Stage Safety

Mark Wilson from Theatre Compliance and Service explains why all venues which hang loads above people’s heads need an annual safety inspection.

A few years I was doing an inspection at a major suburban theatre when the brake failed on an old-fashioned winch and the chain went into freefall.

When the handle spins quickly it can take skin off people’s hands. I saw a technician have his finger opened quite badly because he could not get it out of the way fast enough.

Another time I saw a bar go into freefall at a school and it was lucky no-one was under it. Naturally, whatever is on top of the bar – a speaker or lights – gets damaged.

The winches are no longer compliant and are being replaced by an electric pile hoist or an electric drum hoist.  The pile hoist is the cheaper option favoured by smaller venues, whereas the drum hoist gives stage operators more control.

Sometimes schools get a handyman to hang things using chains they pick up from a hardware store. This is not acceptable. Theatres need to instal a rated chain from a rigging store.

To be fully compliant, any venue which lifts equipment above people’s heads needs an annual inspection.

My company inspects venues ranging from small schools, to rural theatres and major city venues such as Sydney’s State Theatre.

The key things we are looking for are the rigging, to make sure all the chains and shackles are rated and compliant to lift a load above people.

We examine whether the nuts and bolts are tight enough and if they have the correct washers.

To arrange for an inspection contact Mark Wilson 0419 144 868

Images (from top): old non-compliant winch, new compliant pile hoist and a Theatre Compliance inspection at Sydney’s Knox Grammar.