A program to provide free or reduced cost rigging inspections for secondary schools has been initiated by USITT, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology. The program will kick off April 1 when applications will be available online. It was announced by USITT President Joe Aldridge at the organization’s 51st Annual Conference & Stage Expo in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Rigging Safety Initiative is being funded with an initial gift of $25,000 from J. R. Clancy, Inc., of Syracuse, NY, plus a $25,000 matching grant authorized by the USITT board of directors. The initiative was the idea of Clancy president Mike Murphy and CEO Bob Theis, who proposed it to Aldridge in the fall of 2010.

Schools can apply to USITT for a grant to receive an inspection from an approved rigging contractor. Inspections will be completed by ETCP Certified Theatre Riggers employed by firms who are USITT members. Contractors will perform inspections and then provide both the school and USITT with copies of the inspection report.

In addition to the inspection, schools will receive a four hour safety training course for up to eight staff and students, conducted at the school by the contractor.

That training is an integral part of the rigging safety initiative and is designed to develop knowledge of the potential risks, and proper procedures to reduce risk. This combination is the key to the USITT Rigging Safety Initiative. Both the inspection and the training are essential for an effective rigging safety program.

Schools wishing to participate can fill out an application, available on the USITT website beginning April 1. The selection process will take into account the condition of the rigging at each applicant’s site, including a preliminary site visit by a qualified inspector. Schools with the worst rigging issues—especially those with clearly dangerous conditions—will rise to the top of the list.

“Rigging systems can be complicated, which is the reason we have initiated this program. Schools will receive an inspection report in a clear and easy to understand format, including photos,” says David Grindle, USITT Executive Director, “Also key is the workshop for staff and students on proper and safe operation of their system.”

“Having J.R. Clancy as the Founding Sponsor of the Rigging Safety Initiative provides a strong, continuing base for this program,” Grindle adds. Several other industry leaders have already expressed interest in joining the initiative as inspectors or as financial sponsors. Criteria for becoming an approved inspector or providing sponsorship will also be available at www.usitt.org.

“It is USITT’s goal that we never have to choose one school over another for an inspection,” says Grindle. “We would love to say yes to all applicants, taking significant steps to improve safety nationwide.”

For more information about USITT, the association of design, production, and management professionals in the performing arts and entertainment industry, visit the USITT website.