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Tech Tip Of The Day: Rigging Safety Is Serious Business

I'm almost positive the "install" I saw in a club was unsafe. Is it really unacceptable to hang speakers from their handles?

Provided by Sweetwater.

Q: A buddy and I recently went to a party in a large warehouse. For some reason (the “tech” said sound coverage) they hung the loudspeakers from the overhead beams.

Now, the beams looked moderately strong and secure, but there wasn’t any mounting hardware on the enclosures, and they just hung the speakers with chain from the handles.

My point is, I volunteer at a church and when we upgraded our PA a few years ago a solution like this was suggested by a congregant and quickly shouted down by the installers for safety reasons.

Is it really unsafe?

A: Ok, fair question. You’re right, in that the handles and beams do “seem” sturdy enough.

But, what could possibly go wrong?

Before you say, “It could never happen” – it does happen, and the lucky ones are those not injured or worse when speakers come crashing down at 3 a.m. (or during worship).

You’re absolutely right to be skeptical of what you witnessed, because it was unsafe. Flying your speakers – called “rigging” in the pro world – is not something to do carelessly!

If you’re setting up in a large venue or doing a permanent “hang,” be safe and hire a professional rigger to approve the hardware and perform the installation.

I know the handles on smaller powered boxes you may be using seem convenient, but you should never fly any cabinet by using the handles.

They aren’t safety rated for this purpose. Many cabinets available today have built-in rigging points. If your venue does not have trussing installed, be careful about trusting structural beams.

There aren’t official standards, but manufacturers including JBL, Mackie and Meyer Sound specify that the minimum load rating of rigging hardware is at least five times the actual weight of the enclosure.

Oh, and one small side-tip: Whether you’re flying your speakers or just positioning them in an inaccessible location, complete your sound check first and make necessary settings changes that live on the enclosures. You’ll save hours of time and labor!

As always, we welcome input from the PSW community and would love to know your take on this situation. Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

Also, for more rigging information, take our PSW Photo Gallery Tour of Rigging Risks Exposed and check out Risk Management For Rigging.
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