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Theatre Safety Issues

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by Dally, Jul 16, 2008.

  1. Dally

    Dally Member

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    So I just started at my current position about two weeks ago. In the meantime I've been noting the lack of overall safeness.
    From having stage plugs in the floor, to lights that they cut the ground off of to make work, to the fact that I can't move lights unless I feel like getting shocked due to the wiring literally coming apart.
    On top of that, the ladders to the grid don't have cages. But do they have safety features of some other sort? No I climbed as far as the loading rail (which you have to go to to get to the fun front of house positions) but at the time I was the only person there and I realised I didn't have my cell phone and I just didn't want to die going the rest of the way up.
    So when you get the the front of house beam positions...you have to crawl. And then you have to slide out over the non-existant rail to focus the lights. With again no fall restraint of any kind.

    So today at lunch I discussed this with my boss who told me that a couple of years ago they had the theatre inspected by the fire marshall, and that she and the TD were super excited about him telling them all of the things that needed to be fixed so admin would do it...but instead, he didnt. Apparently the fire marshall didn't feel like climbing to go to the front of house positions, and didnt bother to notice the lack of any safety equipment. So they have done NOTHING.
    And I'll be honest. I'm not normally a super safe kinda girl..in the past I have been quite happy at the top of an a-frame extension ladder with no fall protection. Perfectly happy to wedge myself in funny places to get the rest of the set painted...but really this is ridiculous. I shouldn't have to be afraid to do my job.
    My husbands friend who checks if his spark plugs are working by licking his finger and putting it in them part that spark (I'm not an engine person), commented on the lack of safty in this place. Which makes me feel like I'm not unreasonable in thinking this is bad.
    So I guess my question is....do you have any suggestions for what I could say or do to get administration to both a. get the wiring fixed, and b. work on these safety issues.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2008
  2. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    Sorry in advance to be blunt, but you asked for suggestions, so here are some suggestions.
    #1. Stop referring to your local Fire Marshal as "stupid". He should be your best friend, as the two of you have a common goal: that of keeping the occupants of your building safe from fire. You've never met the person, so I don't think you have any right to judge his intellect or demean his character.
    #2. A Fire Marshal is not, necessarily, a Safety Officer, and has little, if any, jurisdiction over fall-protection. You might want to check with your local OSHA office on safe working conditions, however...
    #3. It should not take any outside party for an employee to convince administration ("bean-counters") to take precautionary measures to ensure a safe working environment. You were, in theory, hired for your position because of your knowledge and experience. You should be able to draft a written report detailing the problems you see, or foresee, and offer realistic and budget-conscious solutions. Again, citing OSHA regulations or other "industry-standard" practices may be used to help make your case.
    #4. Find out who the insurance carrier is for both worker's compensation and general liability. Often the bean counters will listen to an insurance inspector over all others if he threatens to not issue a policy until unsafe wiring is brought up to code, fall-protection procedures are established, etc.
    #5. Know the code(s) applicable to your situation. NFPA Article 70 (NEC) Section 520, most likely applies, as does NFPA 70E.
    #6. Join, and participate in, USITT and ESTA, as they develop the standards with which we all must comply. Safety is as much your responsibility as the AHJs.
    #7. Never work in a theatre alone, with or without a cellphone. How long to you want to be on the floor, writhing in pain, unable to reach your cellphone, until someone wanders by?
     
  3. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    A. We should move this thread to a different forum as things in the Punching bag are deleted after a few days and I feel this topic may yeild some intersting background info for other folks in your situation.
    B. Fire Marshals are actually only capable of citing fire code infractions. Most of what you describe falls under the purview of either an Electrical inspector, OSHA, or the Campus Director or Office of Safety.

    This is such a tricky dicey area. I've worked in plenty of scary venues over the years < many of them in small towns in Oklahoma BTW > and dealing with Campus Beaucracy can be a real *****. You want a safe venue to work in, you should be afforded a safe venue, but as soon as you raise a stink Admin either shuts down the program shuts you up and shuffles you off. I've seen it happen several times. I like the campuses where only the Maintenance crews < janitors, and the like> can change lamps, move fixtures, etc. because,"... it found to be too dangerous a job for the students."
    I'd start with your campus Safety office, or the campus Maintenance department, they are responsible for maintaining a safe and up to coade facility, se if you can approach the head of that department , and request a walkthough with him < you know it's going to be a fat guy in a baseball cap, right ? > Try, when doing the walkthrough, to not sound whiny or flabbergasted or disdainful, but approach everything from a standpoint of " once this was considered OK but it's time to re-exam some basic new safety rules."
    Hope this works out for you, Keep us informed of your journey.
     
  4. Dally

    Dally Member

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    re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    You know...I thought about changing the title of this thread too when I first posted it, but just couldn't come up with anything else. And my frustration with the fire marshall whom I've never met is surely misplaced, the reason it fell on him is that the way I was told about it was kinda along the lines of..."Well we were really trying, but the fire marshall didn't care, so the university won't do anything. Forget it." I guess thats what I get for actually venting right away is the whole not thinking a whole lot about it before I type. I will definately do some more research on what all specific code violations are. My tech theatre teacher at OU had told me that when he started there he asked OSHA to do a walk-through and tell him anything that needs to be fixed, I might see if I can get them to do that for me, although its a very intimadating thought to attempt to fix EVERYTHING thats wrong.
    I'm also going to talk to the maintainance dept. and see what if anything they might be able to do to help fix this. I've been told they refuse to touch any of the wiring in there...but maybe another attempt will be the one to do it.
    And I'll check into the insurance too, cause that does seem like something that would force them to fix things.
    Thanks for the thoughts, and I will defienatly keep you updated/pester you for other thoughts on this.
     
  5. jwl868

    jwl868 Active Member

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    re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    I can’t add much to Van’s and Derek’s replies.

    So that you can speak with some confidence and knowledge, you can find specific information about ladders and fall protection at OSHA’s website or the OSHA regulations in Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations Part 1910 (Occupational Health and Safety Standards.) See Subpart D – Walking and Working Surfaces beginning at 29 CFR 1910.21 where fixed ladders and fall protection are addressed.

    Electronic Code of Federal Regulations:

    You may also need to refer to 29 CFR 1926 regarding Construction Industry Standards. You should also see if there is a State OSHA and if their rules have any differences. (Many States simply refer to the federal regulations.)

    The OSHA regulations are tedious, have numerous internal cross-references, and are difficult to read. It will take a reading or two (or three) to understand what you really need. Also, the OSHA website includes many “plain-language” summaries and related documents.

    Don’t count on being able to get any direct agency assistance – OSHA is understaffed and their limited resources are directed toward major industries. Your state probably has an OSHA “hotline” that you can call. It may be an anonymous. But bear in mind that an OSHA inspection will lead to a list of violations to be addressed and (as noted by Van) one administrative recourse is to shut things down, rather than make any improvements. Also note that the administration may essentially ignore the OSHA violations and take no action – again, because of limited funding, OSHA has little time to follow up on enforcement.

    Might be a long shot (what with college “turfs” to consider), but if your college has any sort of departments that teach environmental programs, health, or engineering, there may be someone (professor/instructor) who can inspect and/or assist you. (For example, industrial engineering and public health often include occupational issues.)


    You should consider preparing some sort of list of problems with potential solutions and set priorities. Address the biggest hazards first. There may even be easy fixes of lesser hazards that can be dealt with in the near future, too.

    Joe
     
  6. clbarker

    clbarker Member

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    re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    If you're looking for someone outside your orginazation to tell you the problems, a detailed inspection from someone like Custom Stage Services could be an option. They did one for us and recommended fall arrest systems in various high risk areas and we had them installed rather promptly. Awesome people to work with and it sounds like an inspection is just what you need.
     
  7. hillbillyfunk

    hillbillyfunk Member

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    Re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    Hmm... that sounds like Tahlequah
     
  8. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    To quote Schultzie,

    " I know Nothing, Nothing"
    :mrgreen:
     
  9. VeeDubTDI

    VeeDubTDI Member

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    Re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    I am facing a couple of these problems myself. The appropriate people to go to are the folks in your Buildings & Grounds Office (Maintenance, Facilities, Engineers, whatever you want to call them). They should have the electrician come out and take a look at your wiring and make the necessary repairs.

    I've found that problems usually aren't fixed because people don't go to the appropriate department with requests. I can tell my custodians/janitors about a leaking faucet until the oceans dry up, but they're not going to fix it.

    As for safety cages on the ladders and railings in the catwalks, I think you're probably going to open up a big can of red tape worms if you start squawking about that. It's a shame to say, but knowing how college campuses work, I don't think you'll make it very far with that request.

    I'm starting to fight the battle of getting all of my rigging replaced. I'll tell you, it's not a fun battle... not in the least.

    Good Luck!
     
  10. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    Yeah I have to agree that the fire marshal is not the one to be upset at. He really can't do much in these areas. You need to look toward OSHA... but don't start there unless you want to have everyone on campus mad at you.

    Step one. Study the law and create a list of hazards that concern you.
    The first thing I would do is drop $80 and pick up a copy of Dr. Doom's book Practical Health and Safety Guidelines for School Theater Operations This book will really help you identify the safety risks. It will also be a great resource for step two.

    Second, go to your campus risk management people and ask them to come take a tour with you. Remember its that person's job to find dangers and figure out how to make things safer, so this person is your biggest ally. Have Dr. Doom's book on hand with issues tagged and easy to find so you can point out what he says in the book and the real life problems. You'll probably scare the crap out of this person... I wouldn't show them every problem, just pick a few blatant ones.

    Third is to work with the Administration and the Risk Management department to propose solutions that won't be extremely expensive.

    It's going to be a long fight. Find the most dangerous things and address them first. Don't ask for $100k up front, ask for $10k a year to fix things in phases.
     
  11. Dally

    Dally Member

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    Re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    In an update.... I've been going through OSHA regs, and making a list of specific rules that we are breaking, I've also made a list of all of the safety issues I could spot, and am slowly adding more as I find them.
    I'm trying to knock the smaller items off the list, i.e. stage weights that are the wrong size for the arbors just smashed on diagonally; I've almost replaced them all with the correct size, still working on the last few to get them off. I'm really just trying to either fix or come up with a cost effective solution for everything.
    Which I've mainly succeeded on, all except the wiring. Or un-grounded outlets. I'm turning off the dimmers for my stage plugs because we don't have adapters, or the lights to utilize them anyhow. The wiring is the main issue however, so I'm just working on putting a sound argument together before I present it to administration. So thats about it, slow and steady wins the race is what I hear.
    But I'll definately be buying Dr.Dooms book...any resources of other people saying the same thing is always good in an appeal for help.
     
  12. DaveySimps

    DaveySimps CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    +1 on the Dr. Doom book. I got it last year, and it is a fantastic resource. Lots of information.

    ~Dave
     
  13. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    Re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    Shortly after our new shop building was completed, we had OSHA do a walkthrough. The inspector found several issues, that we, frankly, would never even have thought about, but overall found our new building to be safe and in compliance with OSHA regulations and gave us suggestions on how to deal with the problems that came up in the inspection. We fixed the issues that were brought up, and now have a safer shop facility because we took the initiative and asked OSHA for their help. The inspector commented that she wished more organizations would do what we did.
     
  14. cdub260

    cdub260 CBMod CB Mods

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    Re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    I believe it was "I know Nothink, Nothink.":rolleyes:
     
  15. Fireguy551

    Fireguy551 Member

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    Re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    I was TD/Ops manager for a university venue that hadn't had any love since the 70s. The best thing I did was make friends with the head of the maintenance department (Janitorial, Electrical, Grounds and General Maintenance) Throwing the heads comp tickets to your show will get you at the top of the friend lists.

    For minor repairs that don't require an electrical license or permits offer to get your staff to help in the repair if they get you the parts. I am willing to bet that your building isn't the only sore spot on the campus for the safety department. You should also view your relationship with the campus fire marshal and the safty guy should be a partnership. Sit down the 3 of you and talk about what can be done to fix the building until a renovation can happen. Maybe take the initiative and get some approved vendors in to do estimates on repairs?

    Just a couple of random thoughts...
     
  16. FMEng

    FMEng Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    Re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    More and more colleges and universities have an occupational health and safety officer. They are your friend. I would imagine that larger school districts are hiring them, too.

    Don't expect overnight miracles on costlier changes, but things can eventually happen once you get onto the budget radar. Budgets are often planned a year or two in advance.
     
  17. SHARYNF

    SHARYNF Well-Known Member

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    Re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    Can you explain the ungrounded outlets? are they standard edison and the ground is not connected or are they two pin plugs?
    Sharyn
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2008
  18. philhaney

    philhaney CBMod CB Mods

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    Re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    If the theater is old enough, there may be two-prong (same size or one pin wider) Edison outlets in the walls, but my guess here is that someone used a two-prong household extension cord and pulled the ground pin on the instrument to make it fit. I'll bet they nipped the wings off the neutral pin on the extension cord (if it was polarized), too. :evil:
     
  19. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Re: Stupid Fire Marshal

    Receptacles are two-pin Bates females. Rather than drilling a center hole as most would do, users apparently removed the center pin on fixtures' males'.
     
  20. dvsDave

    dvsDave Benevolent Dictator Administrator Senior Team CB Mods Fight Leukemia

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    I changed the title of [-]the[/-] this thread. The content and advice is too valuable not to be under [-]that[/-] the current heading (easier to find).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2008

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