A SQUARE PEG IN A ROUND HOLE?
Static CDM regulations implemented in a dynamic event industry
Chair: Eddy Grant (University of Derby, UK)
Panellists: Martina Pogacic (Event Service Group); Mark Surtees (Outback Rigging); Martin Wielaart (Amsterdam ArenA); Keith Wood (Production Solutions)
With the Construction Design & Management (CDM) regulations coming into force in the United Kingdom in April, and with the directives also affecting Europe and Australasia, this international issue was a hot topic for the opening IPM panel this year.
Pogacic revealed that CDM was already affecting event production in Croatia, while Wood reported that it was only very late in the day that the authorities in the UK had started any dialogue with the entertainment industry. “It’s a potentially major cost to our business,” explained Wood. “Under normal construction rules, we would have to build fencing around an entire event site from day one, as well as things like welfare facilities and toilets. I cannot see why that would not create a cost burden, but the authorities have not understood how we work as an industry.”
Wielaart explained that his stadium, as well as being home to Ajax Football Club, hosts 10-12 large events per year. “We’ve found a way to work with the local authorities and promoters to make things work smoothly,” he said. However, obviously concerned about the impact CDM would have on that side of the business, he added, “It would be a shame to lose all that experience, so I would prefer to keep working with the local authorities.”
Grant observed that the actual regulations have been in place since 1993, but it is only 20 years later that people have started to discuss them. “Even the enforcement body got the rules wrong themselves,” he noted. “So compliance is best, but it won’t be until a court case that people will employ the lawyers.”
Surtees, who stated that he is high on the HSE’s very-awkward-people list, explained that the Health and Safety Executive’s argument is that the regulations apply to the event production sector and they cannot dis-apply them. However, he revealed that authorities cannot say if pushing a drum riser on stage is construction or not.
Observing that common sense is not mentioned in CDM regs, Pogacic said she still has to explain to authorities who the production manager is, as the role is not recognised in Croatia.
Worryingly, Roger Barrett of Star Events reported that the HSE is compiling a “big database [of accidents] that suggests this industry is not as safe as it seems.” But Surtees countered, “HSE’s idea of engaging with culture is to wear a pair of exotic socks.”
But predicting just how complicated CDM could be, Grant disclosed that the HSE doesn’t have anything to do with an event once the gates open. But if the lighting needs changes between acts, CDM regs apply again.
Alberto Artese from AA Productions said that in Italy the industry had lobbied to have a construction law especially for events introduced, while Pogacic said baby steps are also being taken in Croatia.
Andy Lenthall from the PSA observed that the issue is not with the regulations themselves, but the fact that a client has to be identified and that client must create a safe working environment. However, agreeing the identity of the client is tricky. But Artese revealed that in Italy, the solution was not to identify who the construction was built for, but rather the activity of building and dismantling – a system applauded by Grant.
And urging operators in other countries to step up lobbying initiatives, a representative of the German Association of Entertainment Technicians stated that politicians need to be informed how big the business is.
WHAT GOES UP, MUST COME DOWN... SAFELY!
Weather, gravity and temporary structures
Chair: Jim Digby (Event Safety Alliance)
Panellists: Paul Cook (Live Nation Music); Steven Corfield-Moore (Serious Stages) ; Martin Goebbels (Robertson Taylor W&P Longreach); David VandenHeuvel (Weather Decision Technologies Inc.)
Digby explained the background to his organisation and catalogued some of the strides it has made in the last year. “I’m confident we are on the right track and are providing best practice solutions for our global industry.”
VandenHeuvel detailed the work of Weather Decision Technologies and its increasing use by the likes of festivals and tour managers who require meteorological advice for specific sites at specific times. Digby added, “An attorney once told me that I should not be the meteorologist for my events. That wouldn’t stand up in court, so I needed to get expert advice.”
Goebbels highlighted the advantages of using such weather services, revealing that his company intended to take a weather presentation to London-based insurers to try to reach an agreement on financial terms for those events that employ such weather guidance.
Corfield-Moore used the occasion to launch Guidance for the Management & Use of Stages – a document drawn up by a number of staging and production specialists to help improve safety. The document is freely available through those contributors’ websites.
Cook said that such advice should not just be applied to major stages. “We have to engage collectively and not just look in isolation at the big structures, but also all the concessionaire stands etc,” he added.
Responding to some skepticism in the room about the effectiveness of the Event Safety Alliance, Digby said, “One of the greatest successes of the ESA so far is that we’ve got a bunch of people from different sectors sitting around the table and talking.”
Goebbels also encouraged those in the session to engage with the larger industry. “Agents should get involved,” he said. “They should be asking questions of the promoters about where the health and safety experts are at an event.” The fact that there were no agents in the room was noted and it was agreed that invites should be specifically extended for the next IPM.
Digby concluded that the industry needs to do more. “This should not be about doing the minimum required – it should be about doing the very best that we can.”
Urging cross-industry cooperation, Cook added, “It’s a partnership, rather than the promoter simply picking up the tab when it all goes wrong.”
To download a copy of Guidance for the Management & Use of Stages document?, please click here.
BACKSTAGE TO THE FUTURE
Proven tech and new developments affecting the production industry ~ in association with TPi Magazine
Chair: Lee Charteris (Flash Entertainment)
Panellists: Chris Beale (Pinnacom Limited/SPLtrack Limited); Kevin Caffey (Luminous Lighting); Niels Werner Adelman-Larsen (Flex Acoustics); Andy Mead (Firefly Solar Generators Ltd)
As the pace of technological revolution gets ever faster, Charteris hosted a fascinating panel that invited participants to deliver presentations about their specific products and services.
Adelman-Larsen gave a captivating lesson in the dynamics of acoustics before revealing his invention to deal with reverberation – large inflatable tubes that can be placed around the walls and roof of a venue.
Mead talked about Firefly’s hybrid generators that can automatically switch between using diesel to a battery system when the capacity is not needed, thereby saving fuel and cutting noise, which reduces disruption to members of the public. “There are both practical and environmental reasons why this technology is being adopted,” he said.
Caffey showcased LED lighting and the major savings that can be made thanks to the significant drop in manufacturing costs during the last few years. “The cost of the equipment is higher, but the return on investment is very quick,” he noted.
Industry veteran Beale revealed the two distinct businesses he is involved in: Pinnacom, which handles internet transit and baukhaul for broadcasters and used at the likes of T in the Park and Secret Garden Party festivals; and the audio side of the business, which has been using baffle boards made from panels of trakway to make bass speakers more efficient. “Convention says that if you have 20 sound sources, you control that by switching some off,” he told the session. “But actually, if you can blend all that noise so that it comes across as one continuous hum off-site, then that’s a much better solution.”
Elsewhere in the room, Emma Andersson from YouChip championed RFID systems and their challenge to “keep up with customer expectations.” She added, “Cashless is absolutely the future and right now we’re working with promoters to take that a step further.”
However, rallying against too much use of tech, John Cadbury from PRG recalled, “I remember being incredibly excited to see lighting move for the first time, but now everything on stage moves and sometimes the artist is lost within it.” He cited complaints from Dire Straits about the guitarist having to be in a particular spot on stage at exact times to keep up with the lights. And he added, “With so much new tech coming out all the time, it’s quite hard to choose the right products.” This was echoed by another delegate who commented, “Once somebody has seen something, they don’t want to see it again – for production companies it’s all about upping the ante.”
With wireless spectrum becoming a major issue for many events, especially large-scale music festivals, Beale urged organisers to bite the bullet and invest in fibre cabling.
Providing the organiser’s point of view, Live Nation’s John Probyn observed that a lot of artists have nothing to do with their set design until they actually see that design. And he argued, “Once someone uses something it will be used again, but just a lot more of it. The problem is, how do you stick all that tech in a roof and turn things around for your headliner the next day?!”
I’LL SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD
Fatigue risks assessed
Chair: Carl A H Martin (cahm.uk)
Panellists: Mark Armstrong (L3 NRC Rigger & Assessor NRAG); James Cobb (Crowd Connected Ltd); Martin Cramer (Mojo Concerts/Live Nation); Yana Lombard (Rashid Lombard Inc)
A self-proclaimed campaigner on the fatigue issue, Martin reminded delegates that Cobb first gave his frightening presentation about the effects of fatigue on personnel two years ago – and he asked what, if anything, had been done to improve working hours for production crews? “At the end of the day, we’re killing people and there’s no need,” blasted Martin. “It’s all about money.”
Cobb agreed, “Things are pretty dire and it’s all our fault. But because it’s our fault, we can do something about it.” Cobb reiterated his survey findings that 75% of people on tour admitted to suffering levels of fatigue that are equivalent to being over the drink drive limit – the implications of which are obvious. He added that a simple control would be to limit working hours to an 8-10 hour shift, with a maximum of 48 hours a week.
Noting international discrepancies in regulations, Kees Brouwer from Pieter Smit in the Netherlands underlined that rules for truck drivers in Europe do not exist in the USA, for example, making international guidelines on fatigue difficult.
However, Andy Lenthall of the PSA noted a recent case in the UK where an employer was successfully prosecuted after a potato picker who had been working 16-hour shifts, five days a week, was involved in a traffic accident that killed another driver.
Lombard said that her company travels from South Africa to international conferences like IPM to learn about best practice and how to implement it. “But there are other promoters coming in to the market who are not as reputable,” she stated.
Indeed, although he is advocating change, Cobb admitted, “Lack of control over freelance staff makes management all the more difficult.”
Despite the obstacles, however, at least one organisation has taken heed of Cobb’s findings and even had him present to its recent health and safety conference. “The first thing I did after seeing the presentation two years ago was force people to take breaks and to take lieu days so they could have days off during the week,” said Probyn.
Revealing that legislation in the Netherlands on working hours does not always comply with production work, Cramer revealed that the Dutch industry has developed solutions such as splitting work. “One person loads in and then someone else does the show and loads out,” he told the session.
Highlighting another challenge, Armstrong said, “A tour rigger gets paid for their days off, whereas local riggers do not. So how does an employer monitor how many hours a local rigger is working?” But detailing what some of the better rigging operations are up to, Armstrong said some companies have introduced 12-hour shifts, with breaks, and 12 hours off, while other firms were using a maximum of 10-hour shifts. Elsewhere, hotels for staff, rather than have them driving to and from a venue, was also an effective tool.
Angered by the lack of action among the production community, Martin was further irked by statements from venue staff who pointed out that some visiting tours insisted that they deal with the same individual from start to finish when they arrive at an arena.
Lombard stated that only government backing – or legislation – would make people abide by the rules. But underlining the point that Cobb’s survey work had made a profound impact, Probyn added, “It’s difficult to say ‘no’ when someone comes to you with an argument about safety. You have got to listen because nowadays everything is documented.”