Venue Management and Maintenance Safety

Venue maintenance and management can easily be overlooked in the excitement of production preparation and performances. Theater maintenance is essential for providing a safe and healthful entertainment and working environment for staff, students, and patrons.

Venue maintenance involves personnel from a variety of departments who are involved in the inspection, repair, and scheduled maintenance of the campus’s theater facilities.


Awareness through Inspection

Maintenance starts with being aware of what needs to be repaired. That is best achieved through routine inspections. Effective inspections involve more than simply making observations and checking them off on an inspection sheet. Effective inspections involve a cycle of steps that move from the initial observations through a variety of steps to arrive at verification of corrective action effectiveness. The first step in the cycle is making the observations and taking immediate steps to correct conditions and behaviors where possible. The evaluation step is next. Sometimes the corrective actions appear to be simple and immediate, such as removing a box from in front of an exit door. However, if the exit door is found obstructed again after a later inspection, there is a deeper problem that needs to be evaluated for root cause and a plan established for effective corrective action. Other observations reveal issues that require planned/scheduled corrective actions that may also require additional budget development. Once the plan is established, the corrective measures need to be implemented. Not all corrective measures are effective, so it is necessary to review the corrective action to verify it had the desired effect. If the outcome was not the one that was anticipated, re-evaluate, develop, and implement a new corrective action plan and review and evaluate again until the desired state is achieved. In dynamic environments hazards can develop and evolve quickly, so it is necessary to be vigilant through on-going routine inspections that check prior conditions for effective correction and identify new unsafe conditions and behaviors. Theaters and stagecraft definitely present dynamic environments. In these ever-changing environments hazardous conditions can develop rapidly through normal wear and tear and through the actions of those working within the environment. Early recognition and correction is essential to providing appropriate maintenance, as well as a safe and healthful environment.

Setting up an effective inspection cycle requires identifying what needs to be inspected; who is responsible for the various inspection steps; when will inspections occur; and how will the inspections be managed, including the documentation, initiation of corrective actions, and monitoring corrective actions.


What Needs To Be Inspected 

Identifying what needs to be inspected will help clarify who needs to complete each of the designated inspections. A number of these inspections were discussed in prior chapters, so some of this has been touched on earlier.

Let’s start with the exterior of the building. The exterior includes:

  1. The loading dock 

  2. The dumpster area 

  3. The sidewalks and stairways 

  4. The exterior lighting 

  5. The landscaping 

  6. The parking lot 

  7. The general condition and appearance 

  8. Inside the building there are a multitude of areas, fire and life safety issues, tools, equipment, and machinery that require routine inspection. This list is not all-inclusive, but it gives you an idea of what needs to be inspected. 

Areas: Lobby/foyer Backstage Elevators Rigging Offices Balcony Fly floors Scene dock Concession areas Catwalks/bridges Grid Scene shop Stairways Control room Lift Stage Restrooms Costume shop Prop shop Undercroft Auditorium Dressing rooms Prop and costume storage areas


Fire & Life Safety Issues: Accessible exit paths Emergency lighting and signs Accessible exit doors Accessible fire alarm pull stations Backup generators

Tools/Equipment/Machinery: Aerial lifts Ventilation hoods/spray booths Forklifts Welding equipment Heating, air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) systems Sewing machines Hand tools Steam irons Hoists Sound equipment Paint frame winch Lighting systems Power tools Personal protective equipment Power saws

Supplies: Lumber Dyes Steel Makeup Welding rod Paint and related chemicals

Emergency Response Equipment: Fire response: • Fire extinguishers • Fire hose stations • Fire suppression system risers Emergency eyewash stations Emergency deluge showers Chemical spill kits First aid kits Fire blankets AED


Who Conducts Inspections 

The “who” is most often dictated by what is being inspected. A wide-range of people may conduct inspections, such as campus personnel (staff and students), outside experts, and regulatory agencies. In-house personnel could include campus personnel from the Theater & Performing Arts Department(s), Physical Plant, Fire Department, Risk Management Department, and EH&S Department. The selection of in-house inspectors will depend on their training and area of expertise. Outside experts are generally called in for those inspections requiring unique expertise, because regulatory requirements dictate the use of an outside source, or in response to a campus request. Regulatory agency inspections may be conducted by Cal-OSHA compliance officers (employee safety and health), Department of Industrial Relations (elevators), and the State Fire Marshall (fire and life safety).

Each campus will determine who will complete the various in-house inspections. In addition, a decision needs to be made regarding who will make the arrangements for the outsourced inspections. Examples of outsourced annual inspections include, but are not limited to, fire extinguishers, elevators, ventilation hoods/spray booths, and designated rigging system components.

Additional “who” questions to answer are: 

  1. Who will develop the customized inspection checklists? 

  2. Who will receive and store the inspection reports? 

  3. Who will track/record that the inspections were completed? 

  4. Who will track/record the corrective actions? 

  5. Who will have overall responsibility to ensure corrective actions are completed? 

  6. Who is responsible for paying for and/or budgeting for the necessary corrective actions? 

Even if corrective measures must be completed by another department, such as Physical Plant, or outsourced, it is important the Performing Arts personnel monitor and track the status of the corrective actions needed. Inspection reports must be maintained in a manner that permits the quick retrieval of any report requested by regulators and/or other authorized personnel.


How Will Inspections Be Managed

The “who” questions in the prior section tie into “how” issues, such as how often will inspections be scheduled, how will they be documented, how will they be monitored, and how will those assigned to complete in-house inspections be trained to recognize unsafe conditions and unsafe behaviors.

Cal-OSHA requires routine inspections of all work areas, and in-house personnel generally conduct these routine inspections. “Routine” is dictated by the dynamics of the environment. In areas where things are in continuous motion, the need for frequent inspections increases. Cal-OSHA requires some inspections be conducted at the start of each shift, such as aerial lifts and forklifts. Other inspections are conducted by outside experts. Inspections conducted by experts or competent persons are generally less frequent, such as the annual fire extinguisher, elevator, and rigging inspections.

Inspections should be documented to identify what hazards were identified and what steps were taken to initiate correction. Provide customized inspection checklists to guide the inspector to check all areas and items of concern within his or her assigned area. Require the inspectors to document both safe and unsafe conditions and what corrective actions were taken for unsafe conditions.

Not all unsafe conditions or unsafe behaviors can be corrected immediately, so a corrective action log is needed to track the outstanding corrective actions. That does not mean unsafe conditions should be allowed to continue to exist; take temporary corrective actions to eliminate the hazard. That may mean putting up barriers or taking unsafe equipment out of use. Immediately counsel personnel exhibiting unsafe behavior, and find out the cause(s) of their behavior. Permanent corrective action may require policy development and training at a later date.


Routine Maintenance 

Routine maintenance includes those activities that keep the facilities clean and sanitary. Safety precautions must be taken to reduce the risk of injury to those completing the cleaning tasks and persons in the areas being cleaned. Here are some safety tips:

  1. Schedule floor maintenance, including simple cleaning, during the hours when the fewest people will be present. 

  2. Post portable signs warning personnel the floors are wet and/or to identify areas being cleaned; post warning signs regardless of the cause of the wetness – mopping or carpet cleaning. 

  3. Mop in front of only one elevator at a time; allow the floor to dry prior to mopping in front of the alternate elevator. 

  4. Keep the labels on cleaning materials in place and legible. 

  5. Label all secondary containers with the chemical name and primary warning listed on the original container. 

  6. Block the entry of restrooms with the service cart to prevent people from entering when custodial personnel are working. 

  7. Select less hazardous cleaning materials where possible. 

  8. Provide the appropriate PPE to cleaning personnel. 

  9. Conduct fall hazard awareness training for custodial personnel assigned to clean elevated seating areas. 

  10. Emergency eyewash stations and deluge showers must be inspected and operated to clear the water lines on a monthly basis. Typically this is conducted by Physical Plant. If the shop has been shut down for more than 30 days, contact Physical Plant to ensure the eyewash stations and deluge showers are inspected and flushed prior to re-starting the use of the shops. Maintain a record of the inspections. 

Scheduled Maintenance

Scheduled maintenance is also known as preventative maintenance. Your personal vehicle needs scheduled maintenance, such as oil changes to prevent damage to the engine. Much like your personal vehicle, tools, machines, equipment, and production systems need scheduled maintenance. Scheduled maintenance is generally coupled with an inspection to identify other repair needs. Some types of scheduled maintenance will be performed by Performing Arts Department personnel, some will be performed by EH&S or Physical Plant, and some will be performed by outside contracted personnel. It is critical for the Performing Arts Department to know what needs to be inspected and serviced, who will perform the task, and when that task needs to be completed. Much like a mechanic finishing the oil change on your vehicle, you are still the one who has to schedule the maintenance and ensure it gets done. Examples of scheduled maintenance that must be managed include, but are not limited to:

  1.  Ventilation/Spray Booth Hoods – Cal-OSHA requires the hood to be tested after its initial installation, after alternation or repairs, and at least annually. Contact the EH&S Department for assistance in arranging these tests. Maintain records of the tests, as required by Cal-OSHA, for at least five years. Work with Physical Plant to determine how the regular replacement or cleaning of the filters will be accomplished. The proper maintenance of the filters is essential to prevent significant reduction in airflow. Cleaning and replacement instructions are located in the owner’s manual. Maintain a log to record filter changes and maintenance activities. 

  2. Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) – Filters must be replaced or cleaned regularly to prevent significant reduction in airflow. This task is generally the responsibility of Physical Plant. A log must be maintained that records filter changes and maintenance activities. Work with Physical Plant to ensure the manufacturer’s owner’s manual regarding scheduled maintenance is followed. 

  3. Back-up Generators – This equipment must be tested at least monthly; this test is typically conducted by Physical Plant personnel. The generators must be serviced annually by qualified personnel; work with Physical Plant to ensure the annual inspection is completed. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for scheduled maintenance. 

  4. Stage Curtains – The stage curtains require routine frequent inspections and periodic inspections by qualified outside personnel. After each performance, inspect the curtains for tears, dirt, and other damage. Repair tears and holes immediately using pins or sewing the fabric; never use tape. Semi-annually, clean the curtains either by brushing them with a medium soft bristled brush or by vacuuming with an industrial vacuum. Start at the top front of the curtain, working left to right or right to left, and then down the curtain. Repeat the procedure on the back of the curtain. If the material is not constructed of inherently flame retardant material, the curtains must be inspected and retreated by a company certified by the state to do so. Flame retardant retreatment must be completed after the curtains are washed or dry cleaned. They must also be retreated every two to five years; check with your local Fire Marshal who has jurisdiction regarding treatment frequency. Replace the draperies when the fabric begins to tear easily, starts to rip free from its heading, or begins to fray on its own. 

  5. Counterweight Fly System – Complete annual fly system inspection and servicing by competent Performing Arts personnel. Arrange for an inspection by an outside expert at least every three to five years. Maintain records of all inspection and servicing activities. 

  6. Tension Grid – Schedule periodic inspections of the tension grid with outside contracted experts in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions or at least every three years. Remember the outside expert inspections are in addition to routine inspections conducted by Performing Arts personnel. Maintain records of all inspections and service activities. 

  7. Forklifts and Aerial Lifts – Follow the owner’s manual specifications for the maintenance schedule. Some maintenance may be completed by campus personnel and other work will be completed by outside contracted personnel. In addition to the scheduled maintenance, ensure daily inspections are completed prior to the use of the forklifts or aerial lifts. 

  8. Elevators – Contact Physical Plant to determine how to ensure the annual inspection of the elevators is scheduled with the California Department of Industrial Relations. Post the current inspection certificate in each elevator. 

  9. Scene Shop Power Tools – Follow the maintenance schedule defined for these items in each owner’s manual. Most often this can be completed by trained Performing Arts personnel, while some work should be completed by outside contracted services. 

  10. Costume Shop Steam Irons and Sewing Machines – Follow the maintenance schedule detailed in the owner’s manual for each machine. Depending on the equipment, maintenance may be completed by Performing Arts personnel or outside contracted services. 

  11. Vector Control – Coordinate periodic vector inspections and servicing through the Physical Plant Department. 

Asbestos – Your facilities may contain asbestos in a wide variety of building materials and equipment components. If the facility was constructed prior to 1982, asbestos may very well be present in thermal system insulation (pipe insulation, duct wrap, etc.), acoustical materials (“popcorn” ceilings), sprayed on materials (fire proofing, etc.), electrical lighting insulation, the fire curtain, and the joint compound of wall board. Even if the facility was built after 1982, it might contain asbestos building materials.