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Phantom chandelier safety certificate

Wendy R

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Most hirers provide paperwork that the 'average' hirer may need. There isn't really any standardised documentation. People tend to create what they need, so some hire companies would provide a risk assessment, and maybe a method statement, others won't waiting for the hirer to request things. In my own case, it's common for the hire company to provide nothing, apart from the hire item, and I never ask them for anything. Nowadays, responsibility is something that people decide for themselves, or maybe gets dictated by an insurance company, or membership of an association. If you don't know the answers, then you probably aren't best situated to devise them.

It's the old reversal of the common phrase about competency - if you have to ask, then you aren't. Please don't think I'm having a go, I'm not - but it sounds like you got lumbered with something and have been dropped in it. Forgive me if you know what I'm saying here.


What is a safety certificate? Are you looking for something to prove what you already think is actually correct? Let's assume it's held up by what to you appears to be a rather small and maybe flimsy shackle? You're looking for something that says the shackle is rated to 50Kg, and the chandelier is only 10Kg, so it's safe? That kind of thing? Or were you hoping you'd have a piece of paper that says "This chandelier is safe". Let's assume you see a shackle rated at 50Kg, and the Director has the great idea of letting it fall straight down, and the rope goes tight 300mm above the stage, making sure the chandelier always stops short - so that's safe yes? Probably not, actually, because you then enter the world of dynamic vs static loads, and that 50Kg may not be good at all. It means somebody (possibly you)  gets put in the tricky position of thinking it's safe when it isn't. Let's say somebody's foot is under it, and on the 3rd show, it fails - and their foot gets broken? The certificate is worthless and no good waving it in court.

Maybe you borrowed a similar organisation's policy? Are you feeling happy that it really applies to you?

It's frequent for me to be given all sorts of documentation. The skill is in deciding if it holds up, and if I can rely on it. 

I hope this makes sense, but it's your question [quote]Does the chandelier from the scenery hirers need a safety certificate[/quote]

that rings the warning bells.  You can't really have a policy on the level of understanding a group has? There's not even a real determination of how you even measure understanding. What you cannot have is a paperwork collection, and then stick them in the file and you are magically safe. You're probably less safe.


We get these kinds of questions often - if you explain what your concerns are, and why you need the piece of paper we can advise on what you really need, and how to manage it properly. P

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I'm sorry if you think I'm incompetent but I am merely the secretary trying to fix a problem. The scenery hirers have been rude and unhelpful throughout this process. We asked how heavy the chandelier was and it took 5 weeks and 9 phone calls to eventually get an answer. They basically had no idea so the question is if they didn't know the weight then how do we know if its been checked and is safe? Its going above the heads of the audience and our orchestra, it needs to be structurally sound, I have seen other web sites with chandeliers and a link to a safety certificate from a structural engineer. Maybe policy is the wrong word, I am trying to get answers as our rigger is now saying that they will not use this unless it comes with a safety certificate. We are performing in seven weeks and need to get this sorted out as soon as possible.

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That's absolutely the opposite of what I said. You've actually exactly agreed with me - if this is new to you, there is simply NO WAY you can have a manual to follow or a checklist, safety does not work that way. If you are a secretary, then why would you want to be the person who stands in front of the judge. They cannot tell you it is safe. This industry does not work that way. Almost certainly, they are thinking the same as me. If we answer the questions, then that might make it unsafe. A structural engineer will inspect an item and give it a piece of paper that specifies certain criteria. Unless you ask the right questions and provide the right source material, they are guessing. Many people massively over-build structures to reduce the failure risk, but at a cost in weight and cost. Your rigger is the person to decide. If they are not satisfied, then they won't rig it, because the onus is then on them. You should try to avoid getting involved with this - let your nominated person who understands the subject deal with the supplier. If they refuse to provide the information, go somewhere else. You've answered the questions already. If the supplier doesn't know or won't provide the info, walk away. You are totally correct - you don't know how well it's made. They should. warning bells are coming thick and fast.

The snag is that you need to trust your rigger. If they know what they are doing, it's fine, but remember the person in charge at Hillsborough - somebody has to make the decision and be responsible. Certificates are evidence, but only if what you do with the items is linked to the certificate. Like I said, a certificate for static loading doesn't help if the damn thing moves.

I don't think you are incompetent, but do the Judge Judy test. Imagine you standing in court after an accident. You know what she'd say. Who decides something is safe? A secretary might be really skilled at some things and have no knowledge at all about the physics. Your rigger out of the two of you would fare better with Judge Judy I assume? 

Lots of people collect certificates and method statements and assume they can then proceed with immunity. It just doesn't work like that, and if you have a rigger, why not just let them decide?


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I would simply find another supplier who will assist.

Either that or send this thread to the CEO of the company concerned.

I find it strange that the current supplier is behaving as they are. Although I totally agree with Paul @paulears, should something happen, it is very likely that the supplier would also find themselves facing a judge especially when the evidence that you did all you reasonably be expected to is presented to the court. H&S laws puts a duty on suppliers to ensure their equipment is fit for purpose, and installed and used appropriately. The supplier can put as many disclaimers in as they like, but in the event of a nasty accident, they will also be held to account. That's why plant hire companies will not hire out certain equipment without knowing that the user has the relevant skills. Car hire companies must ensure you have a licence to drive the vehicle you are hiring and are insured. However, that still does not mean you as organiser, the rigger as the installer would be absolved from all blame. 

Time may be short, but please proceed with utmost caution. 

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I don't think Paul was casting nasturtiums about your competence as a secretary or a person but competence in legal terms brings with it responsibility. I would have thought that there would be a Production Manager to make these decisions and if not then your rigger must deal with it. The supplier cannot give you carte blanche certification of safety because they don't rig it or know what the structure it is attached to might be like. They should however know the weight and methods of fixing and what kit is required. If they don't, look elsewhere.

Every item and step might be perfectly good but when put together it could turn lethal and I believe that it is only at final installation is a safety certificate worth a fig. 

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Just to clarify …. Is this “the chandelier” that in the show will drop down and /almost/ hit the audience. If so this is an effect that must be specifically and precisely designed and specified for each and every venue it is performed in. There is no generic “safety certificate” for such an effect because it depends entirely on what the venue can rig, the size of the drop, the staff (and qualifications) who will be operating it etc. 

As an amateur company you should be contracting a team to deliver this effect, giving them clear contracts as to what you expect to happen and understand the cost implications of dropping a large scenic item over an audience safely and dependably every night. If you can’t fulfil all of these criteria then you shouldn’t even begin to consider trying to present this effect because …. You WILL hurt someone. 


Edited by ImagineerTom
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"Is it safe?" Always a rotten question to be asked. You know that whatever answer you give will be a tricky one. You want to say 'probably', or 'possibly' - each one just east or west of the dividing line. In a roof once, with a real engineer, and when something popped into my head I suddenly said - can I hang something very heavy from here? pointing to a point where several steel beams converged. I was thinking about something coming up in a few months. He asked how much weight. I was thinking about a big hang of speakers, and did some quick sums in my head, and said hopefully, '500Kg'. He simply said 'fine'. The quickness of the response foxed me. "Don't you have to work it out?" he explained he'd taken my 'heavy' as probably 10 tonnes, done the calculations roughly using what he could see and thought 10 easily coped with by the structure. My half a tonne was nothing. Next question - want me to email the paperwork or do you want it in the post?

Tom is quite right above, the gear could be safe, but only within a specific context. This always happens when there's a mismatch in skill levels and underpinning knowledge.

In panto - very complex and potentially worrying equipment is installed - and paperwork supplied. Then, once installed, a couple of the production team then get tasked with daily, bi-weekly and weekly checklists, and these get passed to me for signing off. I've very aware that a few of the items on these check lists cannot have been checked in the way the supplier expects, because the two people doing it are not even aware of the technical reasons for the check. I go and check these things myself, because I cannot accept their signature on the form as proof, or evidence of the condition. They can check webbing, and loose bolts, or lots of other stuff, but can they check something up in the grid, hanging in mid air, that needs a spanner and access equipment? Visually maybe, but can they work out a system for checking the difficult stuff. 

The worrying subtext here is that a keen and clearly able administrator is somehow expected to design a safety system, when they actually have a rigger who should be doing all of this, because out of two people, one should know, and the other not even be expected to?



My 500Kg in my head was a really heavy load, in his head, a light one. You can have pieces of paper for each and every component saying they are individual safe up to a declared loading - but this package does not mean what you are doing with it is safe at all. If the supplier is rubbish, then you need to go elsewhere, but maybe the supplier isn't taking your request seriously, because they got a worrysome drift from the casual enquiry, sort of hoping you do go elswhere? Seems wierd business practice, but now I'm old, I often don't supply people based on a 30 second phone conversation. They ask a stupid question, very understandably, but then become very unreceptive to your follow up questions - you ask a deeper question to check understanding and decide they are not going to be easy customers. 

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Consider that the building may be safe, and the hired prop may be safe, but you can't expect the hirer to certify that your assembly will be safe. 

If you and your company don't have the skills and people to do an installation and calculate it's safety then you need to hire the skills in or change something to minimise the risk and hazard 

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  • 1 month later...

Hello Wendy R,

What a fascinating thread this is.

It is rare for me to agree with 'all' the post-ees...., and it is great to see people looking out for you!

What a great advert for The Blue Room!

Can I recommend you seek specific help from a chandelier company. Maybe one like mine..., ** laughs out loud **. Though there are a few reputable ones out there.

If you would like to make contact we will be more than happy to offer some free advice.

We have experience with hanging chandeliers within theatres..., and have looked after several in London's west end.

If you do go ahead..., you will need some sort of 'dampening system', a highly rated back-up safety system and ideally, (as mentioned above) someone else signing it off!

Wendy, (or anyone else reading this)...., always feel free to reach out.

Stay Safe,




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