LEEA puts spotlight on lifting-related topics
Friday, 28 October 2022
liftingWithout lifting the entertainment industry will grind to a halt
UK - As a contribution to Global Lifting Awareness Day, the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA) put lifting-related topics for end users in the Entertainment sector under the spotlight.
Without lifting the entertainment industry will grind to a halt: theatre, television and film sets would not be moved, lighting rigs for live concerts will remain on the stage instead of above it. However, in the spring of 2020, the sector really did come to a sudden stop. Entertainment was hugely impacted by Covid, being one of the first sectors to be put into lockdown and often one of the last to be freed from restrictions, as Paul Fulcher, founder and managing director of Rigging Services, explained in his presentation on Post Covid rigging training requirements for new recruits working in the Entertainments Sector. Many freelance contractors found themselves out of work, and often ineligible for furlough or other assistance. There was a mass exodus from the industry and many experienced hands have not returned.
New recruits need training, but so do those hired from other sectors because the lifting environment in entertainment is in many ways unique. It is, for example, the only industry that deliberately lifts loads above people – whether they are performers or an audience, sometimes with artistes ‘flying’ on the load. Often, multiple lifts are involved, including many electric hoists lifting and lowering in a synchronised manner. A lot of this is ‘live’ so there may be only hours to install rigging along with lights, sound, video and other installations, and there is no second chance to get it right. Some of the skills and the science required would include, understanding rigging plots, load tables, angular forces as well as other forces such as compression, torsion, bending, load distribution, mathematics, physics, mechanical principles, materials science and so on. Working in the ‘creative’ sector also requires understanding this unique culture.
Training is required but Fulcher cautioned against reliance on ‘free’ online training content, much of which is unreliable. He said: “Look for reputable providers, and at how their training is assessed. The LEEA, and the relevant Entertainment trade associations, can help you find high quality training.”
Matthew Wheeler, rigging compliance supervisor for the National Theatre in London, described How we put a show on’ from the rigger’s point of view. The process starts with a ‘white card’ – a basic model demonstrating the staging and concepts and what the designer or director is trying to achieve. The technical departments (sound, lights and so forth) cost and analyse this to inform the creative team of the feasibility of what is being proposed – and Wheeler emphasised the importance of the riggers being fully involved at this stage to ensure that proposed lifts can be performed safely.
A model, typically in full colour at 1/25 scale, is developed out of this to demonstrate feasibility and the effects of any changes the creative side may require. There is a pre-production fit-up in which scenic elements are prepared for stage alongside lighting, sound, AV and other features (noting that this may have to work around elements of the current production on stage), and then there are previews, press nights and the opening.
The rigger requires an in-depth understanding both of the equipment and of the designer’s vision, to work out what can be done safely while meeting creative requirements. Information is key– from the artistic vision to the weights of scenic elements and what lighting, sound, props or flying performers are travelling with the scenery in the lift.
There are many complications. The building or staging may not be a permanent structure with a history of previous successful practice to draw on. Lifts may have to be performed safely in a black-out and there may be ‘no fly zones’ to be respected. The way the cast interacts with the scenery is important – does, for example, a door in a scenic flat have to be closed securely before the lift can occur? And there is always someone wanting to add another couple of lamps to the lift, regardless of the extra weight.
Two way communication is crucial – with designers and with production, stage and venue managers. Equally vital is managing expectations on cost, time and performance. For example, agreement is needed on how long a lift will take because this can affect the ‘pace’ of the show. Can the riggers offer a ‘window’ of time within which the creatives can work for a particular lift?
The rig may be strictly ‘for one night only’, but equally a successful theatrical show may run for months or even years, with implication for how continuing safety is guaranteed. Access time for examination and inspection, routine maintenance and repair, need to be agreed, and insisted on, with the stage/production management. While theatrical rigging is often ‘out of sight’ – it mustn’t be allowed to be ‘out of mind’.
Unique though aspects of the entertainment sector are, the legal obligations are the same as in any other industry. Dave Tucker, a senior training specialist at LEEA, ran through the responsibilities (equipment selection, inspection, maintenance, instruction and training) of the ‘owner’ of the equipment, which in this case would typically be the production or stage manager. These responsibilities can be delegated to a person with the required skill sets but he cautioned that a qualified rigger/slinger may not be qualified to examine/inspect – and vice-versa. End users too have responsibilities. Given the ‘one-off’ nature of many stage lifting scenarios, caution needs to be exercised with regard to ‘engineering solutions’ that may stray outside the capabilities of the equipment and the supporting structure or beyond the training of the operators. The lifting operations supervisor must plan, carry out and supervise all lifts. He or she will be familiar with the many challenges of lifting in this environment.
Inspection regimes – pre-use, periodically during use and, ideally, at knock-down as well, must be adhered to. These of course vary according to administration, and are a minimum requirement. Tucker queried the logic whereby equipment that lifts people has to be inspected every six months, but the timescale is longer for lifting over people.
Across the world there is a plethora of standards applicable to lifting in the entertainment sector – LEEA participates actively in setting and revising these through ISO, CEN, BSI, ASME and others. Keith Tonge from LEEA’s technical services team highlighted EN 17206:2020 Entertainment technology – machinery for stages and other production areas – safety requirements and inspections, which is under review having been published a couple of years ago. It covers quite a range, from lifts and hoists to performer flying systems. prEN 17795-5 part 5, which comprises codes of practice for lifting and motion operations in the events industry, is currently out for comment. Other relevant standards work is under way in the US, Australia and elsewhere. Tonge stressed the need for lifting practitioners with entertainments expertise to contribute to this work.
Particularly since the disruption caused by Covid, it is more than ever necessary to ensure that qualifications actually belong to the person presenting them, that they are still current, and that the competencies of people who may have stepped away from the job during Covid remain intact. Meanwhile, new entrants in England may be interested in the LEEA-backed lifting engineering technician apprenticeship scheme, or another scheme specifically for live event riggers. For further information visit leeaint.com.

Latest Issue. . .

Tweets from our Friends