One thing that has been on my mind lately, as I have been programming the LDInstitute courses for LDI2019, with its various rigging classes, is how ultimately important this kind of training is, from load calculations and rigging math to common sense safety precautions and double checking your safety precautions. Then wham, it hits you in the face: a rigger at Coachella falls and is killed on Saturday, April 6, 2019 at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, while setting the stage for The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival taking place on the weekends of April 12-14 and 19-21.
According to news reports, an eyewitness said the worker, who was not wearing a safety harness, fell about 60' while climbing the stage scaffolding. What? No safety harness? Why? What are the rules for that? And this happened to the lead rigger? Surely, he would have checked his harness? Or is there a reason he wasn’t wearing one? We’ll never know.
Goldenvoice, Coachella organizers, made a statement on Saturday:
“Today, Goldenvoice lost a colleague, a friend, a family member. Our friend fell while working on a festival stage. It is with heavy hearts and tremendous difficulty that we confirm his passing. He has been with our team for twenty years in the desert and was doing what he loved. He was a hard-working and loving person that cared deeply about his team. As our lead rigger, he was responsible for the countless incredible shows that have been put on at the festival. We will miss him dearly.”
Jim Digby, founder and president of the Event Safety Alliance, which advocates safety, safety, and more safety in the entertainment industry work place put out the following statement:
“The hearts of the ESA's membership are broken by the tragic and unnecessary loss of another member of our professional family. The circumstances around today's accident are just beginning to be investigated, but what is certain is the heaviness in our souls and the continuing need to advocate for responsible workplace practices across all segments of the event industry. This is our call to action. Let us grieve this tragic loss, send our love to all personally affected, and be unrelenting in stressing the importance of awareness and safe work practices. There is no higher responsibility.”
So I’d recommend that everyone get refreshed, in terms of safety training that is: Event Safety Alliance’s ESAT training is a good place to start. OSHA’s Click Safety Training comes in 10 and 30-hour blocks, and some states, such as Nevada, require all stage personnel to take this training (10-hour for staff; 30-hour for management). ETCP, the Entertainment Technician Certification Program, offers certification for riggers in two areas: arena and theatre, and the courses at LDI, for example, carry renewal credit for those certified riggers seeking recertification.
So please, don’t take any chances. Even if you think you don’t need safety training, a little brushing up on basics might keep you from being the next fatality, or watching a buddy fall to their death. Someone just died on the job at Coachella. He will be mourned, but the show must go on.