High stakes, and effective responses

Just last year a man had an accident and died dismantling a marquee.  Then Madonna’s concert stage in France collapsed.  And then a second stage collapsed in Canada.  3 fatal accidents in as many months.  And this year a stage being put up for Elton John collapsed.

It’s sobering reading for event managers, especially as there’s very inconsistent support or preparation for the level of responsibility that event management requires. So we were happy to see Alison McDougall, of Relevant Risk, turn the spotlight on the high stakes event managers are playing  with when they’re ill-equipped to deal with health and safety standards:

Specialist Event Advisor Warns Event Businesses They Face Heavy Fines & Prosecution

It’s an impassioned warning- one we support wholeheartedly.  Yet we also sympathise that event health and safety can be problematic- especially when areas of responsibility are blurred.  When suppliers, subcontractors, freelance event managers and venues are all involved it’s hard to know who should be overseeing the H&S of each component of an event. And to confuse things even more, people don’t often have the same level of understanding of H&S regulations, if they have any at all.

Run by the Production Services Association, and set up by StageSafe’s Chris Hannan, The Safety Passport Scheme is a new universal, validated piece of basic H&S training that is shaping up to be more than just a piece of training.  It’s becoming the foundation of a campaign, because the Passport can provide solutions to everything from high staff turnover and employers who don’t want to train short term freelancers to high insurance premiums.

It takes no more than one day, costs no more than £100, and issues a driving license style passport when completed.  It’s this simplicity that means it can be the basis of such a campaign- because it will be widely taken up by the industry.  And it’s very important that it is, because the more employers and the big organisations buy into it, the more weight the passport will carry.

So for employers who need to get new employees up to speed and on site as soon as possible; for freelance event managers who are responsible for their own training and can’t afford to take time off; for organisations bringing in contractors whose current training isn’t adequate- have a look at the Safety Passport Scheme.  Let’s work together to give the industry a regulated standard.

Because if we don’t regulate ourselves, then others will.

Posted by Steeldeck on 14/10/10

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Bad Practice Grumble No. 1


We’re going to tell you about a particular piece of bad practice that isn’t that uncommon.  We’ve been discussing it with Tony Thorpe from Campbell Reith who often vets structures at Olympia, ExCel and Earls Court amongst others and who has seen (and stopped) reputable companies committing this H&S malpractice.

When your event isn’t big enough to warrant a specialist engineer such as Tony on site watching your hire supplier’s every move, it pays to know what to look out for.  After all, it might be a small event but the consequences of poor health and safety practice are just as big.

So what is this sin?

Hanging decks on their bolts rather than properly supporting them.  We start easily enough. You (or more likely others you’ve contracted in) are laying deck together to create a platform of some kind. Simple?  Not quite.  Deck were conceived to have a supporting leg in each corner.  Indeed, that all-important load rating assumes that there is a leg or some form of support in each corner.

However, some people cut corners (pun intended).  Perhaps they’ve run out of legs.   Most often, adjacent legs obstruct two common scenarios.  To level a a stage on uneven ground you need a screwjack.  You can’t use one on adjacent legs.   To brace the stage you need fixed or swivel clips. You can’t attach these to adjacent legs.

At this point some people turn to bolts.  But bolts alone are not a safe solution – as a structural engineer would say, those people are relying on the strength of the bolt in shear and it’s not designed to be used like that.

Over the years we’ve developed various solutions to this problem. Our latest, and favourite so far, is a re-design to our flanged leg system.that was developed in the Steeldeck LA office and which we’ve tweaked ever so slightly.

Why is this important?

Well, quite often you don’t know for sure what weights will be going on your deck. Sure, the stage may just be for a band and how much can four people and a couple of guitars weigh? Yet it’s easy to forget about the activities that don’t form part of your event; for example, what about access equipment?  Someone might need to a drive a genie lift across the stage to hang or focus some lights.

There is a minimum requirement for a stage loading that is laid out in the Institute Of Structural Engineer’s Guide to Temporary Demountable Structures and that is 5kN/m2.  That is 0.5 tons per square metre and if that’s for public use then once you’ve added a safety factor of 1.5 your minimum requirement is 7.5kN/m2 or 0.75 tons per square metre. In summary, properly supported Steeldeck platforms are never less than 7.5kN/m2, but hanging deck on bolts is well below that , so like many malpractices, this one has a serious health & safety consequence.

Posted by Steeldeck on 02/07/10

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Blogging Good Practice

Original Steeldeck

A word from one of our Directors

I recently attended a health and safety training day at the BBC and it set me to thinking. Steeldeck works in three main industries: Entertainment, Events and Exhibitions, and at least one of these has several sub-divisions. One thing that unites them, apart from the fact that they all need staging in one form or another, is the way the changes to health and safety over the last twenty years have changed the way the industries work.

Room for improvement

Each industry has developed its own somewhat unique health and safety management systems. Sure, all the industries look for risk assessments and method statements but how knowledgeable are we as practitioners and what support systems do we have?

Why a Steeldeck blog?

I’m keen to use this blog to try and help us all understand more about our responsibilities, how to determine what is good practice (not as easy as it might sound), and ultimately provide a forum for advice and help.

To that end I’ve invited a handful of health and safety experts from different backgrounds to contribute their own thoughts by highlighting where things have gone wrong (thus, I hope, helping us to get it right).

I’m hoping to expand this with points of view from practitioners, structural engineers and perhaps even find a lawyer and/or insurance broker to contribute their opinions.

Ultimately, we want to keep the blog open to development and expand it as a resource. This won’t happen over night but please bear with us and let’s see what we can achieve together.

Richard, Steeldeck Director

Posted by Steeldeck on 29/03/10

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Building our foundations in social media…

Introducing the Steeldeck Blog!  This is where we’ll be talking about the event, exhibition and entertainment industries in general and opening the Steeldeck HQ doors to bring you everything from product/service updates to interviews with Steeldeck staff.

We’ll also be spending some time on industry standards as the number of different rules and regulations (and the ambiguity within them!) regarding temporary structures mean that it’s not always clear how to achieve the

proper standard of construction and do so within budget.   To help you we’ll be using the blog to build on our Useful Info section.

Sounds a little dry? We’ll be doing our damndest to give all that an interesting twist by making it relevant to your work, rather than just quoting current legislation at you. The aim is to make this blog the one-stop resource for anyone running events and needing staging, seating or other structures.

We’ll only start off with a post or two a month, so to help you remember us we recommend you bookmark this blog or add our RSS feed, and together we’ll make this the hub of all things Staging and Seating. Towards that aim, we’ll love getting your feedback- both on your experiences of event industry construction, and this blog — and what you want to see discussed (and showcased) in the future.

Posted by Steeldeck on 28/01/10