Backstage Safety Tip: No Household Hardware
Here’s a list of hardware you might find backstage in any theatre. One of these things is not like the others—can you guess which one?
- A steel clamp for 1 1/2-inch pipe with a recommended working load (RWL) of 750 pounds
- A trim chain with an RWL of 750 pounds
- A spring link with a working load limit of 315 pounds
- A jaw-and-eye turnbuckle rated for use at an RWL of 1,200 pounds
If you guessed #3—the spring link—is different, you’re right. The specifications on the spring link’s package state outright that this piece of hardware is “not for overhead lifting.”
You might be surprised, however, at how often professional rigging inspectors find these and other household-rated bits of hardware—like twist-link chain, dog clips, S-hooks and spring links—holding up battens and scenery on school and church stages.
Watch out for well-meaning volunteers. Chances are good that one day, some crew member with just enough knowledge to be dangerous will slip in a piece of hardware he dug out of his garage or basement. Usually his intentions are good: He just needs to get a drop or a flat hung during a tight tech week.
What’s wrong with this? None of this household hardware is rated to hang heavy weight over people’s heads. Much of it bears specific warnings against such use on its packaging, but the packages were discarded long ago.
Chains with high RWLs, on the other hand, contain links made of forged steel, with no connecting points that require welding. With no weak point in the link, the chain can handle heavier loads.
Even if the hardware manufacturer rates its hardware for heavy loads, there can be hazards in using it to hang equipment overhead. Most household chain links, for example, are welded or twisted into links. Each weld or twist creates a weak point at which the link can stretch and give way. This kind of chain is rated to hold up a 35-pound child on a swing set, not a 600-pound piece of scenery on a batten.
So what’s the worst that can happen? Weakened chains or clips can drop a piece of scenery to the stage, disrupting a performance. Sometimes the fall damages the scenery, causing canceled performances or an emergency rebuild.
In the worst possible scenarios, an actor or crew member happens to be standing under the scenery when the link gives way. Falling scenery can be deadly.
Safe hardware is a click away. Don’t take unnecessary chances! J. R. Clancy stocks all of the hardware you need to hang weight safely over your actors’ heads. Visit our Rigging Accessories page at www.jrclancy.com. You’ll see all the clamps, clips, chains, and other hardware you need.