Even Superheroes Need Fall Protection


Even Superheroes Need Fall Protection


Jeffrey S. Downs


A Spiderman stunt double in the Broadway musical, "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark" was hospitalized last year after he fell approximately 30 feet through the stage floor at New York’s Foxwoods Theatre in Manhattan. A show that was plagued with numerous delays in opening for its audience was also hit with a fine this year from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”). Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 all employers are responsible for providing safe work environments for their employees. Yet, the question remains whether the agency responsible for providing workplace standards and enforcing compliance packs an appropriate punch to encourage workplace safety and deter behavior deemed risky for employees.

Consider the recent fine levied against 8 Legged Productions LLC, the production company for the Broadway stage production of “Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark.” The production company received only $12,600 in fines for four separate incidents last year that resulted in injuries to cast members. OSHA’s finding that three “serious” violations occurred that created a “substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard which the employer knew or should have known” appears to be as weak as Peter Parker before the life altering spider bite. In kind, the agency made the finding that the actors in the production were exposed to hazards of falling and/or being struck during flying routines and specifically cited an improperly adjusted or unsecured safety harness as a contributing factor.

While an employer generally has 15 business days from receipt of a citation and proposed penalty to meet with an area Director of OSHA or contest the findings before an independent review commission, what specific actions require this production company to alter its course of conduct and protect its employees? Although most of us do not have spectators watching us work all day, sitting in the theatre watching actors work high above when one could be injured, or even worse still, injure a member of the audience, stiffer penalties and compliance measures are appropriate. Query, if the superhero in charge of public protection is on the ground injured, who will be charged with your rescue? For more information on how to safely protect yourself in the workplace go to www.osha.gov.