Have you ever been to a live show and noticed a speaker hanging by a piece of chain from its handles or seen a lighting fixture with a broken plug? This sort of equipment setup should make you nervous because it is unsafe.
Electrical guidelines are most commonly abused. Never perform a temporary electrical tie-in by yourself! In other words, opening and connecting inside an electrical panel. This is a job for a certified electrician and it is illegal for it to be done by anybody else.
It is also incorrect to install an AC ground lift (often called a “cheater”) and not connect the ground lug to the screw terminal centered between the plugs on the wall outlet. In the event of any fire, injury or death, you could be found responsible. Make a habit of running any snakes or cables over top of doorways or exits instead of leaving them on the ground where people can trip over them. If the Fire Marshall makes a surprise inspection (and they sometimes do) he may shut down your show until the problem is fixed.
Hanging loudspeakers (often called “flying” loudspeakers) should only be performed by a certified rigger. Riggers are specially trained in this field and always carry insurance in case of an accident. Only speakers manufactured with rated flying hardware can be flown safely. Never fly from handles!
It is commonplace to hang lighting equipment, but it must be hung from a C-Clamp and must have a steel-rope safety chain. While hanging lighting fixtures, use scaffolding if available. If a stepladder has to be used, never stand on the top step. Lastly, you should always wear steel toe boots, leather gloves, and a hard hat if people are working above you. Always get help when lifting heavy cases or speakers and make sure you always have a good supply of earplugs for nights when the band is just too loud. A deaf soundman won’t be in this business very long! Have a good safe show!
Brad Femiak is an audio engineer and works at Show Pro, a sound & lighting company in Toronto.