Time to Inspect Your Rigging?

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J.R. ClancyFive Facts to Convince Your Board

Your stage rigging may be decades old or installed in the last few years, counterweight or motorized, and in good working order or sad and saggy—but no matter what, it’s important to have it inspected regularly by a qualified professional. It can be challenging, however, to get your board of directors to loosen the purse strings, especially if the rigging seems to be working just fine.

Here are some facts to help you get the allocation you need to pay for an inspection:

  1. It’s an OSHA regulation. Here’s what OSHA says:
    29 CFR 1926.550 Cranes and derricks, 1926.550(a)(6): A thorough, annual inspection of the hoisting machinery shall be made by a competent person, or by a government or private agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. The employer shall maintain a record of the dates and results of inspections for each hoisting machine and piece of equipment.You and your board may think this statute only applies to industrial sites, but it’s meant for any site that uses machinery to hoist weight over people’s heads.
  2. The venue is responsible. Since there’s an OSHA statute that requires it, if something happens to a crewmember or actor onstage because the rigging has not been properly maintained, your organization will be held liable. Accidents leads to lawsuits, especially if someone is seriously injured (or worse) by damaged rigging.
  3. Volunteers and inexperienced crewmembers do crazy things with rigging. They certainly mean well, but people who are new to theatre technology often look for ways to solve a problem quickly with whatever they have on hand … so you may find that your biggest piece of scenery is hanging from a piece of chain meant for walking a 15-pound dog. That’s an accident waiting to happen.
  4. These crazy things may be completely hidden from view. You may have no idea that a hazardous situation exists about your head, because you can’t see it from the stage floor.
  5. Crew members may not know how to operate the rigging properly. Worse, they may feel shy about asking the right questions, or they may not even know what questions to ask. You can build a training session into your inspection, so your stage crew learns to use the rigging from a competent professional.

If you work in a school setting, you may be able to get a rigging inspection even if your board still won’t budge. Apply to the Rigging Safety Initiative through USITT. You may be one of the lucky schools selected to receive a grant that will pay for your rigging inspection.

Otherwise, try giving your board a backstage tour. Point out all the things that may be hazards involving the rigging: slack rope lines, broken arbors, odd pieces of hardware that don’t belong with your rigging, bent battens, and more. If they see it for themselves, they may agree that an inspection needs to become a high priority. Good luck!

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