Article by Seth Scott, Monkey Wrench Productions
When most accidents or failures occur, most often common sense was the first thing thrown from the fly rail. In the live performance industry we constantly manage live loads above people’s heads. Because of this, safety, common sense, and being overly cautious needs to be the norm; and we can’t let time and budget constraints trump safety.
Know your materials
Are you using rated materials? Most mass consumer hardware and auto stores stock hardware that clearly states, “Not for overhead lifting”. That’s more than just a liability waiver for the manufacturer; those materials were not designed for use when someone’s life hangs in, on, or under what you are rigging. Look for stamped materials that have clear ratings on them and buy from known suppliers. Inspect your systems frequently by looking for frayed, nicked, snagged or knotted cables and ropes as well as rubbed links in a chain motor or anything out of the ordinary.
Everyone is on a budget, but it only takes the failure of one cheap item to cause a major accident.
Know your weakest link
Rigging is a system of small components (with their own ratings) that all work together. Always take the time to identify your weakest link, whether the building structure itself or the 1/16th aircraft cable you used. This weakest point is the most likely to fail in the system and your gauge of the maximum load of the system. DON’T EVER count on the rating listed on materials to have 2 or 4 times safety factor.
Know Fire Safety
While most of us have never been in a theater fire and we all hope we never are, think about fire safety when rigging. Many of us use span sets or nylon slings day in and day out, but forget to remember that they are just a stranded plastic sling. While they are inherently very strong, when in a fire that sling melts just like any plastic. What is supporting your load without that plastic? All loads supported by Spansets should have a secondary fire safety like a piece of aircraft cable or gak-flex/steelflex. This looks and acts very much like a Spanset, but has steel inside of the nylon sleeve that will hold up in case of a fire emergency.
Know Speedy Rigging
Most spaces have items hanging that aren’t very heavy (<200lbs per point). Often riggers can create more work than needed by using a system of turn buckles, shackles, and custom crimped wire rope. Save both time and money by using Griplocks/ Verloks with 1/8” aircraft cable. They are rated at 215lbs per point: more than adequate to support most flats, signs, or practical lighting fixtures. Simply crimp a loop at one end and then set your height, and they can be reused time and time again.
Know specialty tools
Truss Push Pull Tool: All riggers have struggled with pin and sleeve truss (such as Global or Cosmic Truss) due to burs on the conical connectors. This tool helps you push the parts together or pull them apart.
Shackle buster: Stagejunk has a number of great tools. The shackle buster is specifically made to fit the pins on the shackle ranging from ¼”-3/4”. It gives you the extra grip and leverage, and it won’t mar the pins like a c-wrench or pliers.
Podger tool: This is a UK/European tool that came across the pond at LDI 2014. It has a 4-way ratcheting socket capable of fitting truss bolts 15/16”, nuts on cheesbourghs 7/8”, ½” and ¼” hardware. It also has a curved handle with a drift pin on the end to line up pin and sleeve truss OR pop out those stubborn pins.
As an industry we need to move away from comments like “it’s good enough”, “hasn’t failed/fallen yet” or “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. We need to stay sharp and safe. With these tips I hope you have something to think about and a few new tools to use.