Even Opera Sopranos Need Fall Protection
For those of you who don’t follow opera, Bellini’s “Norma”
is considered by many to contain the Mount Everest of soprano roles, one that
only a few divas — Maria Callas, for example — have truly mastered.
Last Saturday afternoon I was fortunate to witness one of those rare
performances where the soprano was able to climb the mountain. Early in the
first act, the American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky — who played the druid
priestess Norma — wowed the audience as she sang the beautiful aria “Casta
Diva” while standing on a tree stump in the middle of a forest on the stage at
Lincoln Center in New York City. The audience was ecstatic and she received a long
thunderous applause with many fans shouting “Brava!”
While I too was moved, I couldn’t help turning to my partner and
whispering, “I hope there isn’t an OSHA inspector in this audience, because
this looks like a clear violation of the fall protection standard.” As she sang
her sublime aria, Radvanovsky was standing on a tree stump that was more than
four feet high with what appeared to be no fall protection.
The Metropolitan Opera is not alone here. Any lawyer who practices OSHA
law will tell you that fall protection is the standard most often cited by OSHA
inspectors. While many companies do a pretty fair job of maintaining
appropriate railings on regularly traveled walkways, they often forget about
fall protection when employees are unloading trailer beds or doing maintenance
in less heavily traversed areas. Companies also forget that OSHA requires
employers to provide training on fall hazards.
So here is a simple reminder for everyone, from the humble machine
operator to Montserrat Caballé, please remember: OSHA
requires fall protection. For the Met, and all other employers covered by OSHA
that don’t have industry-specific rules, the requirement begins at a height of
four feet. In construction, fall protection is required above six feet. Protectionmust also be
provided any time an employee must work above hazardous equipment or machinery,
regardless of the distance. While there may be “no business like show
business,” employers of all industries — including the performing arts — should
remember that, more likely than not, OSHA’s fall protection regulations apply
to your workforce.