There's a lot of good stuff in this issue, but, to me, Kathleen and Michael Eddy's look at standards for pyro is of primary importance. We all saw the horrific images of the Rhode Island club fire, with its incredible, mind-numbing fatalities. It remains a sobering reminder that, unless it is handled with care, entertainment lighting and effects equipment can produce deadly results.
Overall, it seems to me, this industry has a good record when it comes to safety. People are trained to handle gear responsibly, and not to take risks. This is due, in part, to the excellent standards work done by ESTA over the last several years. Under the supervision of technical standards manager Karl G. Ruling, ESTA has done vital work in creating rules for the use of fog, rigging, and many other forms of equipment.
There are several reasons why we should all be grateful for ESTA standards initiative:
If you don't do it, someone else will — like the government — producing restrictive legislation that will be bad for the industry.
Standards work has already prevented major problems. The excellent ESTA fog initiative has done much to quell controversy about the safety of foggers and hazers in live performance.
It's simply the right thing to do, which is always the best argument.
Standards work isn't easy — it's often tedious, and involves endless revisions. But it can be rewarding, too. Members of different standards committees have spoken to me of how determined competitors have put aside their differences and worked together for the good of the industry.
There are many ways to help in this important work. You can join a committee and help to draft and revise new standards — and many are needed. You can read up on new standards when they're released for public comment, and offer your two cents' worth. And, when a standard is accepted, you can do your best to make sure that you and your colleagues are up to speed, implementing them.
The sad fact is, disasters happen. People make mistakes and not every single one of us is equally vigilant. Equipment changes all the time and it's hard to keep current with the latest products. But if everyone helps with standards, there will be many fewer incidents like the one described above. And we'll all be the better for it.