Following the dreadful stage collapse at at recent Radiohead concert, that killed Scott Johnson, the band’s drum tech and injured several others, four companies involved with the stage’s construction have been asked to comply with an investigation into the collapse.
Chief among them – reports the Toronto Star – is American concert promoter Live Nation, who along with Ticker Tape Touring, Toronto-based Optex Staging and Services and Nasco Staffing solutions have all been asked to comply with an ongoing investigation into the incident at Downsview Park that saw the 40,000 strong, sold out show being cancelled immediately after the stage collapsed.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour, Matt Blajer confirmed to Toronto Star that the inquiry will “take time to unravel” and noted that a number of inspectors and engineers were already investigating the scene at Downsview Park. The investigation has also issued orders “mainly to Live Nation”, requesting professionally approved engineering documents for the stage set-up; with stage blueprints already provided to investigators.
Part of the challenge of the investigation is actually pin-pointing all the companies operating at the site. A large-scale concert such as Radiohead’s, usually involves many separate co-ordinators to pull the show together. “We’re still trying to figure out who owns what, who’s responsible for what,” Blajer said of the numerous staging and concert components, “you’ve got lighting technicians, sound technicians, the band’s people — we’re trying to figure out who worked for whom.”
Interestingly the Toronto Star mentions that the Candian industry has no regulated safety guidelines for stage construction. Unlike Australia’s ‘Safety Guidelines For The Entertainment Industry’ which provides occupational healthy and safety rules developed by Live Performance Australia, concert organisers in Canada have no such regulated guidelines, which means the responsibility falls to the artist and its promoter to ensure their performance site is safe.
This is the second major stage collapse for Canada, after a crisis at the Ottawa Blues Festival last May, where a stage crumbled just 20 minutes into a performance by Cheap Trick. Two similarly grand accidents occurred in the US, who like Canada don’t have regulated safety guidelines, in the last year – including a stage collapse at an Indiana Music Festival that killed five last August, and a homecoming show by The Flaming Lips in which their screens and equipment came crashing down.
Wild storms and poor weather conditions have been present in all instances, but so is the fact that none of these major outdoor events possess inconsistent stage and safety regulations. Could this be the real reason all these stages are so faulty?
Jim Digby is the director of the Event Safety Alliance, a group of entertainment industry leaders gathered to “address the immediate need for universal safety standards for the production of live events”; and he believes that without regulated safety precautions, the responsibility falls solely to the artist and their promoter – in this case, Radiohead and Live Nation.
“We are a business comprised of folks whose mentality is ‘the show must go on,’” Digby told The Toronto Star, “but the mantra should be ‘the show must go on and everyone must go home in one piece, not in a body bag.’”
Supporting Digby’s concerns is Janet Sellery, an Ontario arts safety consultant. CBC Ottowa reports that Sellery is concerned that the Radiohead stage collapse, as well as the Cheap Trick disaster of last year, were both due to what she describes as “inconsistent labour and safety standards” that endanger workers at “increasingly ambitious” music events.
Meanwhile, The Ministry of Labour’s investigation will continue, says Blajer, until they can determine who was specifically responsible for the construction and ownership of the collapsed construction. “We still haven’t determined who owns the stage, so all of the orders regarding the stage are being given to Live Nation. … They’re in charge of the whole shebang, right?” says Blajer.
Live Nation have thus far refused to comment on the collapse, with only a statement issued that reads “…we do not have any further details at this time.”