One year ago today, 22-year-old Agustin Briolini was electrocuted during sound check at the Teatro del Sol in Carlos Paz, Argentina. In an instant, the life of a promising young musician was cut short. Never again would his family, friends, and fans have the simple pleasure of shaking his hand, feeling the warmth of his presence, or seeing him alive.
We, as the live event production community, owe Briolini and millions of musicians like him the best protection on the stage that we can provide. We can't bring Briolini back, but we can prevent future electrocution on the stage if we take some simple steps to protect the stage.
1. Check the Grounding (Earthing) Connections. If any of the backline
gear (or any other gear) is missing a grounding conductor or grounding terminal, don't use it as is. Many vintage amplifiers don't have a grounding conductor. If you come across one while setting up, use a portable GFCI or RCD with it or don't use it at all. If the ground is compromised in any way,
make sure the issue is resolved before energizing the equipment. A compromised ground could be a broken green (or green and yellow) conductor, a broken grounding pin on the connector, an extension cord with a missing grounding terminal (We've all seen those! When you see one, cut the connectors off of both ends so it won't be put back into service.), or any other condition where the chassis of the equipment is not bonded properly. You can check it by measuring the impedance between the chassis and the grounding terminal of the power cable. There should be continuity.
2. Carry a Voltage Ticker and Use it. A voltage ticker is an inexpensive tool that you can use to
quickly check to see if any conductor or conductive material—like a microphone or the chassis of a guitar amplifier—is energized. It's easy to carry one with you and use it to check all conductive surfaces before the talent takes the stage. It could save someone's life.
3. Never Lift the Ground for ANY Reason. Ground loops are annoying and they can be challenging to resolve properly. But that doesn't excuse the practice of using grounding adaptors to lift the safety ground. There are better ways to resolve these problems. You can use an audio isolation transformer like an IL-19 or similar. Grounding adaptors are made to safely connect 3-wire grounded gear to a 2-wire ungrounded supply, but they only do their job of saving lives if you connect the grounding tab on them to the metal junction box in which the outlet is mounted. If you use them to convert a grounded 3-
wire system to an ungrounded 2-wire system, then you are putting people's lives at risk of electrocution. There is a good reason that these adaptors are illegal in Canada.
4. Check for Bootleg Grounds. If you don't know what a bootleg ground is, read this article by Mike Sokol.
5. Educate Yourself About Safe Electrical Practices. There are lots of very good resources to
educate yourself about safe electrical practices including books, magazine articles, videos, workshops, and classes. Take advantage of them, invest in your career, and learn to identify electrical hazards, and work to help others work safely.
If you're going to be in the Orlando area in January, be sure to come to the APT Entertainment Electrics 3-day class and the Techni-Lux 25th Anniversary Open House from January 11-14, 2016. There will be industry seminars with guest speaker Richard Cadena, President of Academy of Production Technology and Techni-Lux's in-house Lighting Designer, Tony Hansen. Philip Watson of ChamSysUSA will be doing an introduction to ChamSys consoles, there will be facility tours, and exhibitors will showcase many innovative products. The open house and exhibits will be free, and a full day class pass, valued at $79, will be available free to early registrants. Food and beverages will be served all day along with lunch from 11:30AM to 2:00PM. Raffles and door prizes will also be given away hourly.