A Safe Day in the Life
Everyone has something to say or an opinion about the recent epidemi of disasters, accidents and near misses plaguing the entertainment industry lately. ...Myself included. I’ve heard, however, that opinions are like assholes. And roadies are, if anything, a bunch of assholes. ...Myself included. Opinion and speculation won’t bring back our friends that died, nor will they heal the injured. In fact, they only serve to fuel the emotional fires already burning. So... as far as I’m concerned, while there is a need for public discourse about these things, opinion and speculation is best left to the cops and lawyers. We need to focus on safety and how to prevent future disasters.
I’m an audio engineer. I routinely hang heavy columns of speakers over the heads of the people who either sign my paychecks or pay for the tickets. Sometimes these heavy things weigh in excess of 10,000 lbs. That’s a LOT of ouch if something goes wrong.
So... from a sound guy perspective, here’s a basic walkthrough of how I approach any rigging situation.
1.) I wake up. Have a stretch, clean up, have a coffee and approach my gig WIDE AWAKE and READY TO GO. Make faces and snicker all you want to, I’ve seen groggy or hungover roadies make stupid mistakes. Luckily we back each other up and I haven’t been privy to disaster, but being in the right frame of mind is the first thing anyone can do to be safe.
2.) Before I meet the local rigger, I do all of the measurements and enter the data into the acoustical prediction software. Now when I meet with the local rigger, I can easily change something quickly rather than waste their time while I draw the whole thing.
3.) I meet with the local head rigger. A friendly introduction and quick chat with them will help me assess what I can safely fly. I let them know the exact weight of the PA hangs. Trim height is measured to the inch and typically a Delta plate or other means of steering the PA mechanically is implemented to allow some flexibility in the placement of the points.
4.) If at any point the rigger raises concerns about the safety of the hang, I LISTEN. If at any point I have concerns about the safety of the hang, I MAKE SURE SOMEONE LISTENS. There is NEVER an opportunity for an accident due to lack on knowledge or awareness.
5.) Some tours have tour riggers. Some don’t . Regardless, I mark my own points. If we have a tour rigger, I mark the points with them. I know where my rig will hang, where it will point and how it will hang. I try to find dead hangs to make the locals happy. If not, I double check the math on the bridle. The math isn’t difficult but if you’re not the mathematical type, there are apps for iPhone and Android that will calculate a bridle very quickly.
6.) Since I’m in new venues every day with new people helping me every day, I give detailed instructions on how to safely fly the system and maintain a “hands on” approach to rigging. It’s MY PA (yes, I know some sound company owns it, but while it’s in my hands, I consider it mine and treat it as such) and MY PA will be hung safely and properly.
7.) Maintaining good and tidy cable management is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it’s a good practice for safety. Cables can be trip or head injury hazards. Keeping the cables tidy also speeds up the load-out.
8.) Once the system is in the air and flown to trim, I make the motor controls safe but accessible.
9.) For the load out, I give the same rigging lesson to the stagehands and have the same attentive approach as the load-in.
This stuff ain’t rocket surgery people. Make sure the shackles are finger tight, not wrenched and keep the pins horizontal. Side addressed shackles are a no-go. Make sure the Gak-Flex or spansets being used are properly wrapped and terminated with a shackle. Check the steel before sending it up. Look for frayed or broken strands and if you find one, throw that piece out. Know the weight of what you are hanging and know the weight capacity of where it is to be hung. If you are BARELY under capacity, reconsider your hang.
If you know nothing about rigging... If you don’t know the difference between a dynamic load and a dump truck... you can still practice rigging safety. The FIRST step is to pay attention. If you don’t know something, ASK. If something looks wrong, SAY SOMETHING. Safety is everyone’s job.
One last thing... Be aware of your surroundings and wear a damn hardhat. I used to hate those things. Hardhats aren’t very comfortable and they are awkward to wear. Then I did a gig recently where a shackle, a c-wrench and a hammer all fell from the grid (a careless rigger didn’t secure his tools) within 10 minutes of each other and within 5 feet from my noggin. While I cursed the rigger’s questionable skills and parenting with colorful language, nothing I said could have fixed a broken skull. I went to Lowe’s and bought a hat the next day.
Be careful out there,