Ensuring safety in rental and staging

In the June edition of InAVate magazine Tim Kridel finds out from industry veterans from across the EMEA region how to ensure safety when staging live events. Here, in the first of a series of Q&A's, Tim talks to Manu Abraham, HSE manager at UAE headquartered Eclipse Staging Services.

TK: In your experience, what are the top five AV-related best practices and tips for ensuring a safe rental/staging event?

MA: 1) Effective Planning & Risk Assessment
Effective planning is crucial to holding a safe event. The project management team at Eclipse Staging Services oversees every aspect of event planning, from concept to completion and staff are technically aware of supply and install suitability. By their very nature, live events carry an element of uncertainty which means project managers often have to prepare for design changes; all the while ensuring safety is main priority. Fundamentally the safety foundation for any event is based on the risk assessment and method statement which is a procedure put in place at planning stage. Eclipse executes a risk assessment on every event that is managed by us, not just so that risks are documented but also so that control measures can be put in place.

2)Safe Installation of Truss
With our in-house rigging department, Eclipse is equipped to plan for safe installation of truss. The concert touring sector has seen an increase in the number and severity of life-safety disasters at live events over the last few years; consequently for a staging company such as Eclipse, planning ahead is mandatory for safe installation of trusses and towers. Drawings and weight calculations for fixtures are carried out prior to set up and our experienced rigging HOD oversees and inspects the entire mechanism to ensure everything is installed safely.

3) Electrical Safety
Naturally for an AV company, electrical safety is always going to be a leading priority. Before any event, the respective technical departments (Lighting, Video, Audio & Power) will carry out a comprehensive regime of Portable Appliance Testing to ensure that equipment is electrically safe. Test certification is available on request. Furthermore, the power department here at Eclipse are all power management specialists, which in turn makes them superior in selecting, installing and maintaining electrical equipment.

Eclipse introduced a daily electrical inspection checklist for their electricians; the checklist confirms all precautions are undertaken and that there is a consistent standard maintained on every site. All of our DB’s are covered with suitable protection through RCD’s and MCB’s, which are thoroughly and regularly vetted and tested for assurance. Every connection we own here at Eclipse is top of the range and IP44 rated, leading to more safety against water. We as a company also recommend that our first-aid trained electricians work in pairs where possible, as another safety measure.

4)Working at Height
One of the biggest hazards to consider in this industry would be working at height. Selection of staff is crucial for any activity that requires working at height. In house safety training is provided and the management team certainly only selects competent and trained staff for such a task. Eclipse strictly stipulates that any member of staff that is working at a height of more than two metres off the ground requires a safety harness. An emergency rescue procedure is in place as well so as to recover anyone who might fall and be left suspended by the harness in mid-air.

5)Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE is utilized throughout many industries as a method to protect employees from hazards which are present in the working environment. In the AV industry, employees regularly face risky situations (as discussed above) and as a result correct PPE is mandatory for safety precautions. PPE is required for both on-site and warehouse based work.

With the belief that it is the responsibility of the company to provide suitable and sufficient PPE for staff, Eclipse delivers stringent guidelines at the time of an employee’s induction, and offer in depth explanation regarding all items of personal protective equipment, strictly instructing when and where it needs to be applied. Our policy is to provide and maintain safe and healthy working conditions, equipment and systems of work for all our employees, and to provide such information, training and supervision as they need for this purpose.

To this end we have invested in an in-house HSE Manager to coordinate all health activities of the company.

TK: In your experience, what are the top things that rental/staging companies and other AV pros – as well as venue owners, artists and others – often overlook that can affect the safety of an event?

MA: Meteorological-related problems are infrequent out here in Dubai. Nevertheless, storms over the last few months have caused disruptions on site. Weather warnings are now sent to PM’s and technicians on site so any safety precautions can be arranged (such as the lowering of a video screen which may become unstable during high winds, and the covering of electrical equipment from the rain).

Staff well-being also needs to be considered during long, hot days on site. Eclipse ensures that bottles of water and hydralyte (a rehydration solution) are sent to site so that in the event that personnel are unable to leave site, they are at least able to have refreshment during their break time.

TK: Venue owners typically provide (e.g., on their website) the specs for their facility, but from what I’ve seen, those specs are typically heights, widths, etc. rather than how much weight a stage or truss can support. So how can a crew determine whether a part of the venue can safely accommodate something? And when the venue owner does provide those specs, can they be taken at face value or should the crew somehow verify those figures?

MA: Power – Is there power supply available and where is it located? Is it RCD protected? Is the breaker the same rating as the connector? Hanging points in ceiling – A venue in principle should have these load tested on an annual basis by a third party company and have the certificates readily available.

Logistics - The logistics for moving equipment into the venue need to be evaluated, particularly if there is a lift involved – what weight can it carry? At Eclipse, a project manager will always conduct a site visit for a new venue (for venues that we have previously worked with, we would have previous records to follow and would use those for any plans). Project managers will take their own measurements and double check the dimension specs given, as a secondary assessment. Our in house CAD designer will draw out a technical plan based on these figures.

TK: What are some tips for staying on time and on budget?

MA: Important to staying on budget and on time is to know the job from concept; having a detailed brief, meeting with the client and receiving clear instruction for what is required and the schedule is essential. Client budget typically is discussed and agreed upon first thing. With the necessary equipment, crew and transport all added, we aim to work within said budget – we use kit that is appropriate to suit the budget, all the while maintaining the good quality Eclipse is renowned for.

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