Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Safety First.

At least he's not on the top step...

"Hey, A.J.," my Gaffer turns to me as we finish tweaking the lights on our next set. "Tilt that Kino up a little bit and I think we're set here." He gives me a nod and walks out of the room.

I look at the Kino several feet above me and turn to the Key Grip. "Hey, Key Grip. Can I get a ten step in here please?"

The Key Grip turns to the Grip behind him. "You heard the lady." The Grip nodded and they both leave the set: the Key Grip headed to crafty for his umpteenth cup of coffee and the Grip headed in the opposite direction where the ladders were staged.

A couple minutes later, the Grip shows up with an eight step; two feet shorter than I had asked for.

I look at the ladder. I look at the light.

"Thanks, but I don't think I'll be able to reach that with anything shorter than a ten step."

The Grip looks at me. Looks at the light.

"Yeah, you'll be able to reach it with this."

Uh... Okay. The guy's about as tall as I am, so his judgement call on the matter should be as good as mine. So I set up the ladder, climb up it and find that indeed, I am just shy of being tall enough to reach the Kino.

"Nope," I say, waving my arms above my head to demonstrate that while I'm close, my hands are still grasping at nothing but air.

"Oh, come on," sighed the Grip. "There's another rung left."

I glance down just to make sure I'm not in the embarrassing situation of actually having missed a rung and realize that the "rung" he's talking about is the top step.

I look back at the Grip standing below. "No. I don't top-step ladders."*


"Yes. Seriously." I climb back down.

He rolls his eyes as he shimmies up the ladder all the way to the top step and fiddles with the Kino.

"You know," he said with a smirk, "They wouldn't put a step up here if they didn't want you to use it."

"Huh. Interesting," I thought to myself, "I didn't know that was a step. I always thought that's what held the ladder together."


* That's a lie. I will sometimes top step a ladder, but the highest I'll do is a double sided six step (and even that's a rare occasion). This was a single sided ladder, which I hate no matter what the height.


Niall said...

Yeah, that's the worst. Being 6'5" i rarely need anything larger than a apple box to reach most stuff. On those rare occasion i do ladder it up I avoid top stepping. On bigger shows it can get you banned from the shop/stage if the right(wrong) people see you do it. Plus you can fall off and not get a cent in L&I workers comp. Though I hate extension ladders way more than top stepping on an A frame ladder.

Ed (sloweddi) said...

A shop I worked in back in the day (as we traveled up to Glendale in our covered wagons) had a small sign on the top that said, "If you are standing on me without a really good reason, your fired."
When we had a huge job at an unnamed see through church in Garden Grove, it was a great benefit to have an in house member of the crew who mountain climbed on week ends. We were just going to attach a rope to our work belt. He insisted we use the full harness and had a safety person on the rope and we had to practice what might happen if we fell.
Safest job I have ever been on. And the professional attention to detail got us a LOT of work from people with more money than taste. ;)

Michael Taylor said...

I don't like top-stepping either, but spent a good part of tuesday on the very top of a 12 step ladder. Given the cramped nature of that portion of the set (outside a window), there was no other way to hang lights from the pipe grid.

We do what we've gotta do to keep the show machine moving, but sometimes the line between safety and disaster can grow very thin indeed. It's all a matter of calculated risk. I never do anything on set if I think there's a good chance it will go bad, and thus far my judgement has been sound -- but that won't mean much if something does go sideways one of these days.

Which is why I calculate those risks very carefully...

A.J. said...

Niall - Extension ladders scare the shit out of me.

Ed - I'd love to be on a job like that!

Michael - I understand the "you gotta do what you gotta do" and the taking calculated risks thing. But I'm also of "do things as safely as possible" mind set. I'm not about to top step an eight foot ladder when there's plenty of room to maneuver around a ten step just because someone didn't feel like giving me the safer option.

I guess I'm just stubborn like that.

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