Wise Words from Inspector Eric

Here at IAStage, we’re proud that we have 12 ETCP certified riggers on staff, including 1 Recognized Trainer, and 1 Recognized Subject Matter Expert. Inspections are an important part of the services we provide. IAS Project Manager and ETCP Certified Rigger, Eric McAfee, recently completed an inspection at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts. We sat down with Eric to find out what exactly an inspection entails as well as the benefits of having them.

Eric McAfee

What does being an ETCP certified rigger mean?

It means that I have a nationally recognized certification which establishes a base level of understanding and recognition in the field of stage rigging. In order to get certified, there is a minimum requirement of work hours spent at stage rigging in addition to certain minimum education requirements. Once those are met, you are capable of taking the 150 question test about general theatre and specific rigging knowledge in various areas to see if you’re qualified.

How does being an ETCP certified rigger help you during the inspection process?

Certification lends a certain credence to the reports we put out. Since it is from a certified source, it proves that I have the background to know what I’m doing and what state equipment should be in to be considered safe. Not all inspectors are ETCP certified, but in my opinion, they should be.

Are regular inspections mandatory or elective?

While inspections of stage rigging aren’t mandatory, it is highly recommended. These systems are very involved, and you need them running in proper order to keep everyone safe and productions running smoothly. Yearly inspections of fire curtain systems are mandated by the building code. Oftentimes, we can schedule a venue’s inspection of their rigging equipment in conjunction with inspecting the fire curtain system.

Do you inspect the entire theatre or just specific parts?

That depends on the facility and their requests. Some inspections are more involved than others, but we prefer to inspect everything. This includes systems that aren’t necessarily under the stage rigging flag. For instance, if we see issues with electrical or lighting systems, we will call out those deficiencies as something for concern.

When you’re walking through a venue, what do you check?

I check all the mechanical connections involved in stage rigging systems. I get as up close and personal with all the connections, nuts, bolts and ropes as possible. I try to touch as many as possible. I walk through and look for anything that looks different from everything else to make sure everything’s tightened properly, connected correctly, and working well. I also check the types of equipment being used, whether it is being used correctly, and that it is installed properly for its purpose.

How does a venue benefit from having an inspection annually?

A lot of folks aren’t really aware of the potential danger and liability of stage rigging systems. By having a yearly inspection, it reduces a venue’s potential liability in case of a stage rigging incident by proving systems are maintained in a responsible manner Annual inspections allow theatres to be proactive before things happen. Theatre owners can be kept aware of equipment states so they can be maintained or replaced and that the equipment is being used in the proper manner.

Are there ways a venue could increase their facility’s safety between inspections?

Yes, by being vigilant and keeping an eye on their own system – looking, listening and feeling for things that are different from how they used to be or should be. Make sure you are using proper rigging techniques and are not overworking the mechanics of the system.

We’ve talked a lot about what can go wrong. What sorts of things do you find right during inspections?

There is a lot you can tell about a theatre just by walking through the door. If the space is well maintained, clean and neat, you can tell they care about their theatre and typically, the rigging will also be in good repair. Likewise, messy spaces with empty paint cans, and blocked exits with stacked scenery tend to not have systems in good repair. Rigging inspections and facility maintenance are an important part of the responsibilities of owning and operating a theatre.

And, of course, the money question. Are inspections expensive? Is there a way to reduce costs for the smaller venues out there?

Expensive is a matter of perspective. It does take a couple of days for an inspector to make their way through the theatre and write up the report. However, no one that I know who does inspections makes a profit off of it. Their fee is purely their costs, and a lot of times, its travel costs. So by selecting a local inspector, it can reduce a venue’s cost. USITT offers a great inspection program for secondary schools where they will pay the fee for the inspection. IAStage participates with USITT’s program. Remember that a yearly fire curtain inspection is mandatory. But if you schedule the facility and the curtain inspection at the same time, you can consolidate costs and better justify the expenditure in your annual budget.