I was up in the rigging at work a good bit last week, rigging a new projection screen at the back of the stage. The process was great. The piece came with all the hardware I needed and gave spec for the type and size of chain I was to use. The right size crew was gathered and with a minimum of effort and maximum of safety the new screen was rigged and will now hang securely for years to come.
This post isn't about that though. It's about everything else I found when I was up there. We don't have a fly space, just a hard grid with a few battens hung from it. If lights need to be focused, you get out the lift and take a ride up there. In the past though I've only gone far enough up to get to the back light cans and stopped there. Going up a couple feet more to get to the grid (and not having PAR cans shining in my eyes) revealed a world of rigging horrors.
I found a dozen lighting safetys holding up short chunks of pipe or just dangling with hooks added to them that had apparently been used to support set pieces in years gone by. I was glad to have those back and also glad that nothing happened while they were in service incorrectly. Those safeties are strong little suckers, they're designed to take a pretty good shock load if a light falls. They're probably plenty strong enough to hold up whatever else they were holding but the problem is using them for something other than their intended purpose.
I also found long stretches of half inch electrical conduit hanging from tie line, paracord, and in one spot, a shoelace. (shudder) All of that got chopped out with a quickness, never to return... at least not on my watch.
And last but not least I found all kinds of cheap tie down rope and little plastic pulleys that had apparently also been used to fly set pieces in and out. While I can only hope that they were just chunks of cardboard or styrofoam, more than likely they were big beefy flats because that's the way they used to do things around here. Gone. Gone. Gone.
Brethren, it's one thing to use a little chunk of rope from the hardware store to hang something up in the back yard. It's another thing entirely to rig something over the heads of performers and audience members. Every time I see someone doing something that's not specifically in the instructions or laid out in industry standards I get on them. My line is, "OK, so when something happens you can be the one to contact the surviving relatives and ask them what they want to name the venue they just became owners of."
I'm not going to lay out any of those standards and practices because I don't want the liability. When I rig something I follow the instructions to the tee. Or if I'm flying by the seat of my pants I'm looking very carefully at loads, documented strength ratings and doing some serious calculations to make sure everything is over rigged to the nines. If you rig something, whether it's hanging a PAR can or flying an eighty foot wide truss assembly, you better be damn sure it's done properly. If the slightest thing goes wrong the lawyers will be looking for you and you had better have your ducks in a row or you're going to be in a world of hurt.
The take away here Brethren of the Knob and Fader is quite simply the title of the post. If you're not a rigger... DON'T RIG!