February 13, 2013, by Craig Leerman
We don’t often think of concert and event production as being a dangerous profession, but far too many accidents and injuries - and sometimes even deaths - occur each year in our chosen profession.
Most of these accidents are caused by human error and can be avoided if we simply pay attention to what we’re doing and follow basic safety rules. Here are a few things (and more) to keep in mind:
Always wear eye protection when using tools or working in an area where others are using tools. We only get one set of eyes in our lifetime.
Our ears are our livelihood, so hearing protection is a must.
Wear gloves when loading in/out, and especially when working with ropes, aircraft cables, or chain.
Remember to lift with your legs, not your back! And get help when moving heavy and/or bulky items.
Wear closed-toe footwear at gigs. Even better, go with steel toe boots.
Make sure electrical power is off before connecting or disconnecting power and/or feeder cables.
For feeders, always connect ground wires first, then neutral wires, and finally, hot legs. Disconnect in reverse order (hot legs, neutral, ground).
Protect power cords from damage and avoid creating trip hazards with cable covers or ramps, or by using a cable bridge and running cables overhead, out of harm’s way.
When using a portable generator, make sure that a ground rod is in place and connected properly to the generator.
Keep a first aid kit in your vehicles, and one at the event site. Now is a good time to check your kits and restock any supplies.
Never block a fire exit with equipment or cases.
Check fire extinguishers to make sure they’re in good operating condition. Repair, recharge or replace them as needed.
Be sure all portable ladders are set up correctly and are stable before using.
Wear a correctly sized harness when working off the ground or operating lifts. Now is a good time to check harnesses and lanyards to make sure they’re in good condition.
Always tie off with lanyards when working off the ground. Wearing a harness does no good if you’re not tied off to a good anchor.
And check anchor points before relying on them with your life!
Only qualified people should design rigging systems or perform rigging.
That said, anybody who sees any problem with rigging (or any other safety issue for that matter) can call “stop” and point out the issue so it can be addressed and corrected to avoid an accident or injury.
Only properly trained and certified persons should operate lifts and material handling equipment like fork trucks. Be especially careful when operating machines around people.
Many machines have dead spots where the operator’s vision is hindered. Use a spotter to help guide machines when needed.
And when working outside, always check for overhead power lines before raising a load, ladder, or lift!
Stay hydrated when working, especially when outside in the summer heat.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and drink it even before you even feel thirsty, because by the time the feeling of thirst kicks in, your body might already be low on fluids.
Pay attention (to yourself and others) for signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Again, stay hydrated, take plenty of breaks, and cool off periodically in the shade or inside to avoid heat induced problems.
Don’t forget the most important safety equipment that we possess: our brains!
Get a good night’s rest so you can be fresh and alert at the gig the next day. Drowsiness and inattention to details cause of a lot of accidents and injuries on shows.
And finally, if you see something unsafe on any event you are working, stop and make sure the problem is corrected, even if the problem is not audio related.
Even though many different trades work on a show, we’re all a team and safety is everybody’s job.
Craig Leerman is senior contributing editor for Live Sound International, and has worked in professional audio for more than 25 years. He is also the owner of Tech Works, a regional production company based in Las Vegas that focuses on live corporate events.