Spotlight on Safety for Shows Outdoors
James C. McKinley Jr. New York Times
Jim Digby, the tour manager for Linkin Park, knows better than most how dangerous a rock ’n’ roll show can be. In 1983 he was a 19-year-old technical director at a new nightclub outside Philadelphia when a piece of equipment he was operating came off a faulty overhead track, plummeted toward the floor and killed a young woman standing just a few feet from him.
“My finger was on the button,” he recalled. “That memory has been buried inside me for years.”
That moment flashed through his mind, he said, when stage rigging collapsed at the Indiana State Fair last year and killed seven people waiting to hear the country duo Sugarland. The accident was one of four that summer in which stages collapsed in high winds. Then this June a drum technician for Radiohead died in Toronto when a stage roof fell before a show, this time in fair weather.
For Mr. Digby the Indiana disaster was a turning point. During the past year he has organized a campaign to improve safety at outdoor events, and, though his group’s efforts are in the early stages, he has garnered support from AEG Worldwide, one of the nation’s largest promoters, as well as from stage manufacturers and leaders of the IATSE, the stagehands’ union.
Mr. Digby’s organization, the Event Safety Alliance, is pushing the outdoor concert industry to adopt national standards not only for stage construction but also for emergency procedures during bad weather and other crises. Those standards would be based on a guidebook published by British workplace-safety authorities that has become widely used in Britain and elsewhere in Europe.
“These things always boil down to dollars and cents,” Mr. Digby said. “I don’t think any show has ever intentionally caused an accident that put somebody in a body bag,” he added. “But because the industry doesn’t have any standards and practices, because it doesn’t have a catalog of best practices, because it isn’t regulated, any cowboy can do anything.”