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I think I ranted on this sort of topic a while back but couldn't find it, and sort of feel it's well worth a re-airing anyway. :blink:

ACCIDENT - according to Dictionary.com:

–noun 1. an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; casualty; mishap: 2. Law . such a happening resulting in injury that is in no way the fault of the injured person for which compensation or indemnity is legally sought. 3. any event that happens unexpectedly, without a deliberate plan or cause.

(Irrelevant definitions snipped)


It has long been my opinion that there are very few real accidents in this world of ours. Mainly because I was taught a long time ago that just about EVERY situation that can arise from what most would term an accident is avoidable, by at least one or more of the parties involved.


Take vehicular situations - If every driver on the roads religiously checked their brakes, lights, oil, etc every trip (and the highway code, as I recall recommends at least some pre-trip checks are made) AND had the car regularly serviced properly by a professional garage then there would be FAR fewer accidents due to machanical failure.

If every driver drove not just within the speed limits but also within the road conditions with due care, and also within their OWN limits of exoerience and training, then this would, in theory, also rule out pretty much every conceivable condition for them to actually cause a collision etc.


Then look at work related incidents - Whether using tools or access equipment or (in our cases) heavy pieces of metal and timber commonly called scenery, it falls to US as the users to make sure that we do so with all due care and consideration for ourselves and those around us.


Using tools properly will rarely result in injury - and that means not just use of the tool itself, but the user being aware of their environment and the work that they're using said tool on. Example, a builder is demolishing a brick wall with a sledgehammer, swings too hard and goes through the brick with too much of a follow-through for the weakened mortar and the sledge impacts on his leg, breaking his shin... Proper assessment of the work would have prevented that, thus an avoidable 'accident'.


Again, back to our business, there are many safety critical jobs which require a great deal of trust and team work - look at the relationships between DSM and flies, or pyro op, or stage crew moving a large truck - not all of the above will be be in a position to physically SEE what's on stage when they drop, fire or move the items in their direct control. They may not always be able to predict what an errant member of the 'talent' will be doing, or thinking of doing, which might stray from what's scripted or blocked, and thus get in the way of any of the above... So whilst crowning the talent with a flown flat, scorching their a55 with a gerb or running over their toes might be deemed an 'accident', the real cause might be any one of several things - including observation from the DSM or plain thick-headedness of the actor...


One of the words in the dictionary definition up top is 'unexpected'.

I'd challenge most situations where an 'accident' has occurred and the excuse that something 'unexpected' happened. With just a moment's forethought, the unexpected in most cases CAN be changed to the expected.


"I was driving down the lane, when a car came out from the side road unexpectedly and I crashed into it"

Part of driving training is to actually look ahead and be aware of junctions (see the road signs...) ahead, be aware of pedestrians, parked cars, traffic signals etc etc and mentally prepare for what hazards there may be, either concealed or even in plain sight.


I'll take another example (sorry Paul) that was discussed here at some stage not long ago, where paulears received some nasty friction burns when releasing a brake on one of the fly lines at his venue with (as I recall) the cradle unloaded but still with the bar loaded (or the other way around). As Paul had failed (by his own admission) to check the loading, the line quickly ran away with itself, and Paul reacted poorly by grabbing the rope and burned his palm quite badly. He could have argued that the rope running away was unexpected (but he didn't) where in fact it was the missed check of the bar itself that caused the incident and the resulting injury.


I had a small incident myself when loading a main FoH truss with heavy theatre PA speakers - there were 4 of us on the job, (two each end), plus one on the motor control. The truss was beeing bumped down onto the clamps, but my attention was drawn to the centre sub stack which had been attached shortly before - it was getting close to its trolley and was in danger of pushing that off the edge into the pit - something no-one had noticed at the time til I called out 'Watch the sub!' - unfortunately, that distraction meant I wasn't paying enough attention to the clamps in front of me at the second that the truss bumped in the last inch, and consequently I lost about half a centimetre of skin off my left thumb! No major injury by any scale, but it did bleed a bit. :)

Who's fault was that? Well, mine for being distracted from the job in hand, but also everyone else's for missing the way the trolley had been left - so my mini injury was entirely avoidable.


So - the reason for this little diatribe?

Well, if nothing else, I'd like for everyone here to maybe step back once in a while and examine what they do. We are ALL guilty of cutting a few corners at times, sometimes compromising the safety of others without any real intent to do so, more often compromising our OWN safety when we feel we can mitigate the risks involved.


Most grown ups I know and/or work with can be and indeed are quite circumspect about those incidents that occir - hitting a thumb with the hammer, risking a fall by climbing an inappropriate platform because they can't be ar5ed to fetch the ladders, etc etc. But I for one would be happy to dlete the word 'accident' from most reports, because quite frankly few are in any way an accident.


How many of you think you can conceive of a situation where an 'accident' happens that could not have been avoided...?


Off you go...



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Indeed. In many situations now we don't have "accidents" any more, we have "incidents". Our Council Accident Forms are now Incident Forms and the famous RTA (Road Traffic Accident) has been renamed RTC (Road Traffic Collision) as lawyers for defendents were claiming in court "it wasn't my client's fault - even the police called it an accident (RTA)": "collision" doesn't suggest culpability either way whereas "accident" suggests lack of culpability.


Nevertheless, you're in danger of suggesting that in a majority of cases someone is to blame which, of course, leads to the famous "compensation culture". I trip on a kerb and it's the council's fault so I deserve lots of money from them, even though I might have tripped in my own garden ; I catch a virus in hospital so it's their fault even though I might have caught the same virus in an aeroplane or in the street; someone throws a sweet off the stage in panto and it lands in my eye so I sue the panto company [etc. etc. etc.] All of this leads, of course, to increased council taxes, more and more hospital administrators and pantos that don't throw out sweets any more.


Two sides of the same coin! :)

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Any accident can be avoided if you are prepared to spend enough money. There is no such thing as an 'Act of God'.


My definition of an accident is an event where the costs of avoiding it exceed the consequential losses.

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Nevertheless, you're in danger of suggesting that in a majority of cases someone is to blame ...

precisely, because yes, the majority of 'accidents' are definitely avoidable ...

which, of course, leads to the famous "compensation culture". I trip on a kerb and it's the council's fault so I deserve lots of money from them, even though I might have tripped in my own garden ;
.. though actually, no - my point is that a fairly large proportion of so called accidents are avoidable by the person most likely to suffer, thus laying the 'blame' squarely on their own shoulders - as demonstrated in both my examples in theatreland... (ie Paul's and my own).


The idea of compensation is something I abhor with a vengeance when it's applied to something that really could have been controlled. We pay insurance to cover costs when certain circumstances are satisfied but the criteria for those circumstances are blurring all the time.

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The idea of compensation is something I abhor with a vengeance
Yes, but... It was only the prospect of paying out vast sums of compensation that "persuaded" motor manufacturers to start fitting safety features. Seat belts, collapsible steering columns and air bags for starters.
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The idea of compensation is something I abhor with a vengeance
Yes, but... It was only the prospect of paying out vast sums of compensation that "persuaded" motor manufacturers to start fitting safety features. Seat belts, collapsible steering columns and air bags for starters.


It's annoying...but necessary to prevent negligance.

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Yes, in that mythical ideal world all accidents would be avoided.


That world where everybody is perfect. Where everybody considers every possible outcome (even the impossible) before taking any action. Where nobody is ever tired, distracted or in a hurry. Where there is infinite time for planning and assessment of risk. And where every contingency is foreseen and planned for.


In short a world where nothing ever gets done.


We don't live in that ideal world and sometimes sh1t happens. There is a difference between what could have been prevented and what should have been prevented. Removing that distinction makes everything that goes amiss 'somebody's fault' and voila the blame and claim culture.


Sometimes you just have to write things off as an accident that couldn't have reasonably been avoided.

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The aircraft industry spends a fortune on safety. HUGE numbers of parts are routinely X-rayed almost every part is examined and comes with a stamped and innitialled label attached, and the labels are attached to the job paperwork if a part is replaced. They still have occasional incidents.


Imagine the cost to theatre in general if every nut, bolt, hook etc could only be supplied by approved suppliers with all the traceability. If every half coupler was actually X-Rayed every year etc, the cost of a production wouldn't be covered by full house sales and theatre would close.


As ever the Risk assessment should prepare y6ou for what needs covering and what can be covered more cheaply.


Risk assessed, risk minimuised, then remainder insured. With the number of lumps of space junk ready to drop out of orbit (which is in the order of tens of thousands) There is always a chance that something will come through the theatre roof unexpectedly - however small a chance if a piece doesn't burn up then it will land somewhere.

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Interesting. The whole subject becomes a matter of juggling many balls at once. What is reasonably practicable? What is the cost/risk balance? What level of competence is required? What is ones legal duty? What is the moral duty? What does foreseeable mean? and on and on...

It's why questions of safety need to be extremely specific for a satisfactory answer. For instance, the bolt that Jive mentions on the aircraft wing could fail killing hundreds of passengers and even more on the ground. Lots of duty, competence, cost and obligation. Same bolt holding a par can backed up by a safety chain ....a lot less of everything. As Jive says if you carry out a proper, competent RA it all works out and, in my experience, can often be cheaper than simply diving into a job. It ain't risk removal it's risk reduction to acceptable levels.


Tiredness, distraction, lack of time, and all the others are excuses not reasons, and compensation culture has never been the driving force behind H&S, rather it is a hindrance to sensible safety practice. The first padded dashboards and seat belts were suggested as early as the 1930's, Ford tried to sell safety packages in the fifties. People just wouldn't pay the extra cost until they were forced to by law.


H&S is about self-esteem really. I want to be responsible for my actions, not a fashionable stance these days, and I care about my effect on those around me. If anything "undesirable" happens to me or them I want to be confident I did all I could reasonably practically do to avoid it. I fail, but that just proves I am human. What I cannot accept is conscious negligence by someone, be that negligent thought or action. "I can't be bothered" kills and maims as much as "That bodge will do".


There IS no such thing as a pure accident. To quote Newton; "Those falling satellite parts were put up there by some idiot."

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My definition of an accident is an event where the costs of avoiding it exceed the consequential losses.

Unfortunately the courts now seem to be able to put a monetary value on a persons life and there seem to be too many people around with the attitude "Oh there's no need to weight test all the FoH mounts, they've been up there for years and never going to move, besides we have have insurance for £10 million".


At work we have just received a new way of how to classify first aid injuries and I had to laugh with astonishment at some of them. We used to put everything on the system as 'Medical' but apparently the school has to justify anything under that category so they created a new one called 'Accident'. Medical is only to be used for previously known or repetitive problems. Here's the list and clarifications for your amusement:


Type of accident:


Assault by person – behavioural

Assault by person – malicious

Contact with electricity

Contact with hot or harmful substance

Contact with moving machinery


Exposed to fire

Fall from height

Handling, lifting or carrying

Hit by moving or falling object

Hit something stationary


Involving vehicle


Personal contact e.g. sport/play

Slip, trip or fall on same level

Trapped by object



A 'burn' is the injury or outcome, but the type of accident is 'contact with hot or harmful substance'

A 'cut' is the injury but the cause/type, may have been 'hit by moving object', 'handling lifting or carrying', or 'hit something stationary' etc depending upon what actually happened

'fighting' is likely to be 'assault by person – malicious'

'children/adults bumping into each other' would be 'personal contact – e.g. through sport/play'

For the purposes of clarification:

'Assault by person – behavioural' is defined as a response outside the control of the individual due to a medical and/or mental health condition etc.

'Horseplay' is defined as pranks or skylarking.

'Needlestick' injury is defined as the accidental puncture of the skin by a hypodermic needle or syringe. Note that such things as sewing machine needles would not fall into this category, this could be due to 'contact with moving machinery' or 'handling, lifting or carrying' depending upon what was taking place at the time.

I agree with Tony on this one, with the exception of an insect sting (and that could be argued) I wouldn't class any of the above as an accident and how they can class assault to be an accident I have no idea! :)

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Yes, in that mythical ideal world all accidents would be avoided.

Yep - that world is certainly one where the sky is pink, grass blue and everyone's happy .


BUT the whole point of my starting this topic is to maybe make just a few people stop and think about their responsibilities...

As I outlined in the examples, both theatre related injuries could easily have been avoided by some more forethought and basically paying attention. But in both cases there was, I believe, some distraction. And again in both cases, neither injured party gave even a second thought to whose door the fault lay at.


That's perhaps where the difference is these days.


We've had insewerants ( Terry Pratchett) for many many years, but it's only been in very recent times that the over-riding consideration has been the compensation culture which drives people towards a claim that 30 years ago wouldn't have been worth the paperwork. And it's that compo culture that has forced the insurers to rewrite their conditions (as well as others to misinterpret those that already exist) so that they as a company are able to often negate a claim due to small print referring to some H & S aspect that doesn't necessarily exist...


Now, don't get me wrong - I'm far from saying that the utopian paradise that has a pink sky is something that is achievable - desirable, even - BUT what I do believe is that EVERYONE should both spend just a little more time thinking - on the spot - about what they do, and what they're planning, and think "Is that the best way of doing this, considering my abilities, my situation and (yes...) the money I have available to me?"

This is the way that I was brought up and educated and on the whole the way I look at life - especially in the theatre.

I wouldn't say that over the years I've not made mistakes, or taken a few extra risks - to be honest I've probably taken MANY risks... But conversely there have ben many occasions where I've looked at the situation and decided that no, there wasn't an acceptable way to do things so plans were dropped or changed accordingly.

And I've always tried to calculate those risks using that rare commodity 'common sense'.


On the airplane scenario, I actually smiled... One of our venue's trustees, and a fairly active member of my tech team (though he's slowing down these days due to advancing years) served an apprenticeship and worked his way up to foreman in the Rolls Royce engineering department, and often regales us with cautionary tales of the quality control in the jet engine shop floor. Tolerances that would make you weep, checks, checks and triple checks, and attention to detail that few companies could match.

But the comparison isn't really valid in many respects. Any manufacturer will (or should) have a set of guidelines to how their product is built. Tolerances for a child's bycicle won't be anywhere near those for an RB211 engine, but as long as those guidelines and related practices are followed, there shouldn't really be any problems with either product, or with the workforce who make/build them.

However, in BOTH companies there is always the possibility for what's oft called 'human error', though I'd wager that the safety record for RR is/was far better than that of the Xiang-Po-Chung manufacturing of Taiwan - just because of the general approach to safety in general.

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'Horseplay' is defined as pranks or skylarking.


I love the way a term is explained by equally esoteric words. I'm sorry but but if you are going to define a term, then do so with the most basic and unambiguous words possible. No wonder lawyers have a field day. (equally as ambiguous term intended!)


In a similar vein, I've seen countless documents entitled 'Planning for the unexpected'. Brilliant.


I think the word accident is still valid as the definition uses the word 'unintentionally', but an I do not believe many faultless accidents occur.


Most accidents are made up of multiple parts. An individual element may have been the cause but then a number if other factors were also involved that resulted in said accident.


My father worked for many years in a safety office. My favourite accident story from this time was a chap who had a hefty steel drain cover fall on his toes. Someone had removed the cover previously and lent it against a cupboard. The chap was assigned to put it back. He was retrieving his safety boots from the cupboard against which the cover was leant, when it fell over and landed on his feet.

Irony aside, who was at fault?

Should the cover have been leant against anything let alone the supply cupboard?

Should the chap have attempted to access the obstructed cupboard?


More often than not with an unintended event that involves an individual (or two or three) then they are at least equally at fault. (I was given the wrong type of ladder...)

Most people don't learn from their mistakes. Only the other day I said to my nephew, 'Don't do that, you'll hurt yourself'. Seconds later...

As we get older we repeat these earlier mistakes but are in situations that result in much more than just a grazed knee.

I laid out a red carpet for a school made film showing at our venue the other week. A colleague came through into the foyer, pointed at the carpet and said 'you shouldn't have, is that for me...haha'. Before they had even finished their sentence they had tripped over the edge!


The aircraft industry is an interesting one. With the exception of deliberate sabotage, every documentary about air crashes I have seen suggested a catalogue of error. The same triggers happen all the time but then the next thing in the chain behaved differently or the pilot managed to sort it.

Chance also plays a part, thankfully. However, design is the driving force as Tony mentioned. I had a friend that worked for RR. He came round once and said he had just had to return two £30,000 (each) gears because they were 3 microns out (Hair is between 17 and 181 microns). And of course there is the tale of RR being sent the worlds thinnest drill bit (at the time). RR then proceeded to drill a hole down the middle and sent it back.


Look at the oil spill in the gulf. Unfortunately we live in a world where very few people play with a straight bat and it appears that some have even been playing with the same one for at least 40 years.


Cars is a good one too. Cars in the 1930s were not unsafe; drivers were as they are now. Those drivers balked at paying extra for safety features that they had caused to be necessary. Why shouldn 't the car with extra features not be more expensive. Then it was made law and the price went up anyway. Win - win - win for ford. (the third win was that if a driver survived the accident then they bought another car!).


I think you can split people into 2 categories; those that expect 'accidents' and those that don't. I'd wager that those that don't expect accidents have much more. I know this sounds a little obvious but most people fall into the second category. I don't. Maybe the family and friends in the emergency services have contributed to my wariness. Whereas most people will recount 'I was driving along and all of a sudden we were in an accident', I feel like this when driving; 'I was driving along and then all of a sudden I wasn't horribly killed'.

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Look at the oil spill in the gulf.....

I was waiting to see if anyone would pick up on the oil spill 'accident'...


There has been quite some speculation on the reported fact that at least one, maybe more, of the on-site drilling team saw and highlighted problems with the mechanics of the drill, but they were (allegedly) ignored on the basis that to stop the drill to remedy the perceived faults would cost the company significantly in lost production....


Looks like someone there got his calculations of risk vs monetary cost of failure rather wrong....

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I once saw a safety lecture where the speaker had several blocks which they stood on edge on the desk like a trail of dominoes.


The centre of the talk was to knock one block then everything fell over, but if you could remove blocks then the domino effect would cease, meaning that if you could remove hazards and opportunity for injury, then the accident needn't happen. Nowadays we can add a little buffer in the dominoes called PPE.


However they still said that there were some "hit the desk" situations outside the control of the people where all the blocks could tumble together separately, as a result of one outside stimulus -the earthquake demonstrated by someone hitting the desk.


Most accidents can be avioded but sometimes we don't know the source so we may not protect against the incident.

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OK, you lot. Who jinxed me?


Drove 150plus miles to and from a meeting today only to be smacked into 150 yards from home. Accident?


Driving down narrow rural lane, spot car heading toward me, thinks "He's not going to make it". Young feller in car slams on brakes whilst I head for the hedge. I stop and he skids for 30plus yards and half T-bones me at my front wheel. He stops some 7 or 8 yards past my car and we get out. "I was only going 30", says the yoof. I wisely say nothing but examine all his tread on the road. He looks at my car, neatly parked halfway into a hedge with minimal damage, looks at his wrecked front end and says,"I really must get a car with ABS."

And this is where Tony would giggle, "Hmmm" I say, nodding sagely.


If he had not tried an emergency stop and just driven into the soft foliage at the roadside he would still have a car to use, but that is the benefit of being really old and knowing when they last did the hedge-cutting. If I had merely stopped he would have head-on'ed into me with some force and we both could have been injured.


Instant RA anyone?

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