Risk Assessment — The key piece of legislation is the Health And Safety At Work Act 1974. Under the Act, Risk Assessments — in this case a proper assessment of the potential health and safety issues that apply to your working situation — are paramount.
Protect your ears — Hearing damage is a major hazard so protect your ears at all times. Under The Control Of Noise At Work Regulations 2005, your employer must also take steps to protect your hearing. If they don’t, they could face prosecution.
Fire safety — Always make sure you know the fire evacuation procedure for wherever you are working.
The perfect environment — The right to a healthy and safe working environment includes working in a comfortable temperature and with adequate lighting
The demands of the music industry often place a range of pressures on musicians, which can sometimes result in physical or psychological strain.
Working as part of a modern concert means that you will see lots of equipment “flown”—that is, suspended in the air. Get in the habit of looking up when you first get on the stage, and try not to stand under flown PA speakers or lighting trusses or near truss ladders. Listen carefully if someone shouts, “Moving!” This means someone is lowering (“bringing in”) or raising (“taking out”) a lighting truss or a PA hang. Although bringing in or taking out a truss is a fairly slow and smooth action, objects have been known to become dislodged and fall during this time. There are also many cables that go from ground to the flown system, and these may drag across the stage as the truss is moving.
- Look down. As well as nasty, great big monitor wedges, there will also be raised stage sections with sharp corners and lots of cables. Get in the habit of marking corners of risers and platforms with strips of white gaffer.
- Tape down your cables when you are sure everything is plugged in and working. Use a heavy gaffer-type tape, not masking tape. (You would not believe how many times I have seen this onstage. As well as being uselessly weak, masking tape is made of paper and will catch fire when hot. ) Group cables together (avoiding mains cable with signal cable if you can) and keep them flat—in other words, side by side. Apply short sections of tape across the cable run, not along it.
- Avoid going barefoot or wearing sandals onstage. There are sharp corners, big boxes and cables everywhere on a stage. Crew and other musicians will be lifting heavy equipment. Added to this, the stage may be dark and filled with stage smoke – do you really want to risk your toes in this environment?
- Do not run cables that cannot reach and end up suspended between equipment or to the mains supply. Move your gear so cable can run along the ground, or borrow or buy a longer cable or extension cord.
- Never throw drumsticks into the crowd. If you must show your appreciation to the aspiring drummers in the audience then walk forward to the lip of the stage and hand your sticks off to someone in the front row. A thrown stick can blind someone if it hits them in the eye.
- Likewise, never hand out bottles or cans of beer or soft drinks to the crowd. Many venues issue plastic glasses to the audience. You may be breaking the venue laws by introducing cans and bottle into that environment. You also run the risk of having the bottle thrown back at you.
- Watch your back. Lift gear from your knees, keeping your back straight. Hold heavy gear from the bottom, with both hands. Do not use the handles on the sides of your equipment cases—gravity acts upon the bottom half and makes the case twice as heavy!
- Never carry your drink with one hand and your gear with another. Put the drink down (somewhere safe), carry the gear, go back to your beverage, pick it up, and drink it—in that order.
- If you are a performer, do not climb on speakers or up trusses or cables without checking first with the stage manager, production manager or the sound and light technicians.You really have no idea how much weight these items can support, and you have no idea whether they are fixed in place. It’s bad enough if you fall and hurt yourself—it will be worse if you and the speakers come crashing down on top of the audience. Also, bear in mind that after you have clambered up the truss or on top of the speakers, you have to get all the way down again and still look dignified!
- If you have to smoke onstage, watch where you place your finished cigarettes. The headline act may be using pyrotechnics, or someone may be painting a flight case or refilling a generator.
- Do not leave the lids of hinged cases open. The vibrations caused by loud music may make them fall shut, trapping someone’s hands or severing a cable. Also, never let the lid on a hinged trunk drop when you are closing it—the place where the chest and the lid join is usually about the same height as a man’s…well, you get the idea….
Be careful up there and you will have an amazing show!