It was more than 34 years ago that the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, was the victim of one of the most calamitous events ever to befall an entertainer on stage. For those of you too young to remember, Jackson was filming a Pepsi commercial onstage when some of the pyrotechnics near him ignited his hair. Jackson was rushed immediately to the hospital where part of his treatment necessitated that he use prescription painkillers. The pop star would eventually become addicted to these painkillers. In 2009 he died from an overdose of painkillers. The point is, although most people see the stage as a place of enjoyment, it can be a dangerous place as well. Here are some general safety guidelines for those of you in the production end of the theater.
- Dimmer rooms and boards: Only qualified and trained employers should operate and maintain dimmers and light boards. Follow all instructions in any manual you receive with our equipment. Also, as a practice never store flammable or combustible equipment near dimmers, dimmer packs or other lighting equipment. Finally, be sure to keep open containers of liquid away from all electronics.
- Cables: In some respects cables are going the way of the dinosaur in our business. However, they are still useful in some instances. Where they do exist, make sure your technicians handle them with care. Use best practices such as: Never wrap cables around support beams or catwalk quad-rails, provide sufficient slack for tethered equipment that may need to be moved, etc.
- Safety equipment: Wear special work clothes when necessary. For example, hard hats should be worn when handling lighting equipment that is being rigged overhead. Also, make sure that workers wear knee pads, non-skids shoes, etc, when moving heavy equipment or when bending.
- Ladders: Never move ladders when people are actually working on them. Moreover, be sure that all ladders are constructed of electrically non-conductive materials. Finally, be sure that there is no horseplay near or on ladders.
- Pyrotechnics: Make sure that all fireworks meet state requirements and that only trained personnel handle such items. Also, make sure that you follow all fire codes. Finally, be sure that you have a diagram showing where each device is located, its fallout radius, when it is to be fired, etc.
Finally, the theater should be a place of wonder, entertainment and enlightenment. It should never be a place where workers, theater goers or actors have to worry about their safety. By following these rules, and others, you can make it a fun place for everyone.