Updates from the Committee on Workplace Safety

Legislators and Actors Discuss Safety Issues at Spider-Man Production
December 23, 2010

Assemblyman Rory Lancman (Chair, Assembly Subcommittee on Workplace Safety), Senator Eric Adams, Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried (who represents the theater district) today held a press conference in front of the Foxwood Theater, the home of "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark," to discuss the safety issues surrounding the production and the need for proper safety regulations and oversight of aerial performances. In attendance were representatives from Actors' Equity (Paige Price, First Vice President; and Carol Waaser, Acting Executive Director).

Spider-Man, which is still in the preview stage, has been plagued by safety issues. Already four actors have been injured, most recently on Monday December 20th when an actor fell thirty feet during the performance. In a letter to the show's producer, Assemblyman Lancman has requested that the show address several safety concerns before holding any more performances. These concerns include, 1) that the theater come in full compliance with federal Occupational Safety Health Administration and New York State Department of Labor recommendations for an independent expert to evaluate the flying and safety line sequences, 2) that there be sufficient rehearsal for every understudy performing aerial or tethered sequences, including flying seminars for all performers involved with aerial work or the removal of such sequences from the show, 3) that there is sufficient crew and stage management to run the show safely, 4) the tether that Spider-Man double is attached to is shortened so the actor is not as close to the end of the platform, 5) the final sequence called "The Net" is removed or altered to eliminate safety concerns.

"We think of theaters as a place for entertainment and fun, but for the actors, musicians, stagehands and other theater employees who make the shows happen, theaters are a workplace, and every New Yorker is entitled to a safe workplace," said Assemblyman Lancman. "Workplace safety cannot be achieved by trial and error, and the producers of Spider-Man need to make this workplace safe before the show can be allowed to go on."

"Theater productions have seen an increased use of pyrotechnic, acrobatic, aerial, and other extreme visual performance techniques, and there has been a growing concern for safety. This apprehension focuses both on the performers and the audience watching them. Therefore, it is imperative that New York State create a taskforce to examine ways to enhance the safety of theatrical shows, strengthen the protection for actors and minimize the risk of injury to the audience. The taskforce will assess current safety conditions, recommend best practices, and suggest new legislation or regulation if required," said Senator Eric Adams.

"The fact that a show could go forward with these safety problems is not acceptable. This isn't just about adjusting some details after the fact. Standards and procedures need to be strengthened," said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, who represents the theater district.