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Working on a Fly Floor


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Hi Guys,


I have a fly floor at my Venue, and according to our health and safety officer, the council have said that the electric winch that used to be used (before I took over the venue) is not to be used, as it winches up from the stage, and then needs to be dragged over onto the fly floor floor with a bit of sash. I'm sure other venue's do something similar to get heavy kit up onto fly floors, but I want to obviously make sure we're safe, and that we don't go against health and safety obviously. The council have said if we need to do something like this, we would need to build a cage for the person pulling the item being hoisted up.


Is there a way we can get around the health and safety and do things safely at the same time? Any suggestions would be great.


Cheers Guys.


P.S currently there is nothing in place to hoist things up, this is anticipation of up coming events at the venue.

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Install a second winch, with a pulley/sheave block (not totally sure that this is the right item, but basically something that will allow the main winch to still hoist in/out)? This way you can move the load towards the fly floor safely?


(disclaimer: I'm not a rigger, consult with someone experienced, maybe it's better to have someone look at your venue in person to determine the best option)




Edit: Add pic to try and explain what I mean/ clarify your situation.


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Are you pulling the winch over to the fly floor, or just the cable? I've worked in plenty of venues where the winch is on a swing arm and can be moved so that it's either clear of the fly floor or over it. If the piece of sash isn't acceptable - and I could see that it would mean leaning out over the rail - how about a pole with a hook on the end, so you can grab the winch and pull it in from the safety of the fly floor, and then use the reverse end to push it back out?
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One thing I saw in a venue on a fly-floor is a motor on a beam on runners, so the motor can pick the load up and the the whole motor is moved rather than just the load.


Milton Keynes has a similar system in the wings and in the grid from memory.

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All of this is utterly irrelevant. There is no point in trying to get around the council's recommendations. If you 'work around' them and then an accident happens as a result of not following their advice, they will eat you like a burger.


I'm not being funny to the OP... but every time you come across an issue in your venue where you're a 'technical manager', you seem to be on here asking how to do it. A look in your profile at the topics you've started shows a host of things (some safety related) that relate to the workings of your venue. I'm not being funny but is it not reasonably justified to be a bit skeptical about why a technical manager of a large London venue needs to be constantly consulting an internet forum (which, may I add, is not regulated in it's answers) for answers to real life problems in a real life venue?


The fact is this. If you are using a winch to get items up to the fly floor, and the council say that to do so you need to build a cage, YOU NEED TO BUILD A CAGE. They don't say "build a cage" because they've been tipped off by South London Cage Builders Ltd to unnecessarily sell as many cages to businesses as possible, they've said it because professional health and safety officers have identified a problem (a problem which has been identified at a higher level because accidents have actually happened or nearly happened) and action needs to be taken on that problem.


Finding little workarounds in small independent theatres may be reasonably common because of budget constraints and what not. But you're technical manager at a major London venue that is famous across the country and takes in major shows. You should strive for nothing other than to be completely compliant and completely safe. Workarounds are NOT an option.


If you want to do something which cannot be currently safely achieved, and you don't know how to do it yourself; DON'T consult an internet forum, DO hire in a professional, get them to design a system that is health and safety compliant, and do it in conjunction with the council's health and safety reps who you have been working with to ensure that they are satisfied with the action you are taking.

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OK, your only obvious route here is to put this firmly back into the H & S Officer's lap, and discuss it with him.


Knowing the typical H & S bods that frequent many places (especially local authority venues), he MAY well be over-reacting to something that is intrinsically safe IF there is a proven working practice already in place that addresses the concerns he obviously has. Many venues will have motor or manual chain hoists to haul heavy gear up to the fly floor - and they are used regularly without incident.

For instance, if there is a gate in the fly floor railings that needs opening to receive stuff, then that is obviously a fall hazard, and as such yes you must have a proper harness and anchor point to prevent you going too far and falling.


The motor would need to be in the best position for the type of gear you're hauling up - ie not too close that larger items will catch on the sides on the way up, but not too far out that you have to stretch to reach them. It is perfectly acceptable however for you to use a proven safe method to pull in anything that is out of comfortable arm's reach from the rail - if that means a long length of sash tied to the item on the deck, and you take up the slack from the flies as it rises, then pull in at the top. That in itself is a simple and effective method of preventing any need to reach over the rail to grab the gear.

Has your H & S bod told you WHY he feels it's unsafe to do that??


It's clear that gear needs to be moved up to the fly rail, so you either need to demonstrate to the guy by producing a proper RA for the job, along with a safe handling working practice document, or put the ball back into his park and suggest he comes up with the alternative. As a council employee, he is NOT the HSE, and cannot therefore just 'ban' something and walk away (though HSE probably wouldn't, either). It's in HIS employers' interests to solve the problem either by using the knowledge of the people on the floor or by taking consultation with external bodies.


One thing NOT to say, however, is that you want to 'get around' H & S, even if you temper it with 'still do things safely'.



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I too am concerned about misunderstandings. What Brainwave says is quite correct. If your employer says something is dangerous, and needs added safety measures, unless you can provide a risk assessment from your files (which of course I guess you probably don't have) then it's impossible to suddenly state it's safe.


Lifting items from stage floor to the flys is not normally a problem, if the winch point is close to the rail, so you winch higher and then without leaning out can guide the item down to the fly floor. If the lifting point is too far out so you need a bit of sash to pull it in, then with a heavy item this could be quite unpleasant, and probably an unnecessary risk.


If the council have said your current practice is not acceptable, then they will have to foot the bill for a replacement system.


The cage - you mean a cage over the person doing the operation? What purpose would this have, and in the risk assessment, how would it improve safety and reduce risk. Surely, if the council wish to be safer, the simplest solution is to fit an I-beam with sliding carriage - so you lift, then the winch is moved offstage, lowering direct to the fly floor. Nobody ever underneath it, no need to use muscle power to divert the hauling line/chain - so why not investigate this. after all, the best thing about Councils is if they identify risk in their workers operating practices they fix it - and cost rarely intrudes. They even like the paper trail of detecting potential risk, confirming it, reviewing it and then introducing a safe replacement.


At my venue, the owner does not understand at all Health and Safety law. so from time to time, he works on faulty information and over-reacts. There is NO POINT WHATSOEVER trying to change his mind. He perceives a danger, and as he cannot assess it himself - so what is he supposed to do? Carry the can in court or accept somebodies assurance it's really ok? My council's newly graduated person warned him that house light bulbs must NOT be changed from the roofspace, as the walkways to them (actually crawling boards) had no handrails. So it's scaff towers and delay to what was a 5 min job. He could, I believe, have made a perfectly workable case for no change - because our risk assessments showed it a low risk activity - but my opinion, or the councils (the council are simply the licensing authority - the building is privately owned). I can't blame him for going with the Council's opinion.


Is there a way we can get around the health and safety and do things safely at the same time?

You seem very confused about this - what is this mystical "Health and Safety" you wish to get around? A formal risk assessment, or a safety report, or what? What does it state as absolute. My guess is that there are plenty of solutions to this one - but using the phrase getting around suggests you wish to carry on with your method, but don't have the means to say it's safe.


What do YOUR risk assessments for the task show? Severity of injury, likelihood of injury, measure in place currently, new measures in place, reduction in risk from what to what?


You have a venue Health and Safety Officer, who's job is to make sure people are safe. Show this person your method is safer, and they would probably HAVE to use yours, rather than theirs if it makes the process safer. If you can't prove it is safer, then you have no options at all. Thinking it's safe isn't good enough.


What is the bit about harness required?

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Surely, if the council wish to be safer, the simplest solution is to fit an I-beam with sliding carriage - so you lift, then the winch is moved offstage, lowering direct to the fly floor. Nobody ever underneath it, no need to use muscle power to divert the hauling line/chain - so why not investigate this.


This is a *really* bog standard, ordinary technique used in workshops, warehouses, factories etc.. across all kinds of industries. If it's at all practical to install a trolley beam then its probably a no-brainer. Swinging things around with taglines, crappy scaff hoists on swinging arms and other ad-hoc techniques have their place but that place is not high on the list of things to prefer for a permanent installation. Note the terminology: The I beam in such a system is a trolley beam. The hoist moves along the beam suspended on a beam trolley. Beam trolleys can just roll, or they can be powered (by hand via a chain, or electrically). There are *many* hoists on the market for this purpose, some with integral trolleys, some are multi-speed.

You would probably need to consult someone who installs this kind of stuff, and it would probably be sensible if it was someone familiar with the theatre environment.


PPE is right at the bottom of the so-called 'hierarchy of controls', if you're designing a system of work you should really be looking to design it in such a way that a harness is *not* required.


At the top of that heirarchy, btw, is the avoidance of unnecessary tasks - what is this heavy gear that routinely needs shifting up onto the fly floor? Do you put touring dimmers up there or something?

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For the OP's consideration. Posting on a public forum your possible thoughts on getting around an H&S problem is not a good career enhancing move.


BG gave an excellent response...in short...get the pros in...and leave it to them. Granted the method employed hitherto appeared to be "OK" but now it is deemed as unacceptable.


It may be you have had your ear bent by some of the old time served bods who might feel that "Management" is trying to "manage" (the very idea). Management pays your salary so the shrewdest option is to follow their dictat.


Sincerely hope your Management don't read this forum. If I was your employer I would be wondering about your wisdom in approaching any forum in order to "get round an H&S issue"...and whether you could come up with a viable RA.

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If there is somethng that you "must" do -first ask why. If there is a good reason then you need to find a good safe system of work that can proceed from one stable situation (load on floor) to another stable situation (load on high shelf) via a method agreed with your H&S people as "Safe". I'll doubt the final existence of "safe" ultimately, but as safe as possible and agreed with your H&S people.


If you can find a safe start, a safe method and a safe finish then yur H&S people should have little to bother about. If you try to find a way of working round the rules -and publish it on the web(!) expect your H&S people and HSE to watch your work very closely or your personnel department to use the phrase "bringing the company into disrepute".

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Can I just throw my weight behind Seano's post.

The hierarchy of risk begins with eliminate the work process entirely, (don't hoist heavy items on to the fly floor).


If these principles are not second nature to anyone reading this thread may I suggest that they arrange some H&S training as they are as basic a rule as don't eat the yellow snow.


Jive's comment on "Why must I do XXX" is an excellent starting point and should form the basis of a thought process placing risk hierarchy above method of operation.

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I thought this was quite an interesting topic


someone asked for ways to do something fairly common


a number of people suggested how they do it or how they would do it


a lot more people currently doing it one safe way now have ideas of how other people do it


perhaps the OP (or another hypothetical OP)just needed their brain giving a nudge in the right direction


it would be a shame if this type of topic disapeared because people were afraid to ask, it would make for a very dull place


incidentally I read "Is there a way we can get around the health and safety and do things safely " as "is there a way we can get around the health and safety problem to make this safer"


so replace "get around" with "avoid" and "health and safety problem" with "potential danger" and you have a perfectly valid safety question as part of your RA and hierarcy of control


oh and I agree find someone to install a beam trolley, bearing in mind that if the thing being lifted doesnt fit over teh handrail and a gate is needed then this might possibly need a harness and suitable anchor for fall provention / edge protection , not for fall arrest

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Right ok, iv just read a few posts on here. Maybe the words 'get around' weren't the best choice. I'm not at all suggesting to get around the Health and Safety aspect of the situation, I was nearly asking for peoples thought, and how their systems work if they have one in place. We have a company we have used already that I was going to go to once iv done a bit of research into possibilities of safe systems that could be installed.


Also, if I'm honest, I don't really appreciate the attack on my technical reputation from Brainwave. I was not trying to imply I was trying to 'get around' the health and safety, nearly try to find possible solutions as Ianl stated.

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"Getting around" always says "evading" (your responsibilities -here to H&S).


You should first evaluate the task -is it needed and why,


then you should end up with a paper trail covering how you have assured yourself that the task can be done safely.

that no-one can fall or have things dropped on them, that the lift is suitable for the weight to be raised,and that there is a method for handling the thing when it is on the fly floor.


When you have assured yourself of it's safety then you should consult your H&S people for their input.


Remember that ultimately if this goes badly wrong someone could go to prison and it may not be you but a manager somewhere above you who should have supervised you.

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