This year at Tinc we’ve been focusing on our dedication, as production managers, to safety. We’ve been doing a full audit of our safety processes and procedures, and will continue sharing our process and findings here.

One of the biggest challenges we came up against was simply how to talk about safety without making people roll their eyes.  “Yeah, yeah, we know safety is important.”  We continue to do what we currently do because, of course, we always try our best to be safe and keep safety in mind when making decisions.  No one actively tries to be unsafe.

Unfortunately, this very common behavior can be disastrous.  Our intuition isn’t always reliable, and each project has many people making decisions simultaneously. Every person makes decisions based on their own set of experiences and familiarity with the situation.  The fact of the matter is, what we do is complex; dangerously complex sometimes.  It is so varied that one person alone could never see all of the angles and potential issues, or make decisions based on taking absolutely everything into account.

This is why the entire team has to be working together towards the same goal; the same definition of safety.

Our projects have another layer of complexity to them, which is that not everyone who works on a show is hired by the same company. Shows and events are made up of conglomerate teams, which makes creating a single shared definition all the more challenging. How do we create a common definition of safety, make sure everyone has the information necessary to do their jobs safely, and create an environment where the various parties involved all feel comfortable pointing out any red flags they see?

You guessed it:  Communication is the enabler of Safety. So, how can you use communication to reinforce the importance of safety?

You have to start by saying that it matters.  Out loud, on paper, in your conversations, over and over again.  Now, this doesn’t mean that you actually say “Safety Matters”.  You have to show it.

Create a Safety Statement. A short paragraph that details out what your company’s role is in creating a safety conscious environment.  This statement has to hold true in every environment you work in.  It doesn’t change based on the role you take on.  It is as much a mantra for expectations of others, as it is a PSA about working with and for you.  Then share it.  With your team, your clients, with other vendors on the project.

Emphasize safety in employee communications. Include language in your Employee handbooks about your employee’s role and responsibility in actively creating a safe environment, including monitoring and reporting.  Start drilling it into the minds of your employees and contractors from the very beginning.

Include safety language in conversations, quotes and proposals with clients.  It is important that they know that you won’t cut corners when safety is the tradeoff.  It will make hard conversations about budgets and requirements easier if they know there are certain things you won’t compromise.

Create safety checklists, forms, and templates. The goal of these lists and forms are to assist the entire team in making sure certain questions or to do’s are completed, discussed or thought about.  Start with a list of everything you’d need to look at and check things off as you do them.  This is the opposite of trying to think “Did I miss anything?”  Here is a list of common documents we use.  This documentation is standard for larger projects, but on smaller one-off projects, these can often get overlooked as “overkill”.  If you create standard templates to begin with, it is much faster and easier to create these and walk through them with the appropriate people.

  1. Pre-Project Safety Analysis
  2. Venue Site Survey Safety Walkthrough
  3. Deliverable Schedule with included Safety Section
  4. Contact Lists 
  5. Organizational Charts with Reporting Channels
  6. Decision Matrix (who makes the decision in each scenario?)
  7. Emergency Trigger Charts (what exactly triggers an emergency plan?)
  8. Emergency Evacuation Plans in coordination with the Venue
  9. Process for Documenting Near-Misses
  10. Post-Mortem Agenda Template

Check in with the boots on the ground.  At the end of each work day or work call, take a minute to pull everyone together and ask them if there is anything they identified as being a potential safety issue.  A few things that could fall into this category are:

  1. Egress or walkway obstructions
  2. Construction concerns
  3. Areas where they feel rushed for time

Do something about anything identified.  If you take the time to ask, get an answer, fix something or provide resources to fix it, people will be more likely to bring something up in the future.

It is our jobs as event professionals to create an environment of “Safety Matters” through our actions, requirements, and questions. One of these things alone will have little effect, but together each individual brick helps build a strong castle. Creating an environment of safety consciousness is a long term project and requires dedication. Better get started.

Be safe out there.

What does your company do to reinforce safety onsite? Where have you seen good or bad safety procedures at the theatre or event site? Leave a comment or shoot us a message with any examples, thoughts or questions on production safety.