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The things you learn (the hard way)

Discussion in 'Safety' started by BNBSound, Mar 20, 2005.

  1. BNBSound

    BNBSound Active Member

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    I did an outdoor gig a few years ago when I was not so much experienced as a sound tech or an electrician. The problem started out at power up. I was tied into a sub-panel in the pavilion and had sound on one leg and lights on the other. (Unbalanced load, comes up later). I powered up my stuff and watched the volt meter on my rack swing as usual, maybe a little more.

    Shorly thereafter the lighting guy shows up and does his thing. He runs his first cue, everything at full to make sure he's not going to snap any breakers during the performance, and my racks all go into shutdown mode. This also happened to be at the same moment that a very noisy ventilation unit kicked on in a nearby food stand. So I went to look into that and finally got it shut off.

    During the first act, the front man who was bare foot and holding a guitar got zapped in the mouth the first time he approached the mic. Of course the problem had to be with his amp, not my professionally built (by me) distro. So I told him his amp sucked and put a windscreen on the mic so his lips wouldn't touch it.

    Problems continued throughout the night. After it got dark and Mr. Lights started running cues the line voltage started swinging wildly, from as low as 85 (shutting down my racks) up to above 130 (shutting down my racks). It wasn't too long before I told him to just pick a couple static cues and alternate.

    At any rate, the following week I was cotinuing my electrical education at the counter of the local electrical distributor and brought up the situation. As it turned out, the guy who services the venue was at the other end of the counter and said that there was a bad neutral connection at the transformer that had caused some serious damage to the food service equipment before it got repaired. Lucky for me my stuff had protection.

    So here's that balanced load thing. A standard vatiety of electrical service, single phase, has two legs, with 220 volts between them and 120 volts between each leg and ground. If the load is unbalanced between the two legs, (ie. the lighting guy draws more than the sound guy) the difference in amperage shows up on the neutral leg and is safely returned. When the ground floats, then that current has no place to go, and therefore piles up in different places depending on how the ground is bonded.

    In my case, my expertly constructed distro had the ground and neutral bonded. So that current was running to all sorts of interesting places, such as that amplifier I was so critical of. When that juice got through to his strings, that bare foot guitarist became the quickest route to ground for that current, via his lips. (We made up later and are still friends today) What the code requires for a remote panel like my distro is a separate ground bus, so there's a safe path out.

    At any rate, that's my embarrasing story. Mr. "I-work-for-an-electrician" letting his ego run away with him and the result being several dozen volts AC passing through the dental work of an innocent musician. The point is make absolutely sure you know what you're doing when you wire things up. In this case it was only mild discomfort. Be very afraid/respectful of electricity, especially when you start to get comfortable around it. I have a pair of linemans pliers that are firmly welded shut from an encounter with a 200 amp main that I was casually working too close to, alone no less. Were it not for some very good insulation, they wouldn't have found me till after the weekend.
     
  2. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    I agree with your last statement completely. While I know how to work with electricity and what is relatively safe, I get nervous wiring simple things to be attached to 120V mains and carrying less than a few amps! Why? Because if I screw up, people can get hurt, myself included possibly. So if you're not 100% sure you can do it safely and properly, either do it next to a licensed electrician or have a licensed electrician do it for you. The money and time is worth it for the peace of mind you'll have knowing that the chance of something happening is significantly decreased.
     
  3. BNBSound

    BNBSound Active Member

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    That's my point, I was 22, indestructable, and knew everything. Luckily we all lived through it and now I generally find that the more I know the more I need to learn.
     
  4. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Things I learned the hard way:
    some people will not respect you no matter what
    never take crap from people for a long time,people will walk all over you and force you to quit the thing you previously lived for!!!!
     
  5. BNBSound

    BNBSound Active Member

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    Whoa, sounds like you've been eating a s**t sandwitch. My solution is to treat people better when they give me crap. Kill em with kindness. I had another frontman stiff me for two thirds of a $3000 fee and blow me off. He turned up unexpectedly at a show a year later and I just gave him great sound. He approached me nearly in tears at the end of the night to appologise and I got a check two weeks later.
     
  6. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    I have put up with it and acted nice for the past 2 and a half years. Yesterday I reached my boiling point.
     
  7. BNBSound

    BNBSound Active Member

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    Shoot me an e-mail, let's have it out.
     
  8. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    22 and at the top of the world. Been there, done that and agree both with being able to change the world at that age, yet in doing so what's done one will remember what was done and be glad you survived.

    I now take pleasure in making 22 year old's think before they do or act. Much less by the time they achieve the other halmarks of 26 and thirty or more, that they will have a good base of looking before they leep experience in thinking about it beyond limited show must go on, to be useful later.

    This in a way similar to the stick in the mud mentours I had at 22 no doubt had as intention for me. Of even more pleasure I hope I lived up to would be for those I once helped to improve upon and better the things I learned. If you don't set the world on fire, one's hope is that your children or contemporaries of a later date will in your stead.

    This while at the same time attempting to pound some sense into them while they still are 22 and annoying or at least as if soft clay in starting a career.
     
  9. propmonkey

    propmonkey Well-Known Member

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    at 16 i feel as though i need a learning experience. i give to much trust in to ladders that they won't fall, that the light won't burn me or shock me or the plaster ceiling will hold me. i feel as though i need something to knock me down so i won'make a major mistake that will hurt myself a great deal or worse hurt another.
     
  10. BNBSound

    BNBSound Active Member

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    If only everyone was that wise at 16. If you're worried about that stuff at that age, then I'm not worried about you. Learn to be the cautious one who never has accidents and you'll be lovin your insurance premiums. And amen to what Ship said.
     
  11. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Here is a debate, what's the larger huge change in life? 22 or 30?
     
  12. Les

    Les Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I say Watch What You Wish For
     
  13. JahJahwarrior

    JahJahwarrior Active Member

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    I always sorta wish that I'd get shocked. I've accidentily touched onep rong of an edison plug a few times while plugging them in, and yeah I know it's dangerous but the one or two times I've done that on accident it didn't kill me. For all the talk about getting shocked by a Par, I've never been shocked, and that almost dissapoints me. I don't really want to be shcoked, but I kinda do.....

    actually, occasionally I get shocked by 1/4 plugs. Haven't figured out why exactly yet, once it seemed to be because of phantom power. I had it on, and I used a cheap xlr-TRS1/4 adaptor I made, and when I grabbed the 1/4 end....:) happened once before with the lead from an amp.

    I don't want anything to happen to me to scare me and make me more cautious, I just want to lead well and responsibly. I wnat to find that perfect balance in all things of life where I'm really cool about things, yet cautious and safe.

    anyays, Im gonna be late for school! :)
     
  14. Mayhem

    Mayhem Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Sorry it has taken me a while to read this post - have had a few errors with IE lately that have shut down the browser and consequently lost my "New Forum Posts"

    Whilst reading your initial post - two things set off alarm bells for me:

    1. The guitarist getting a boot
    2. Bonded Neutral and Ground on a portable dimmer

    Both of these have already been covered, so I am not going to go there.

    What I am going to say is well done for being man enough to stand here and say "I messed up" I know people that are twice your age who still think they are invincible and I often wonder how they are still alive.

    I much prefer your attitude to those who have that of "The older I get the better I was"

    We all make mistakes - it is whether we learn form them or not that makes the difference.

    Well done

    JahJahwarrior - I don't know about US phones, but ours have a constant supply of about 50V AC. I first found this out when running a phone line from the main junction in my parents house to the shed that I had in the garden. I stripped the ends of the phone cable that I was going to run to my shed and screwed it into the junction box. I then ran the wire to my shed and stripped the ends after I had cut the cable to the desired length. Sounds simple enough? Trouble was that I stripped the wire with my teeth!

    I will not do that again in a hurry. Even touching the feed with my fingers gave a tingle.

    The stupid part was that I didn't know what voltage (if any) was present in the phone line. I had a fairly good idea that it wasn't 240V AC (mains voltage for us) but that was the extent of my knowledge.

    Thus my advice to you is not to wish to be shocked - As it actually feels like a hard swift kick to the love spuds, combined with the pain that results from pulling the affected portion of your body away from the source that it causes the mother of all bruises when it strikes the nearest solid object.

    This all took place was when I was about 13. I would like to think that 20 years on I have learned my lesson and have a bit more knowledge and common sense behind me.

    I would also like to echo the comments of mbenosis. Whilst I am confident of my skills with mains voltage, I always get my 3 phase distros checked by a licensed electrician. In fact, it is the law here. All our extension leads must be safety checked every 12 months. I also do not touch live connections. If I cannot isolate the feed - I get someone that has the qualifications to do so to come in and do that part of the job.
     
  15. mbenonis

    mbenonis Wireless Guy Administrator

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    It's good that you realize these things, especially at 16. I know a few people who are absolutely careless, and will do anything because they think they're invincible. You will probably be one of the safest folks on crew simply because you understand that you are not infallible.

    As far as myself and ladders, I'm a very wary person. For instance, the other day I had to hang a few lights in our black box with a nonmovable grid. Normally the techs just use the extension ladder and lean it on the grid, so that's what I started with. I got half way up and said "no way, this just isn't safe." I proceeded to get our A-frame from the stage, remove its extension so it could move under the grid (the extension is three inches too high for that room), and use that to hang the lights safely.
     
  16. propmonkey

    propmonkey Well-Known Member

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    for our trees in the house we use our little giant full extended and theres a hook on the wall. i got up to the top and realized the ladder was resting on the top of the hook not in the hook. thats the most scared i have ever been. i felt part of my body i dont knwo existed..
     
  17. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    How do you like that Little Giant, Does anyone else here use one? I was thinking about making an investment in a good safe ladder.
     
  18. propmonkey

    propmonkey Well-Known Member

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    we at first i hated it. i still only use for the trees. but using a normal extention ladder on the trees then using the giant, i will never go back.
     
  19. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Used what I think a Little Giant of telescoping legs, standard ladder shaped type last week in changing a Fresnel lamp over the WisiWig area. Despised the with time hard to pull U-Shaped pins that were not easily removed or re-inserted, much less it's lack of ability to be set up for length witout either two people climbing it and extending it without locks in place or in laying it on it's side and guestimating. Much less it's overall weight. Not a ladder one person can manage even for changing a fluorescent shop lamp 8' above the floor.

    For this application in going up about 12', a 12' ladder will in the end have been much easier to use, much less if available given we will have had to move a table under the fixture a classic A-Frame ladder will have been preferred in standing up the ladder, climbing it safely and extending the extension center.

    However, that liking surfing the grid atop a swaying wooden A-Frame mounted on a caster cart is banished to the long gone days of stuff we used to do. In my opinion, the Little Giant or it's cloans are best suited for applications where you don't know what height you will be working at from short to extended. It's a rugged ladder but also very heavy in given you know what height you need, a normal ladder will be much more easily positioned and easy to set up.

    Or given a lack of ability to purchase a few ladders verying in size, this will act as a coverall given it's actual cost no doubt equals a few other ladders that don't adjust.
     
  20. JahJahwarrior

    JahJahwarrior Active Member

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    well, lets just say that I really do enjoy licking almost dead ninevolts. The new ones I just tap with the tongue, but whent hey are more dead, it tingles, but it sorta feels....it feels alittle bit relaxing. Then sometimes it hurts :) But, that's only a few volts, I really don't wish that much to be shocked by even 120 volts ac. I think the occasional ninevolt on the tongue does it for me :) After accidentily touching one of the prongson an edison cable, I'm always much more wary for a while--I guess I want reminders that don't really hurt, but just sorta tingle a little, that I need to be careful with electricity. I respect it, but I want remindres of how much to respect it ;)
     

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