Blog Post #281 – Drum Technician Crushed after Concert Stage Collapses

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada Magazine

In what is becoming an all-too-common occurrence in the summer months, an outdoor concert stage in Ontario has collapsed, leaving a mess of tangled steel, one worker dead and a lot of questions for the province’s safety regulator to sift through.

The centre section of the overhead portion of the stage came crashing down on June 16 at about 4 pm – just hours before English rock band Radiohead was set to take the stage to a sold-out crowd in Toronto’s Downsview Park, which boasts a capacity of 40,000.

The band’s drum technician, 33-year-old Scott Johnson, was working on the stage fine-tuning the sound when the scaffolding and beams gave way, crushing and killing him and injuring three other workers in the area, the Ministry of Labour (MoL) reports. Johnson was pronounced dead on scene.

Unlike many of the stage collapse incidents last year, weather conditions were calm at the time – Environment Canada recorded only a light breeze at nearby Pearson International Airport.

Three inspectors and two engineers with the ministry were at the park over the weekend. The ministry issued orders not to disturb the scene and to be provided with a full set of drawings and engineering sign-offs for the project on the day of the incident, and returned the next day to issue additional orders to develop safe work procedures regarding the removal of the stage scaffolding system, says MoL spokesman Matt Blajer.

The ministry is currently in the process of sorting out the complex network of roles and responsibilities created from the dozens of various contractors working on the site, including lighting and sound technicians, catering crews and the bands themselves, Blajer explains.

“Trying to determine who’s the ultimate owner and the responsibility is still something we’re working on,” Blajer says, but he notes that most orders have been to Live Nation, the concert promoter, who could not be reached for comment.

Four other employers have also been asked for documentation on training and permits; Nasco Staffing Solutions, Optex Staging and Services Incorporated, Ticker Tape Touring LLP (Radiohead’s touring company), and Construction Control Incorporated.

Further complicating the investigation is that stages are also the responsibility of municipal building and fire codes, as well as governed by two different sets of regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). While under construction, stages are under the construction projects regulations, and once built, they are covered under industrial regulations.

Because the ministry is unsure if the stage was still under construction at the time, inspectors are left with the question of “what stage was the stage at?” Blajer says. Remainder of stage torn down days after collapse.

The immense complexity of the stage and the dangers it posed meant it was not until late in the day Tuesday – three days after the collapse – that the MOL gave crews the go-ahead to begin tearing down what remained of the structure to allow further investigation.

The band posted a tribute to Johnson on their website the day after the collapse, saying they were “shattered.” The band also noted that their light show was destroyed in the incident and will have to reschedule future shows.

This is the third major stage collapse in Canada in as many years. Last summer, gusting wind conditions brought down a stage in Ottawa during the city’s Bluesfest, and two years ago a stage toppled in Camrose, Alberta during a storm, killing one and injuring 75.

While the ministry has created a handbook with safety guidelines for the live performance industry, the section on construction/industrial work has not yet been completed.

Temporary structures, like outdoor stages, are covered under section 25(1)(e) of the OHSA, which states that any temporary or permanent building or structure, or any part of a building or structure, must be able to support any loads that may be applied to it as determined by the Building Code or in agreement with other prescribed requirements, or in accordance to good engineering practices if the former requirements do not apply.

The American National Standards Institute’s ANSI E1.21-2006 establishes the minimum standards for the design, manufacture, use and maintenance of temporary outdoor stage roofs.

My opinion,

The scaffolding must meet both the governmental standard but also live up to engineering standards or the manufacturer would be liable as well. In fact, the manufacturer sets out safety guidelines for their product including the safe assembly.

I realize this is premature BUT properly built scaffolding needs constant inspection both of the material and the surface it sits on. Someone, probably not a competent person, as described in the OHSA, was negligent either in the assembly or in the inspection/re-inspection process and the scaffolding assembly collapsed. I can see no other answer unless sabotage was found to exist. In any event, the MOL will have their hands full on this one. Their people are skilled and have access to many professionals to help them get to the bottom of the accident.

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs including ‘Support Scaffold Safety Awareness’. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.

We can also be reached at 

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

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

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