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I've just given a report to our school's Safety Manager about the scaff tower I use pointing out that:


1. It cannot be assembled/disassembled "safely" (through the trapdoor or by using temporary safety rails)


2. I climb up the frame. It does not have a built in ladder.


3. The platform does not have a trapdoor so I only use half of it. Therefore I could fall down the middle.


4. No toe guards. Could kick stuff off the platform.


5. The castors just slip on without locking and do not have levelling capabliity. (Although the hall floor is smooth)


6. It does not have outriggers.


For information (and not mitigation) I use it with a platform height of 11ft to work on lights with a bar height of 15ft.


The management will discuss it on Friday and almost certainly I will be barred from using it even though I pointed out that I am fully aware of the risks challenges that using it presents and I will not be having an accident because I don't like them. I am not unhappy using it.


The school budget is tight. A replacement will cost about £600. We had seven data projectors stolen in the holiday. I'm shafted.


I did not have to submit the report and no-one would have asked me for one. Own goal? What do you think?

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What is the point of the post. You submit the report knowing full well they will ban you from using it, then you complain - and while moaning state that even though you deliberately climb up something that doesn't meet current safety standards you won't have an accident because you dont like them?



What exactly are you trying to do?

make a big issue about how much you want to focus the lights but can't because they have poor access equipment?

keep quiet about the entire thing and carry on in blissful innocence (bit late for this one)

or are you trying to 'make' them spend money on a real brand new access system, which no doubt, in view of your report will almost certainly ensure you don't get within a foot of it as you've brought health and safety right into their faces.


there is no win here that I can see. The school will become safe, you lose your ability to focus lights..... good move!

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almost certainly I will be barred from using it even though I pointed out that I am fully aware of the risks challenges that using it presents and I will not be having an accident because I don't like them


I'd agree with Pete there - I've never heard of a "challenge assesement" :(

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Have you actually been trained in tower safety - and on that model of tower as the training is usually product-specific? Safe assembly can be achieved using leg-lock techniques on certain types of tower.


Outriggers are only required if the platform height-base ratio exceeds the guidelines - 3.5 x the minimum base dimension for inside use, 3 x for outside use, and 2.5 times x when being moved (this bit may be trickier). If it is a 6' x 4' tower, the platform can be at 14' when used inside without outriggers.


Many towers rely on the weight of the assembly to keep the castors in, and with your restricted use on a flat floor the levelling is not really a problem.


Climbing the frame may not be a problem (provided you climb inside) - depending on the frame design, but if it has large gaps in the horizontals then it isn't suitable.


The missing toe boards are a problem.


You could put additional guard rails across the tower to prevent yourself falling from the 'half' platform that you use.


I would be surprised if you could replace a tower that size for £600 unless it is secondhand.


How have you presented your 'report' - merely as a set of criticisms of what you have, or with a more constructive approach? You could fix your 'problems' with some additional bits for what you have - ie a platform with an access trap, ladder (if it needs it) and toe-boards. This would be more cost-effective than a whole new tower. With the right approach you may come up with something workable. With the wrong approach, you have just shot yourself in the foot.


You WILL have an accident one day if you use unsafe kit. Nobody likes them but people still have them. Pilots don't like crashing aircraft but it still happens.


You asked what people think - so these are my thoughts.



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I think you went about it the wrong way, however I feel that reporting it was a good idea. Within every "society" there is a heirachy or chain of command. Whilst it is often well defined, sometimes it is unofficial. In a school it is fairly roughly defined.


What you have basically done is cut out part of the chain. Now the problem is the 'sh!t' flows down. And it will flow down to those people you have cut out - and it will most likely stop with them.


What happens when you do that? Well they will make sure that you never even get to stand on a chair any more to reach something just above your head.


The better way to do it would have been to discuss your issues with the person imediatly above you FIRST. Allow them to take the next step, and if they don't, then go up to the next person above them and so on.


You also put it in writing. That makes things really difficult for everyone - written complaints get handled differently to verbal complaints. A verbal complaint can often be dealt with quickly and efficiently - written complaints often means that a report/reply of some sort has to be formulated, and so on. That means meetings and paperwork (not the best way to make friends).


What can you do to fix it? Not much. Just learn from it. It is a hard lesson with far reaching consequences. My first job (a cashier at a supermarket) I lodged a written complaint because I regularly had more than $20k under my till on a Saturday - and I did not feel safe with all that cash under there. 3 months later my "permanant contract" was renegotiated, I was told to sign, or I would no longer have a job. I was suddenly working grave yard shifts both Saturday and Sunday nights, my supervisor training was cancelled, my systems shift was cancelled - which meant that my pay grade went down 2 steps - about $3 an hour. I tried, over the next 12 months to get my contract renegotiated to better hours at least - but management continually vetoed it until I quit. Obviously those sorts of repercusions will not occur within a school - they can't. But they can keep you away from anything "dangerous" and in general just make things difficut.

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The castors just slip on without locking and do not have levelling capabliity. (Although the hall floor is smooth)
If you look at scaffold sales, then you'll see that castors are actually seperate items to adjustable legs and are justy normally sold together, so if you have a flat floor, then it may well have been decided not to buy the legs. This could be considered a good choice, especially ina school, where people aren't necessarily trained, and often use the legs as a way og gaining height.


Climbing the frame may not be a problem (provided you climb inside) - depending on the frame design, but if it has large gaps in the horizontals then it isn't suitable.
I have PASMA code of practice in front of me, but can't find the spacing at which it becomes excessive. But, from memory I believe it is about 300mm, but don't hold me to this.


EDIT: Have just found the bit in the codes. PASMA say that ladder rungs should be between 230 and 300mm apart, and should be covered in a non slip covering.


The missing toe boards are a problem.
Most definitely, any working platform requires toeboards, as does any platform on which anything is stored, but intermediate platforms don't require them, unless they are used for working on, or storage.


You could put additional guard rails across the tower to prevent yourself falling from the 'half' platform that you use.
Even just horizontal braces halfway across the frame would be better than nothing.
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I haven't used the tower since I found out it doesn't meet standards. I wrote the report when I did.


I explained the problems verbally to the Safety Officer then wrote them down for him to make it clear and to allow him to take it further. My immediate supervisor is the school bursar. A very nice lady who knows nothing whatsoever about anything technical. Her supervisor is the Head of PE or somesuch. A very nice lady who knows nothing whatsoever about anything technical. I'm one of the most technically minded people employed at the school. I have an engineering physics (=electronics) degree and C&G 2381 and am looking into doing 2391. I've worked before in machine maintenance (three phase electrics) and electrical assembly (all TVR cars built between May 1990 and November 1992 had their engines wired up by me, for example).


I don't know how long the tower's been here but its previous users have included the safety officer (in a different capacity and he may not have been the SO then), teachers doing lights, and unsupervised (I think - but don't quote me) yr11 pupils who were into stage tech. I'm probably the first person to report on it since the school got it and did so after researching The Working at Height Regs during the recent school holiday.


It was my predecessor, a very nice lady who knows loads about horses and was a good chemistry lab technician, who took on the audio-visual technician role. It resulted in her and now me doing loads of unpaid overtime to get shows and parent's dos audible, visible and videoed on a budget of very little.


If the school can afford it we will get a new tower similar to the one we've got but "standards compliant". Our existing tower was probably legal when it was obtained by the school (I've no idea when that was) since the school would not knowingly have acquired an illegal product. If the school can't afford to buy then I'll day-hire the cheapest equipment that'll do the job on the three or four days a year that I need it. (And that is all that I need it - the hall's not exactly overworked more's the pity!). And no, I won't be stopped from using it for raising the matter. It's the pupils here who are children not the managers.


I've been thinking about "repairing" the tower. Toe boards are easy to fit, a bar could be fitted across the top and so on. I'd already solved the safe dismantling problem by the simple expedient of lying the tower down to do it. I could probably have assembled it that way too although then raising it might have been hard. Of course, doing that single-handed probably raises a few H&S eyebrows.


£600 will get a replacement. See http://www.ladders-999.co.uk/towers_scaffold.htm


"I don't like accidents: that's why I don't have them." It's a good reason.


The point of the post was to ask what others would have done.


Since I started improving the stage I've flagged the following safety issues:


1. The 240v all-three-phases-present patch bay is on the wall stage right with no barrier to prevent anyone falling on to it or getting tangled with its leads in the dark.


2. Two tall, heavy wooden step ladders are stored vertically against the rear of the proscenium wall, stage left. Directly in front of them is the stairway down to the understage store. There was nothing to stop them toppling if anyone knocked them.


3. The wiring in some of the lights was appalling.


4. The tower does not meet standards.


5. The nice new 10A-per-channel dimmer may be feeding 5A-per-channel wiring.


Have I blown my cred with the management? No. I raised £1500 of support for AV from the school's old boys last year with possibly £1000 to follow this and I do a thorough job. That's why I'll be without my tower after tomorrow :P

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I think that with health and safety goal posts moving all of the time and no mechanism set up to advise affected people that the goal posts / regs/ regulations / code of practice etc have changed, there is a need to bring users up to date when you come across outdated practices.


We rely on schools to provide the next lot of actors, makeup artists, choreographers, costume designers, directors (no mention of tech people yet ?) so we need to have an active theatre venue within the schools.


Usually through no fault of the teachers, they are not trained in theatre due to the continually changing teacher training colleges (insert correct title) so it is parents and industry that help to fill in the gaps. I find that most schools will find the money to update safety when they are made aware of what is needed. Sometimes a creative approach is needed to go outside the school for funding, perhaps to a higher district level.


If we can foster this environment, then there will be a need to students to be involved technically in the various disciplines and we get our replacement techs.


There is room for professionals to be involved in this and be paid their standard rates, you just need to get the registrars to find out how they can get assistance with their budgets.

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Ah, I should have read your profile, but I am afraid the OP sounded a lot like a student "chief technician" type post, and my post was entirely based on that fact.


I often feel like a student "chief technician" due to the isolation of the post. I joined BR and STSG for tea and sympathy ;)


A fellow school technician visited me on Friday having read my posts here and we had a discussion that I found very useful since it was the first that I had ever had with anyone who knows anything at all about stage tech. (Thanks OJC).


Perhaps in its drive to improve the BR the management there should address the fact that many school technicians have roughly zero experience of stagework and might welcome the opportunity simply to talk to someone who does know something.

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I think you did the right thing. The tower is inadequate given recent legislation. The ladders do need some sort of chain or something to stop them falling over. My gut feeling is that they are fairly stable where you have them but that wouldn't stand up in court.


Have a look at this before investing in a tower.

As I said to you aluminium is a lot lighter and easier to put up and down. We have a minimax tower. I guess that there is an argument for fibreglass given it's electrical work but I'm not sure that the risk is that great. Perhaps someone with more knowledge will tell me.


You rightly point out that the patchbay could do with something to prevent the students from becoming Darwin Award nominees.


The STSG is the forum for School theatre technicians I suppose but the problem is that we are jacks of all trades in an increasingly specialised world. I'm just pleased that the expertise of the blue room members is available to me when I'm not sure about a particular issue.

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Well done, perfect timing!


I'm also trying to push on getting our scaffolding tower replaced as it was purchased 10 years ago and not up to H&S standards.


The good thing about our school is that we do use the scaffolding on a weekly basis so hopefully getting it replaced shouldn't be too hard.


There is one thing I'm a little confised on though... What is the HSE guidance or regulations on using a harness? The maximum we use our tower is with a platform height of around 5m or so. Would this height warrent a harness or is it different requirements (as in, what you're doing and not what height you're at)?




Feeta :angry:

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Although it's been discussed quite a bit previously, it's worth repeating...


Most scaffold towers are not designed to be used with a harness, and it's possible that were you to do so, not only would the harness offer very little protection, but the tower would fall over on top of you....



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