“A special feature of stage technology is the fact that loads may be suspended and moved above people,” Malkowski knows. The German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) provides the corresponding rules with regard to operational safety and accident prevention. According to these rules, safety and mechanical equipment in event and production venues for staged presentation must be inspected at least every four years. This job is reserved exclusively for authorized experts who are appointed by the Administrative Professional Association (VBG) in Hamburg after successfully passing their exams. DEKRA expert Felix Malkowski belongs to this illustrious circle. His customers are companies and service providers from film, radio, television, drama, and musical theater, but also trade fairs, exhibition organizers, and museums – all cases often involve loads suspended in the air above people. Even when a shopping center hangs Christmas decorations above the sales floor, the operator is obligated to inspect them in accordance with the Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health.
DEKRA plays a leading role at the Munich Kammerspiele
Felix Malkowski’s duty roster includes a special engagement in the Bavarian capital in September. For the Munich Kammerspiele – one of the most important spoken-word theaters in the German-speaking world with just under 700 seats – DEKRA will be conducting the event technology’s recurring inspection during the summer break. To do so, Malkowski will be taking over the entire theater. However, if required, the Munich-based company will provide the expert with a technician from the theater team, who knows the system inside and out. Malkowski happily accepted this offer – after all, up to 50 machine hoists are used in the stage area alone, which can be linked together for simultaneous movement. This allows large and heavy decorative elements to be positioned with millimeter precision. Even the staged flying of actors is possible with special drives. The fact that other people are allowed to be in the vicinity of the moving surface is only possible thanks to a plethora of safety functions – up to 14 different electronically controlled protective measures, which coordinate speed, position, and load behavior, can be put to use for a single drive.
The machinist must always rely on the technology
Obviously, security is a top priority in such cases. But why do stricter safety regulations apply in theaters in the first place? “You have to keep in mind how a system tends to be operated,” reports theater professional Malkowski. The machinist who moves the flying performers and decorative elements across the stage often sits in the side stage area. There, however, he only has a limited field of vision of his loads. An additional handicap can be poor lighting, often in combination with artificial fog. If, on top of that, the director demands that a movement take place in exact harmony with the music, the machinist has to deal with a number of uncertain factors – he must therefore be able to rely completely on the drive and control technology.
In a theater’s stage technology, the basic principle of single-fault safety always applies, verified in periodic acceptance inspections. Single-fault safety means that a fault in the system – no matter what it is – will not cause the system to enter a hazardous condition. That is why everything is doubly safeguarded – there is not just one brake on the drive, but two, which operate independently of each other. If one brake fails, the other can take over the load. In addition, the various systems monitor each other – brakes, control technology, and drive must notice any deviations from the target state and be able to bring the system to a safe stop.