Safety and Loss Prevention
Set Deconstruction - Strike
Set deconstruction is also known as the strike. Sets are deconstructed in order to build up the next scene, but complete deconstruction and removal from the stage of sets, props, costumes, lights, and sound equipment occurs when the show ends its run at the venue.
Roadshows are deconstructed and packed for transportation and remounting at the next venue. The deconstruction of shows in a production house often involves recycling and reusing as much of the material as possible. The strike is busy, loud, and, to the untrained, confusing. Ensuring everyone’s safety during the strike starts with a plan.
Make a Plan
The strike plan will address the what, how, when, who, and safety of the deconstruction process. Since there are costs associated with deconstruction, the strike plan should be developed at the design stage of the production, so the costs of the strike can be included in the production’s budget. The strike plan should take into consideration the campus’s sustainability plan when determining what will be salvaged for recycling and reuse and what will go to the landfill. This decision is made early on because there are often extra costs associated with recycling and reuse that will impact the budget. To eliminate confusion later, the plan should be in writing. Additional checklists for use during the actual strike will facilitate efficient operations and ensure nothing is overlooked.
What and How
The strike plan includes details regarding what areas will be deconstructed, such as:
Strike Plan Includes:
|Backstage hallways||Orchestra pit|
|Dressing rooms and makeup||Foyer/lobby|
|Audio/sound||Auditorium when the venue has portable seating|
The strike plan states in what order the deconstruction will occur. This will often depend on the number of crews who can safely complete their work concurrently. Steps of the strike may include:
- Removal of portable auditorium seating
- Installation of guardrails or chains and warning signs at the edge of elevated stages
- Removal of props
- Removal of electrical fixtures
- Removal of sound equipment
- Removal of chairs and music stands from the pit or orchestra area
- Removal of soft goods, such as stage curtains, screens, shims, fabrics, masking, etc.
- Dismantling of the sets/scenery
- Removal of lighting booms
- Removal of battens
- Repainting the stage deck
The strike plan defines how deconstructed items will be handled. The plan should identify what will be retained for reuse, what will be recycled through a formal recycling program or vendor, and what will go into the dumpster for landfill disposal. Identify where to obtain the storage containers for the items that will be retained for reuse and where they will be stored once the strike is completed. Identify what arrangements will be made to provide containers going into formal recycling and what arrangements need to be made to schedule the dumpster.
The strike plan stipulates when the strike will occur. The determination for the timing of the strike is influenced by the scheduled use of the venue, the availability of the strike crew, the availability of the scene shop, labor contracts, and safety concerns. Multiple studies have shown that more injuries occur on night shifts and when personnel work extended or unusual hours. Scheduling the strike to occur the morning after the last performance reduces the risk of injury incidents related to fatigue and the inattention associated with fatigue. Often the schedule of an incoming production dictates the strike must begin as soon as the final curtain call is concluded. When this is the case, the proper training and preparation of the strike crew and the provision of rest breaks and healthy refreshments becomes more critical. We will discuss crew safety issues later in this chapter.
The written strike plan spells out who will be involved in the strike and what responsibilities they are assigned. The strike should be supervised by a trained and qualified person. This may be the set designer, show carpenter, or technical director. The strike supervisor must remain on premises and actively supervise the strike during strike activities. Strike efficiency is increased when several crews are working safely in concert and that requires trained and qualified strike crew leaders to report and take direction from the strike supervisor. Identify who will serve as crew, students and/or paid professionals? Besides the strike crews, determine:
- Who will install the safe guards for the edge of the stage?
- Who will be responsible for providing personal protective equipment (PPE):
- Who will be responsible for safety oversight and ensuring compliance with safety rules and regulations is maintained?
- Who will make the arrangements for the packaging, storage, and disposal materials, such as bubble wrap, paper, boxes, and dumpsters?
- Who will be responsible for making the arrangements for the provision of refreshments?
- Who will complete the final walk through to ensure the strike is complete?
Keep It Safe
Advanced planning helps to ensure the safety of the strike crew.Strike safety considerations include:
- The scheduling of the strike as discussed in the “when” section above
- Strike crew and leader training
- The provision of PPE
- Provision of appropriate tools
- Reducing distractions
- Provision of rest periods and refreshments
We discussed the potential effects of when the strike is scheduled and how that can impact safe operations. When late night, through the night, or overtime is required to complete the strike, extra steps need to be taken to ensure strike crew safety. Conduct documented “night shift and extended shift” safety training for the strike crew well in advance of the strike. Design the training to inform them of the safety issues associated with fatigue and disrupted sleep rhythms associated with night and extended shift work and the steps they can take in advance of the strike to reduce their risk of injury.
Conduct documented strike training for the crew, crew leaders, and strike supervisor in advance of the strike. Ensure the training includes:
- An explanation of the strike plan – including who, what, when, and how
- Each crew’s assigned tasks – what are they expected to do and when it will occur in the schedule
- How to handle recycled and waste materials –
- remind them to remove nails and staples from wood or hammer them flat
- tell them where will the materials go
- instruct them to keep routes and access to the exits and the dumpster clear and safe
- How to safely use the tools assigned for their tasks –
- tell them what tools they will be using
- give instruction regarding how to safely use the tools
- give instruction regarding how to safely clean and store the tools at the completion of the strike
- PPE requirements –
- tell them what they have to wear
- tell them when they have to wear it
- tell them how to care for their PPE
- tell them how to return or dispose of it at the completion of the strike
- Basic electrical safety training
- Prohibited behavior, such as no horseplay, no working under the influence of drugs or alcohol, etc.
Prior to starting the more hazardous deconstruction tasks, conduct a quick safety meeting to review the task steps. An example of such hazardous tasks is the removal of large steel flats that require the use of bull lines, lots of people, and complete concentration.
The appropriate use of PPE reduces the risk of injury. The PPE necessary for each crew member will depend on the task they are assigned and the work that is occurring around them. Provide and require the use of:
- Hard hats – when overhead hazards are present
- Safety glasses and goggles – when using hand and power tools or there is a risk of flying debris
- Work gloves – when required to handle materials with abrasive edges
- Reflective vests – required to increase their visibility
- Chemically resistant gloves – when hazardous chemicals are used
Provide the Appropriate Tools
Provide the appropriate tools for the tasks to be completed, and require the crew to use the tools in the manner for which they were designed, for example use a hammer when a hammer is needed rather than a screw driver. Ensure crew members are trained to use the tools they are assigned and understand they should never use a power tool without proper training in its use and limitations.
Distractions during strike activities increase the risk of injury, just as distracted driving increases the risk of accidents. Strikes are already noisy due to all the activity taking place. It is not unusual to have to shout to be heard. Turn off the music. Prohibit the use of the sound system to project music, and prohibit the use of personal entertainment devices. Distractions can also be caused by unauthorized personnel “visiting” the strike. Limit the strike to authorized personnel. If students must be there to observe the operations, require them to adhere to all safety rules and precautions expected of the crew, and require them to be continuously supervised.
Provide Rest Periods and Refreshments
It is important to promote strike crew alertness by providing routine rest periods and refreshment breaks. When it comes to refreshments, stay away from sugary and caffeinated foods and beverages. Sugar and caffeine can have an initial short-term energizing effect, but that sugar/caffeine high is followed by a crash. Provide fresh water and vitamin drinks, such as Propel and Gatorade. The fresh water and the replenishing electrolytes of sports drinks help keep the body hydrated. Dehydration causes listlessness, headaches, and feeling tired. Serve snacks that are high in protein and complex carbohydrates. Ensure adequate time for meal breaks when the strike will last more than four hours.
After each strike it is important to conduct a review of the strike. Ensure the review answers the following questions:
- What lessons can be learned from the events of the strike?
- What went well?
- How can you ensure you can repeat it?
- What did not go according to plan?
- What needs to be changed?
- What should be done differently?
- How will you ensure the change occurs?
- If injuries occurred, even minor ones,
- Why did each injury incident occur?
- What could be done to prevent a recurrence at the next strike?
- If near miss incidents occurred,
- Why did each incident occur?
- What can be done to prevent a recurrence?
- What do you need more of:
- Rest periods?
- Are there policies or procedures that need to be amended or created?
- How will you share the information from this meeting to benefit others?
The Review Team
After you review the list of questions, you may have additional questions to add to the list. In order to answer these questions, who will you need to have at the table? Be sure you include one or more representatives from the EH&S Department and/or the Risk Management Department. Physical Plant may also have important input that would increase the value of the review.
Fall hazards discussed in the Set Construction chapter are also present during the strike. It is important to review the fall protection information located in the Set Construction chapter, as well as the various Codes of Safe Practices regarding fall protection.