New Regulations Aimed at Ensuring Safety of Temporary Outdoor Stages

New Regulations Aimed at Ensuring Safety of Temporary Outdoor Stages

The Indiana Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission has OK’d temporary regulations that cover the 2012 fair and festival season. These are the state’s first rules concerning the kind of temporary outdoor stage rigging involved in last summer’s deadly State Fair stage collapse, which killed seven people and injured nearly 60 others.

The new regulations are for outdoor stage rigging structures that hold overhead lighting, sound and other equipment. The regulations cover only those structures not connected to a permanent stage, and which are in place for no more than 45 days in any single year. Although state law had long compelled permanent stages to be inspected, temporary stage equipment erected on those stages was not regulated.

A state law passed during this year’s legislative session directed the commission to adopt the temporary regulations, which will be in effect until Jan. 1, 2014. A legislative study committee is meeting over the summer to recommend permanent rules to the General Assembly.

Compliance is not expected to be difficult. The biggest change is if there’s something over people’s heads, it must be certified as safe. The regulations require that larger events using outdoor stages with freestanding, overhead rigging have a site plan prepared by an engineer that details the dimensions of those elements, and where audience members will be located.

Smaller fairs and festivals would be exempt from most of the regulations, with the exception of preparing an evacuation plan.  That exemption would apply only to temporary outdoor stage equipment that doesn’t extend higher than 20 feet above the stage surface.

State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson said his agency’s staff has been inspecting temporary stage rigging structures since the General Assembly passed legislation March 16. He said he’s spoken to numerous county fair organizations to help them with their planning for summer events.

Greeson indicated his department has more than 40 code enforcement staff members along with office staff trained in code enforcement to go around the state to help inspect the temporary stage equipment. They can also rely on trained staff in local jurisdictions.