Back in 2012, I posted about one of my childhood heroes, legendary Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson, being injured by falling off a stage at an event in Florida. The Miami Herald is now reporting that Robinson is suing the owners of the hotel for nearly $10 million for permanent injuries and lost income.
Robinson was sitting on the top tier of a three-tiered stage at the time of the accident. When he went to get out of his chair, he leaned back against the drape that was the backdrop behind the stage and fell over 6 feet to the ground. Earlier in the evening, another player had also fallen from the stage, without serious injury.
The major issue is that the drape behind the stage gives the perception of a backdrop but in this instance had no railing or some type of support to prevent this incident.
As I stated in my original post on this topic, my basic philosophy in regards to portable staging platforms was that the back of the stage (30 inches or higher) should always have safety railings unless it was against a hard wall, which made the railing unnecessary. Side rails were to be added at the request of the client and wherever there was not a rail, there would be reflective tape on the perimeter of the staging to show the edges to performers.
Tiered stages also present the challenge of having a gap (generally 6 inches or more) between the lower riser and next higher riser that participants on the stage need to be aware of. I would also insist that when using our 6′x8′ stage units, the depth of the tiered stage be 8 feet to accommodate foot traffic behind the guests seated at the head table.
Inspect the stage set-up with your representative of the venue before the event to make sure everything that can reasonably be done has been done and the set-up is safe for your participants on the staging. Once I was inspecting a stage for a banquet with my contact. While the stage was flush against the wall, there was an air-wall pocket to hide portable wall segments that could make the ballroom smaller and divide it into multiple rooms. The problem, in this instance, was that the pocket door was not locked. If a person on stage had pushed against the door (which was hidden behind drape) they could have fallen over 8 feet to a concrete floor below.
Thankfully, we discovered the situation about three hours before the event. The lock was broken on the door, so we had the venue place a railing on the one section of staging in front of the door. In addition, we had a team member, at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the stage, reminding guests as they entered, to not push against the drape on the back wall.
A few minutes of effort on your part can prevent a serious potential liability for your client or your venue – why risk it?
Take care Brooks!