USITT Kicks Off Rigging Safety Initiative with Free School Inspections
Fall means back to school and back to stage - time for schools to apply for free rigging inspections to ensure student safety in their theatre productions.
USITT, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, offers free inspections and stage crew safety training through its Rigging Safety Initiative.
The program, launched in 2011 with a $25,000 donation from JR Clancy, invites applications from schools twice a year, in spring and fall. So far, USITT has approved free stage rigging inspections and training for 52 schools in 21 states.
Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado, applied last spring and received its inspection June 1. Arapahoe drama teacher Ian Ahern said school administrators weren't sure when their auditorium's rigging was last inspected, so they jumped at the chance.
USITT sent Ahern a list of contractors in his area who employ ETCP-certified rigging inspectors and give USITT a reduced rate of $1,000 per inspection. Ahern chose Norcostco, and USITT paid the bill.
"It went really well," Ahern said. "The inspector was super-friendly and showed me a lot of things I didn't know about counterweight systems. He gave me a breakdown of what needed immediate attention, what could be improved over time, and what I might need to think about five or 10 years down the road. And he trained me on what students should do to be safe."
The inspector found that brakes on the school's 25-line counterweight system were worn and might fail if not addressed. Ahern said the cost of replacing all 25 brakes was under $1,000 -- "and it's so well worth it."
"I am so pleased," Ahern said. "This is something I wouldn't have thought of, and if I did, I wouldn't know who to talk to ... It was a great help."
The rigging inspectors also offer free four-hour safety training for up to eight staff and students. Ahern's school was out for the summer when he got his inspection, so he took the class solo and will teach his stage crew before their fall production of Romeo & Juliet.
USITT, the professional association for members of the backstage industry, wants to instill best safety practices in theatre technology at the high school level. Since schools aren't covered by federal safety requirements, they may not consider an inspection unless a problem occurs. USITT's Rigging Safety Initiative gives schools an incentive to get their rigging inspected and train their staff and students on how to safely operate it.
Besides founding sponsor JR Clancy of Syracuse, New York, three other companies contributed to the program this year -- ETC of Middleton, Wisconsin, Shepard Exposition Services of Atlanta, Georgia, and H&H Specialties of South El Monte, California.
For more information or to donate to the Rigging Safety Initiative, visit http://www.usitt.org/content.asp?pl=32&sl=330&contentid=330.
For more on USITT, visit www.usitt.org.