Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hear! Hear!

Ever have that funny ringing in your ears that just won't go away?  Maybe feel like you can hardly hear anyone around you and you have to speak-up to be be heard?  Maybe everyone thinks your audio mix sucks, but they won't tell you?  It could be that you have suffered hearing damage. This can be very serious, as most damage is collectively irreversible - it just gets worse, and never gets better.

"Say what?"  "Huh?"  "Could you please repeat that?"  "Speak-up a little, I didn't quite get that."  Sound familiar?  It could be that you have suffered hearing damage and aren't aware of how extensive it is.

There is Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS) which is where your ability to hear quieter sounds is diminished but recovers over the next day or so.  This is common if you are working around loud machinery or at a loud concert.

Then there is the more serious part:  The permanent damage.  Each time you are exposed to loud sounds you can loose a little bit of your hearing forever.  Hearing Loss is cumulative and is not reversible.

Another common symptom is the ringing in your ears that just won't go away.  This is Tinnitus.  The intensity may vary over time, but it, too, is generally permanent.

What can you do to prevent further damage to your ears?  Learn about hearing loss prevention and educate those around you.  It is important to involve others as it is often noises that occur due to the actions of others that affect you the most.

A good first step is to get a base-line assessment of your current hearing capabilities. Go to a hearing specialist (audiologist) and have your hearing tested.  Keep a record of the test.  Go back for regular check-ups to see of you hearing damage is getting progressively worse.

What you can do:
  • Wear hearing protection whenever possible.  This can be in-the-ear-canal 'plugs' or it can be over-the-ear 'muffs' or headsets.
  • Warn others, and have others warn you, if they are about to make loud noises like hammering, dropping metal objects, or running saws.
  • Post Hearing Protection information and signage around the workplace.
  • If other workers or management don't want to recognize the problem, then see about getting a wearable noise exposure meter (Personal Noise Dosimeter) so you can document the sound levels in your workplace.  Yes, these work in rock-n-roll nightclubs, too, where both the patrons and the staff can be exposed to excessive sound levels night after night.
  • If you use ear-buds, headphones, or loudspeakers to listen to music, make sure that you are not 'cranking it up to 11'.  Discipline yourself to be reasonable (hey, you neighbors will appreciate it, too).
H.E.A.R. -
Earbud -
db Logic -
House Ear Institute -
iHearSafe -
Hearing Protection Guide -
Hearing Loss Prevention Organization -
Dangeous Decibels -
Web MD -

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bangin' heads in the workplace


At this time of year, football seems to dominate the the national attention as the Superbowl approaches.  Many types of sports present the performers (players) with opportunities for severe head injuries.  It seems like concussions have shown up in every corner of the football world over the past year:  on the field, on locker room posters, in Congressional hearings, in labor negotiations. There's even a blog devoted to them.  Whenever you talk about concussions, you inevitably end up talking about helmets.

Working in theatres is no different. We encounter low-lying beams, pipes, conduit, all-thread, the sharp edges and corners of stage lighting instruments, and the occassional metal flange or rebar sticking out where we least expect it. Of course, we also spend an inordinate amount of time around other people (Remember them? They are the most dangerous thing in the theatre!) that may not be watching where they are going with that oversized chunk of wood, scenery, ladder, or scaffolding.

Wearing a hard hat doesn't make you a geek. Get over the concern about making a fasion statement.  In fact, many theatres REQUIRE that they be worn.

The nature of our work in the theatre causes many of us to spend alot of time bent over working on stuff, so keeping a hard hat on your head can be a bit of a problem.  There is an easy fix for this:  Get a chin strap to keep your hard hat in-place.m  they cost very little and they can keep you from calling HEADS! from the catwalk as your hard hat plumets to the floor below.

One thing to keep in mind when purchasing a chin strap is to look at the clips that attach to the hard hat.  Some products only have a bent metal 'U', while others have a clip type attachment like show here.  These are much easier to keep in place and are highly recommended.
ANSI standard OSHA approved hard hats are fairly inexpensive (usually under $10) and the chin straps are even less.  These shoudl be fairly easy to justify for your budget, as a football helmet cost between $50 and $400.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

RigCalc for smart phones and on the web

D2 Flying Effects are riggers that fly people and things.  They are also pretty savy programmers, too.  At their web site you can find RigCalc and a bevy of other software tools for making life on the fly rail easier.

They also have a Rigging Math Primer online at:

There are a bunch of really handy online calculators at:

The smart phone app looks like this (2 of 4 screens shown):

A really handy app for stackin' steel bricks.
If they add a batten loading calculator to get the needed weight it will be great.

Just $9.99.  Where to get it:

Also available for the iPhone and Blackberry with links at:
Other related blog entries:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!" - Ollie

StageCo has been sued in Texas state court by Christie Lites for damages sustained when a 90-foot lighting tower erected by StageCo collapsed prior to a nationally televised motocross event at the historic Fort Worth Stockyards in June, 2009.
Christie Lites, Plaintiff in the lawsuit styled Cause No. 096 246397 10; Christie Lites Dallas, Inc. d/b/a Christie Lites v. StageCo U.S., Inc.; In the 96th Judicial District Court in and for Tarrant County, Texas alleges that StageCo was negligent in the design and construction of the tower. A specialized lighting array and equipment owned by Christie Lites, elevated atop the tower was totally destroyed.

Christie Lites CEO Huntly Christie commented that it was extremely fortunate that the collapse of the tower occurred just days prior to the scheduled event, with only physical damage to the lighting array, grandstands, and general admission area.  Had the tower collapsed during the event it might have caused severe injury, and possible loss of life, to spectators and field personnel.  The tower collapse was initiated by wind gusts that blew as a storm passed through the area.  Engineering analysis of the structure, tie-downs, and other safety precautions have not been made public.

Christie Lites has an outstanding safety record in the industry.  Prior to this incident it has never had to take legal action against a fellow industry vendor.  Attempts to resolve this matter amicably have been frustrated since the filing of the lawsuit.

Tom Bilsen, Stageco Operations Manager states: “Stageco takes its responsibilities very seriously, we are fully insured, so all parties will be appropriately protected and reimbursed.  “Following this unfortunate incident we initiated our own investigation; there are multiple parties and multiple factors under consideration such as unpredicted wind gusts, and most importantly, there were no injuries. This law suit relates to the collapse of one of eight towers days before the event which took place as planned.  We anticipate the judges will need time to resolve this complex matter.”

Christie Lites is seeking actual damages in excess of $500,000, and to ensure that this type of incident does not jeopardize public safety for future events, $1,000,000 in punitive damages.  Actual damages likely include the actual cost and the lost revenue cost of the destroyed lighting equipment, and the extensive overtime labor required to clean-up the wreckage, ship-in new equipment, and set-up for the show a second time under a very compressed time-table.  There was no mention at this time of the costs or law suits by other show support vendors like those supplying the viewing stands, seating, or other nearby damaged structures.  The disassembly of a toppled structure is very hazardous, as well, and requires special precautions against additional worker injuries during the salvage and clean-up operations.

Inquiries or witnesses to the event should be directed to Scott Douglas Cunningham, The Cunningham Law Firm, 7500 San Felipe, Suite 1010, Houston, Texas; (713) 273-8950, counsel for Christie Lites.

The past few years have had numerous show tents, towers, and other venue structures that have been toppled by high winds and inadequate anchorage.  It should be no surprise that towers, canopies, and tents must be well secured against high winds.  Failure to provide adequate anchorage and structural integrity for temporary structures has resulted in numerous deaths, injuries, and significant property damage.

It is imperative that promoters, staging companies, and other industry professionals take note of the risks involved with outdoor events when it comes to the unpredictability of natural forces.  It is essential that someone be stationed where they can scan the horizon for threatening weather activity, have continuous access to weather radar reports, and have the authority to call a show and evacuate an event site should inclement conditions arise.  Event evacuation plans must have time-tables that estimate the amount of time required for an orderly egress from the venue, as you don't want patrons caught out in the open on the way to transportation or more robust shelters.
Physical threats to the public and staff alike include:
  • Hail ( a 4" ball of ice can do a lot of damage!  This blogger was witness to the 1995 MayFest Hail Storm in Fort Worth where hundreds of people could not get to safe shelter and were pelted by enormous ice balls - see:
  • Wind (can blow people over and blow chairs, tables and other loose items into people)
  • Lightning (can knock-out power and emergency power, and electrocute people)
  • Rain (can provide a path for power to electrify nearby items, cause flooding of pathways and egress routes, and result in canopy collapses, cars and people being carried away in rushing water)
  • Dust (kicked-up by wind, can temporarily blind and cause panic due to reduced visibility)
An any of these weather threats can instigate crowd mentality panic and rushing for exits, which, in turn, can cause people to push, shove, and possibly crush someone that has fallen into the path of the surging crowd.  Proper Emergency Crowd Control Planning is a must for outdoor events.

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