Last year in Manchester NH, a circus tent collapsed killing two people, and on February 01, 2016 OHSA posted this citation and penalty to Walker International Events Inc.  Follow this link to the read complete OSHA review. Here is a portion of the OHSA review that could become problematic for our industry.

A feasible means of abatement includes, but not limited to, following the requirements set forth by the professional engineer of record on how to safely erect the temporary tensioned-membrane structure which included adhering to the engineering criteria, installation requirements and installation procedure guidelines:
L Utilize 4 foot dense number I southern pine wooden stakes instead of 4 foot steel stakes as   required by the engineering plans.
2.            Utilize stakes which have a 3.5 or 4 inch diameter instead of 1.5 inch diameter stakes as was required by the engineering plans.
3.            Ensure that all perimeter stakes are anchored a minimum of 3 feet of ground stake below the bearing surface as was required by the engineering plans instead of approximately 2.35 feet deep.
4.            Ensure that damaged materials, such as bent metal stakes, are immediately removed and replaced as required by the engineering plans.
5.            Ensure that appropriate considerations such as maintaining a wind ratings for the proper erection of a temporary tensioned-membrane structure which is located on an ASCE Class C Terrain location.
 Ensure that temporary tensioned-membrane structure is disassembled and taken down when there are forecasts of high winds approaching 60 mph in the area until the storm or winds have passed as required by the engineering criteria.
Date By Which Violation Must be Abated: 02/05/2016 Proposed Penalty: $7,000.00

The key is that the engineering criteria for this tent was designed for 4-inch wooden stakes and not steel. However, a three or five-hole stake bar with steel stakes could feasibly have replaced the 4-inch wooden stakes, and this may satisfy the engineering criteria. The second issue was striking the tent during a storm warning, which is not the best practice, but evacuating all employees and attendees to a safe haven (a tent is not a safe haven) would have possibly saved two lives. The tent would still have sustained damages, but the tent is replaceable and the two lives were not.

In my experience with authorities having jurisdiction, they will ask why our industry is not using 4-inch wooden stakes, and this is where the problem begins with this OSHA citation. As an industry, we need to present data. Not just, “We have been doing this for 30 years”, but real data and industry acceptance. The IFAI “Staking Study,” is a beginning however, if an overzealous state official jumps into the fray, we have another problem, and again real data and acceptance is essential to demonstrate the standard of reasonable care.

Tent rental companies and authorities having jurisdiction have an opportunity to embrace an educational format that can create a Standard of Reasonable care. However, this cannot be accomplished without volunteers and funding. We ask that both sides become members of SAFTSE as equal partners. Together we can move forward working within the current parameters and continue to develop solutions that raise the bar of safety beyond our wildest dreams.

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