Welcome to the Pushworth In House Production Safety Guide. Bands coming in and out each week, a variety of weather conditions, punters, staff, food, drinks – whata bloody nightmare to maintain! Who knows who has done which to what and when??? Here is a quick basic guide to keeping this system Safe.
Maintenance and Safe Use of In House System
Taking all reasonable steps to ensure your own safety – as well as the safety of anyone else who is likely to be affected by what you do – is a legal requirement.
Live show always involve both production personnel and the general public, and require vigilance from everyone on the production side. Regardless of what anyone else is doing about risk management, your own efforts should be to:
- Look out for any actual or potential hazards, and where any are identitfied, seek ways to
- Reduce or remove the hazard.
- Reduce or eliminate the risk.
Removal or elimination is the primary objective: only look at reducing a hazard or risk if it cannot be eliminated.
Hazards are anything that may cause harm.
Risk is the likelihood of harm being caused.
In other words:
- Where something might cause harm, look at ways to avoid it or make it less harmful.
- Also look at ways to make a harmful event impossible or less likely.
An example might be where lighting crew will need to work above the stage. A hazard is something – tools or equipment – falling onto someone working underneath, and the likelihood of it happening is a risk. Designating the stage a hard-hat area reduces the potential harm (reduces the hazard). Keeping the stage clear of all personnel while overhead work is in progress reduces the risk. Both enforcing hard-hat use and restricting access during overhead work are important risk-management steps.
Most live productions present a variety of potential hazards and risks. Probably the easiest way to identify these (and get some perspective on your priorities) is to carry out a Risk Assessment per show. Click Here for Safe Work Australia Risk Assessment Information.
Safe Work Method Statement
Each band will have developed their own Safe Work Method Statement. Review a copy for each band to ensure the safety of your In House system can be integrated.
Essentially this is a description of what you are planning to do, and how and when you will carry it out. If several people or organisations are involved, it should also detail who will be responsible for each task (and, where relevant, to whom they are answerable). A SWMS does not have to be long, complicated, or excessively detailed (indeed, its main purpose is as a reference document for all parties, so clarity and brevity are important).
As far as touring productions are concerned, the main everyday considerations are about moving equipment in and out of a venue safely. Considerations being:
- Heavy Items.Can they be moved without being carried? How can they be lifted safely? How many people are needed to lift or carry them?
- Personal Protection.Anyone moving heavy equipment should always wear gloves, which should be able to grip securely as well as offering some protection for the hands. Depending on the equipment and the production, they might also need steel-capped boots or shoes (again, grip is important as well as protection), hard hats (if anyone is working overhead, whatever they are doing), or high-visibility clothing (particularly if cherry-pickers, fork-lift trucks, or other site traffic will be in the same area).
- Have you got enough people, trolleys, ramps, and other lifting or moving equipment to do the job safely in the time available?
The electricity supply itself must be safe (i.e. earthed, breaker-protected, and adequate for the load placed on it). One way to extend power‑supply safety is to use 30mA Residual Current Detectors (RCDs) at every 230V 13A mains outlet. These are available – often for less than £10 – from any DIY store (as well as from many high-street retailers). A particular advantage of these is that they work by comparing the current on the outgoing (live) and return (neutral) conductors, so offer some protection even where the earth connection to a socket is compromised.
Also, all portable electrical equipment should be regularly inspected and checked for electrical safety. Where that equipment is used in a workplace or public area, maintaining it in a safe condition is a legal requirement. A live event is both a workplace and a public area.
The most common method of checking equipment is safe is the Portable Appliance Test (also known – employing a redundant recursive – as the PAT Test). One part of the test – which requires a calibrated tester and someone who knows how to use it – checks two things: that the equipment casing is electrically isolated from mains circuits, and (in the case of earthed equipment) that the earth connection is sound. The other part of the test is a visual inspection. A calibrated tester may reveal invisible faults, but there should be NO visible faults. Far more faults are found by inspection than by testing, so visual inspection is important, and doesn’t require specialist equipment. If you can see something wrong with it DO NOT USE IT. Even minor visual flaws should not be overlooked: if the indicator neon on a mains distribution board has failed, its safety has been compromised (anyone who didn’t know the light had failed might wrongly assume that it was not live).
Unsafe Equipment Check List
Leads obviously need to be tagged and tested every six months.
Get your equipment tested to protect everyone especially you in the case of a malfunction. Ensure all instruments and equipment and leads that are plugged into your In House system have a current Testing certificate. No Certificate No Play.
Check all cable connectors that may be exposed to rain, dew, or other sources of moisture. They should be at least splash-proof (IP44), and preferably even more watertight.
Positioning and Connecting Equipment
After electricity the most obvious dangers come from cables or other objects – notably the legs of stands – creating a trip hazard, or from equipment that is insecurely stacked or suspended.
Trip hazards are often a common-sense matter. However, if it hasn’t already occurred to you:
- Don’t run cables on the floor across thoroughfares (and try to avoid running them across any open spaces: use walls and other boundaries). If there is absolutely no alternative to running a cable across a thoroughfare then:
- Cover it, preferably with a purpose-made cable strip, or matting and/or
- Make it visiblewith hazard tape, or
- Bury itif it is on grass (but speak to the owner or person in charge before you dig up their croquet lawn).
NEVER RUN ANYTHING ON THE FLOOR ACROSS A FIRE EXIT. Don’t obstruct (or place any obstruction or trip hazard close to) a fire exit.
- Don’t allow the legs of speaker stands to project into thoroughfares. If you really can’t avoid it, put waist-high barriers around them, or – at the very least – use hazard tape to make them clearly visible. You can also use hazard tape to mark the floor around them. Note, however, that no matter how well they are marked, obstacles below waist-height in very crowded areas may not be clearly visible to people near them.
- Secure all loose cables (and remember that everyone is at risk from them, even the performers, and even you). Use cable ties overhead, or gaffer tape on the floor. In outdoor events, use matting to cover cables in any thoroughfares, or lift a couple of inches of turf with a spade and cover them that way. If you want an easier life, check you have power where you need it before you tape power cables down, check your speakers are working before you tape speaker cables down, and line-test before you tape signal cables down.
- Take care where you place toolboxes and other similar objects. Under the console or on top of the amp rack or on a table is good. On the floor in a public aisle or backstage walkway is bad.
- Take extra care – where you put your feet as well as where you put equipment – in poorly-lit areas.
Speakers are often stacked, raised on stands, or flown. Lighting – with the exception of uplighters – is always raised, and usually flown. Flown systems should only ever be suspended from certified load-bearing mounting-points by qualified personnel. If a speaker or lantern falls 4 metres into a crowded auditorium it will probably kill someone. If you need us – or anyone else – to fly a system of ours at your event, speak to us about it before hiring it.
However, more people are injured (and more equipment is damaged) by stacks or stands collapsing or falling over than by flown equipment falling.
Hazards to Watch Out For
While the show itself may call for hearing protection, there are also risks during set-up: production crew may be working near loudspeakers, and the full output of a 134dB/1m speaker feeding back when someone un-mutes a channel at the desk can do permanent damage in no time at all to the ear that is less than a foot away from it.
Also, it is quite common during sound-check for technical crew to be needed on stage, where monitor levels (usually determined by the musicians) may be higher than advisable even for short periods of exposure.
Generally, therefore, it is good practice for anyone involved where there is a risk of high sound pressure levels to wear some form of hearing protection. In addition, however, setting up should be planned so that:
- Nobody’s ear is anywhere near a loudspeaker when anything is un-muted;
- Nobody’s finger is anywhere near a mute button while crew are working immediately in front of loudspeakers.
We recommend that you seek the advice of a licenced Workplace Health and Safety Officer at all times.