the fly however it was me making the choice, judging the equipment and the one on it.

    Hope that explains a bit further this choice not out of innocence or personal risk but as it were an educated judgement.
     
  20. lightbyfire

    lightbyfire Member

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    I have on occasion gotten flack for wearing a harness while in a boom lift and insisting on not moving while up. I just go about my business quietly, i figure i probably wont change a lot of the old hats minds, but if i do my job well i will hopefuly still leave a good impression.

    My school has also made a big commitment to safety over the past year. we are upgrading our facility to be fully OSHA compliant and last month I attended an OSHA 510 course for Construction Safety in which i learned a great deal.

    While taking the course we had an OSHA inspector come in to speak with us, and I asked him what his thoughts were on theatres, briefly describing what it is we do. he was shocked to learn the extent to which theatres are essentially continuous construction projects, and he said that he would be more likely to site violations in a permanent construction facility (theatre), because there is absolutely no excuse for improper training or facilities. He also said that just because we are unpaid students does not relieve the institution from the employee employer relationship, and hed likely site anyway. That may not actually hold up in court, but reguardless in my opinion any college or highschool should be held just as responsible as any professional theatre or shop.

    I feel very strongly on the subject and in the coming year will be working on creating a full safety standard packet for our theatre which will be a comprehensive list of expectations for all students and employees, as part of my senior thesis project.

    I am also very glad to hear professionals on this website who have made commitments to provide good examples for younger members, I believe that the only way for the risk taking culture to change is from the top down, the supervisors have to be safe before the workers will ever completely try.
     

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