Blog Post #475 – Alberta Not Planning Changes To Code

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine – September 2010

The Alberta government has no plans to tighten the provincial building code in the wake of a weather-induced stage collapse at a music festival last year that resulted in the death of one patron and injuries to four workers.

“There is not going to be a change to the building code,” confirms Jessica Spratt, a government public affairs officer for Alberta Municipal Affairs (AMA) in Edmonton.

The collapse occurred on August 1, 2009 during the annual Big Valley Jamboree country music festival in Camrose, Alberta.
Extreme weather caused the main concert stage to collapse, injuring 75 people and killing concert-goer Donna Moore, 35.

A plough wind, defined as a wind squall travelling on a straight path, caused the stage to give way, says Larry Werner, festival producer and an official with Panhandle Productions.

“It actually went into the stage and up under the roof and pushed the stage back, and that took the stage off its mounts,” Werner reports. “We were in a situation where we got a warning 60 seconds before the wind hit the stage,” a steel construction measuring 24 metres wide and 18 metres deep.

Werner says four workers sustained minor injuries, but were able to return to work the following day.

An AEI investigator issued safe-work procedures for dismantling the site, says department spokesperson Chris Chodan.

Spratt adds AMA officials asked Premier Global Productions, the Nashville-based site owner, to hire an independent engineer to investigate the collapse. “The results of the report indicated that the stage, in fact, was built to code,” she says.

While wind loads are based on the Alberta Building Code, material selection and designs of temporary stages are left to the discretion of the engineer, Spratt says. When the stage is erected, a safety code officer is dispatched “to ensure that there has been professional engineering involved in the design and that the installation conforms to the design specifications.”

Spratt and Premier Global’s general manager, Brian Andrews, agree that revising the building code in response to this incident would be unwarranted, in light of the unpredictability of weather.

“There’s no way to forecast a plough wind, from my understanding,” says Andrews.

Adds Spratt, “It was just such an unexpected weather event that I don’t think any stage could have withstood it.”

As in the past, Werner says Panhandle Productions would continue to submit engineered drawings to the City of Camrose for the festival. An engineer will carry out a field review to “look at the structures and determine that they have been erected properly with all the safety precautions put in place,” he adds.

My opinion

Here we go again!

I guess because there was no way to predict then there is no way to properly engineer a concert stage. Huh, what???? In all this, Alberta not planning changes? Not unexpected.

There has to be concerns that all possible hazards have been identified, assessed and controlled by the employer/constructor before any work is to be started. The Japanese could try and sell the same issue, “Well we have so many earthquakes that we cannot engineer the buildings.” Can you believe the Japanese engineers letting something go like that? I do not think so!

There is an old saying, “Expect the very best, and you will almost certainly receive it.” Expect less than the best, well, you will receive that as well.”

I wonder how Donna Moore’s family feels! Oh Alberta, you blew it once again!

Remember – In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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