23 August 2011
Stage Collapses and PLASA
The outdoor stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair on August 13 and at the Pukkelpop Festival in Hasselt, Belgium on August 18, were disasters for everyone attending the events and involved in the productions. However, the consequences of those disasters also are likely to affect members of our industry who have no connection with the events, so PLASA has responded.
Our efforts have focused on publicizing our portable stage-related standards in the news media and to the industry, and reaching out to the backstage workers and their families who suffered losses.
In the United States, several members of IATSE Local 30 were injured and killed in the accident, burdening their families with medical and funeral expenses. The ESTA Foundation's Behind the Scenes program exists to help backstage workers and families in times of need such as this, so Local 30 has been contacted to remind them that the charity is there to help.
Members of the media have been contacting PLASA to ask for comments on the stage collapse. We have talked to reporters to publicize our portable stage-related standards, specifically ANSI E1.2 - 2006, Entertainment Technology - Design, Manufacture and Use of Aluminum Trusses and Towers, and ANSI E1.21 - 2006, Temporary Ground-Supported Overhead Structures Used To Cover Stage Areas and Support Equipment in the Production of Outdoor Entertainment Events. E1.21 has been particularly emphasized because it is most obviously applicable to outdoor events, and it contains requirements for a management plan for dealing with violent weather. Both standards are available from The ESTA Foundation at http://www.estafoundation.org/pubs.htm.
The media coverage of ANSI E1.21 is important for publicizing it to people within our industry and outside it. While we don't know how widely ANSI E1.21 is being used inside our industry, it was written specifically to avoid portable stage roof collapses, and probably there would be fewer accidents if more people in our industry knew about the standard and diligently followed it.
However, it is also important that people outside the industry know that standards for portable structures exist. We're likely to have fewer ill-considered responses to the accidents if local officials and safety experts aren't thundering, "There are no standards for these stages!" Also, if local municipalities decide that they need to implement a permitting process for portable structures used for outdoor events, we want them to reference or base their regulations on our standard.
Furthermore, if every municipality writes its own regulations for stages, they are likely to be substantively different from each other. Touring across the United States could then be a crawl through a bramble of different, conflicting regulations. Touring will be simpler, and ultimately safer, with a uniform set of rules for designing, assembling, and using portable stages.
PLASA members are asked to please contact PLASA's standards office (firstname.lastname@example.org) if they know of local plans to regulate portable stages, so we can contact the municipal authorities and let them know about our standards.
Just by coincidence, ANSI E1.21 is being revised by the Rigging Working Group to expand the scope, and the first draft of the new version is now in public review through October 10. The standard is being modified to make it cover all the portable structures used in outdoor shows and concerts, except those that are intended to serve the audience, such as grandstands and food service tents. Certainly the recent stage roof collapses will help focus attention on the new draft of E1.21, which is available at http://tsp.plasa.org/tsp/documents/public_review_docs.php.
One thing that PLASA has not done and will not do is issue a statement about what we think happened on August 13 in Indianapolis or on August 18 in Hasselt, or who was at fault. We have issued a statement about the Indianapolis accident (it's available at http://tsp.plasa.org/tsp/news/newsdetails.php?newsID=399), but it avoids stating cause or blame. We do not know what went wrong in either place, so making such statements or publicly speculating about what might have happened would be inappropriate. There are investigations now being done by government officials and forensics engineers. Their work will take many months, but eventually something will be published that will have some real information.
These collapses demonstrate that violent weather is a worldwide problem that is not likely to go away. Our industry needs to carefully plan for it.
Notes to Editors:
PLASA is the lead professional body for businesses that supply technologies and services to the event, entertainment and installation industries. Operating from offices in Europe and North America, the Association provides business support services to its growing worldwide membership, writes industry standards, leads the development of qualifications and focuses on improving the business practices adopted by the industry. With over 1100 members worldwide, it represents one of the largest member networks in the industry.
PLASA also runs successful media and events divisions and is responsible for the industry-leading magazines Lighting&Sound International, Lighting&Sound America and Protocol and the PLASA Show in London, together with the European and North American regional PLASA Focus events.