Safety Rant

Churches – Don’t kill your pastors and members!

I have big plans to do more blog updating, and I am going to do better. By nature, I am not disciplined enough to share when I learn something new – however, I am constantly looking at everyone elses blogs and tweets when I need solutions to my problems and challenges that they may have encountered. So… I will – I will share more on here.

What prompted this post was some work I recently helped with at a local church. Myself and some members of our FBC Tech.Arts team joined me to help another church in town tune and re-aim their speakers in their worship center. A year or so back this church hired a company to upgrade their audio system.

From a design standpoint it was simply the wrong solution for the style and room of this church, but that is not what this post is about. This post is about safety. I admit to letting some things slide, for example, I (gulp) plug extension cords into power strips from time to time. This is a minor issue, and I have a very close idea to the current we are pulling and believe that it is safe.

Where do I really make a stand? Hanging overhead. Rigging speakers, projectors, TV’s, lights etc MUST BE DONE SAFELY. As you can imagine, what we found at the church we were helping was unsafe. It was not the churches fault, they hired “professionals” who designed the system and installed these speakers.

I am not a rigger. Repeat. I am not a rigger. I defer to the professionals usually, and when I don’t, I research the heck out of the correct rigging from the manufacturer of the devices and speak to the building engineers to ensure the load is safe. Over engineer everything, think through every detail – LIVES depend on it. There are some very simple things that many churches (and bars) do wrong.

What was so bad at this church? (the load is a 70lb speaker cabinet, 2 hang points with a pull-back chain)
a) they used bent-over eyebolt lags screwed into 2×6 roof beam.
– these can slowly bend open over time and drop the load to the floor. (in this case, onto the pastor)
– the lags can weaken and pull the wood grains out.
– proper would use welded or forged eye bolts with nuts, washers, and locking nuts.

b) un-rated carabiners used to connect the chains.
– these have 2 failure points, the pin and the latch. In this case, they actually has started to bend and warped already.
– we replaced these with 800lb rated locking chain links. better would have been shackles, but we had none available.

Other common issues with rigging are

– Hanging speakers or other items not designed for it. Most commonly cheap pole-mounted speakers made from a MDF or particle board. What generally happens is the bent-over eye bolt lags are screwed into the speaker cabinet. As above the eyebolt can open, but what is more likely to happen is the cabinet failing under its own weight. The wood will fall apart and the speaker will fall. I see this a lot. I have actually seen this failure when the top piece of particle board separated from the rest of the speaker cabinet, dropping it to the ground. No one was under it at the time thankfully.

– No safety cable on lighting. Just use the dang safety cables. I am guilty of this one, and there is no excuse.

– Split chain links – seriously, these cheap junky chain links used to hang 2lb decorative lights cannot hang your big wooden cross or speakers.

– No locking washers, double nuts, or locking nuts. Always use some method to keep your nuts from coming loose. It adds almost no cost but can save injury or death.

As I said – I am not a rigger. If you don’t know – hire someone (with experience and insurance) to get the job done right. Don’t chance this stuff guys.

Some more great information can be found here: http://svconline.com/how/features/avinstall_stage_rigging/

Thanks. Rant. End.

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