April 2013

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April 2013

News & Notices

Rigging Program Sets the Stage for Student Safety

Janet Gramza Communications Associate

When Scott French got the job as auditorium technician for the Thompson School District in Loveland, Colorado, in 2011, one of his goals was safety inspections for its four high school stages.

He found that two hadn't had their rigging professionally inspected in 10 years. Fortunately, the district knew of USITT's new program offering free inspections for student stages. Mr. French applied for and got the inspections for the two schools – Loveland High School and Thompson Valley High School – plus training for staff and student technicians.

The deadline for the next round of support from the Rigging Safety Initiative for secondary schools is April 15, and complete information and application forms can be found here.

"Luckily for us, the inspections went really well, and we only had a few minor issues," Mr. French said. "We had anticipated it would cost us $2,500 to $3,000 per school to have them inspected, so everyone was ecstatic."

Helping school stages stay safe is the mission of USITT's Rigging Safety Initiative, a program launched by USITT and founding sponsor JR Clancy in 2011. Since then, USITT has approved rigging inspections and training at 40 high school stages across the nation and added two sponsors, ETC and Shepard Exhibition Services. High schools concerned about their stage rigging – the ropes, pulleys, and other equipment used to hang and move curtains, lights, and backdrops – can apply to USITT for a professional inspection and a four-hour safety course for up to eight people.

Oasis Stage Werks in Salt Lake City, Utah, did the inspections for Mr. French's two schools. Oasis President Gary Justesen said his firm provides inspections and training for USITT's negotiated rate of $1,000 per school. The Thompson School District came up with the money to fly an inspector there from Utah, rent him a car, and put him up in a hotel. Mr. Justesen said it took five hours to inspect Loveland's small stage (six fly lines), and over 10 to inspect Thompson Valley's 1,100-seat facility (21 fly lines), which Mr. French called "our jewel auditorium."

Mr. Justesen said he recommends the Rigging Safety program "all over the place," but some schools may be afraid to learn their rigging doesn't meet safety codes.

"People really shouldn't stick their heads in the sand over something like this – that's how accidents happen," he said. "With rigging, if everything's in good shape and it's working properly, it's out of sight, out of mind. But if you've got problems, it can kill people."

Mr. French said safety is a top priority for him personally and for his school district. He said he plans to apply for inspections for his other two high school stages.

"Since I was along for the entire inspection, I found all three days to be wonderful training for me as well," he said. "I hope this program continues and that other people take advantage of it because we certainly got a lot out of it."