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steve laramie

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I was recently DPing on a set which was a kitchen interior. We had the lights setup but just before we struck them I told everyone to stand by. I smelled gas. I checked the oven with a grip and the pilot light was out which filled the kitchen with gas. Did we almost die or am I being overly careful? This got me thinking to ask you guys of some other small things like this that can be a major threat.

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Yep, that could've gone real bad real quick. If there was enough gas in the air a spark from an igniting lamp or a light switch CAN be enough to ignite the stuff, at least so I'm told. I'd say when safety of crew and talent is concerned there is no such a thing as being overly cautious!

 

Cheers, Dave

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That could have been pretty bad. It's a good thing you were paying attention enough to smell the gas.

 

I ran into one a while ago that was not only unsafe for certain crew, but it directly caused a fairly large number on my L&D for the show. The camera was set up low and wide behind a car parked in an alley. The scene would play out and then the two guys would get in the car and "drive away" (script wording). Either nobody told me or the actor did this on his own, but he peeled out fast rather than drove off like a normal person. The DP (who posts here and may comment, we'll see) was operating and got sprayed in the face with dirt and gravel. The lens was also pelted with a bunch of gravel and sand, pock-marking the front element of the cooke 25-250 pretty badly. I think the polishing and recoating ran production around $5,000.

 

It only would have taken a few words and a couple minutes to grab a furnie pad for the camera and DP and a flat for the lens.

Edited by Chris Keth

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Good job Steve,

 

You may have saved lives that day. That kind of thing doesn't happen all the time, very rarely actually and you should feel very good about it for a long time!

 

I have a million stories, but not one where everyone could have died but didn't because I stepped up!!

 

JB

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I just pictured that scene from fight club with the apartment blowing up after my gaffer said the smell of gas was probably fine... I made everyone get out of the room after we turned the gas off and the house fan on then in about 30 minutes we were good. Any other scenarios like this you guys can think of?

Edited by steve laramie

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About the commonest form of really serious safety hazard I come across is people driving tired. It's absolutely endemic and equally insane.

 

I could relate the tale of the day I nearly had a sturdy 50lb CRT monitor in a case dangling from a construction crane like a wrecking ball - I don't work with that AD anymore...

 

P

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The smell in natural gas is Mercaptan, a chemical designed to have such a bad odor that most people will leave before the gas concentration is high enough to be explosive. You took the right approach: Get out and air the place until there's no gas smell.

 

How stinky is Mercaptan? The owner of a tower crew I hire from time to time once decided the way to find a pressure leak in a nitrogen filled transmission line going up a tower was to purchase a canister of Mercaptan and fill the line with some of it. What he didn't know was gas companies put quantities of it in natural gas amounting to millionths of a percent. The resulting smell from what leak the line did have was so overpowering it wasn't possible to locate the leak, the smell was everywhere.

 

His bright idea having failed, the owner buried the cannister in the back of his business' yard. It still stank so bad that people who lived in the area kept calling the local gas company to report a gas leak. He finally had to hire a hazmat company to dig up the cannister and take it to wherever cannisters of Mercaptan go to die.

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To use a very obscure analogy Sun Tzu in "The Art of War" always emphasizes the importance of stopping problems before they become problems.

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It didnt smell bad to me but I used to do natural gas hookups for barbecues and knew the smell. It scares me that our highly qualified crew didnt pick up on it. Seems like it should be in the grip book.

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To use a very obscure analogy Sun Tzu in "The Art of War" always emphasizes the importance of stopping problems before they become problems.

 

A principle known in Broadcast Engineering circles as "Fix it before it breaks".

 

I finally figured out after five failed attempts that such a principle can apply to marriage...I've been married to the current frau longer than all the others combined because I've learned that bending is also a way of fixing. Bending as strength is another very oriental thought.

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i had a friend of mine tell me he went walking up a stairway only to be greeted by a fisher dolly plummeting down the steps towards him! luckily nobody got hurt.

 

just for your comfort, the chances of an explosion from a pilot light is highly improbably unless you are in an air-tight room. smelling a trace of gas is not nearly enough concentration. but there was probably a real danger of crew and actors getting nauseous or headache from breathing in the gas so it's always good to fix that situation.

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i had a friend of mine tell me he went walking up a stairway only to be greeted by a fisher dolly plummeting down the steps towards him! luckily nobody got hurt.

 

Ha that cant even begin to be excused.

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It didnt smell bad to me but I used to do natural gas hookups for barbecues and knew the smell. It scares me that our highly qualified crew didnt pick up on it. Seems like it should be in the grip book.

 

It can be scare how people become so passive and wait for other to take care of a problem. I worked on a set where a bates connector overheated and burst into flames. Other people saw it first, and yelled out fire, but did nothing to put it out. Only 2 people on the set of several dozens nearby did anything; the 1st AD and myself. He was across the warehouse, so I got to the extinguisher first.

 

It's better to have a hundred people on set bug you about the gas smell than for no one to say anything because they think no one else is mentioning it. "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

Edited by Michele Peterson

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About the commonest form of really serious safety hazard I come across is people driving tired. It's absolutely endemic and equally insane.

Boy, can I second this concern. I see it and experience it way too often. What's supposed to end at 2:00 AM winds up wrapping at dawn and that hour on the freeway getting home, pinching yourself and with the AC on max, is mucho muy dangerous. I've heard two credible tales of crew falling asleep at the wheel and waking up at the last second before hitting something.

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Did we almost die or am I being overly careful?

 

You didn't almost die, and you were right to take care of the leak. The smell of gas - mercaptan actually - is designed so that you'll notice and stop the leak long before it becomes dangerous.

 

We did have a case here a few years back in which a house was being fumigated for termites, and they failed to turn off the fuel gas as required by code. Electricity stays on during fumigation because they run fans to move the Vikane around. What happened is that a stove burner knob got bumped and turned on. It took a couple days to fill the house with an explosive mixture, and early one morning, some sort of timer or alarm clock must have made the spark.

 

The house itself was pretty much gone. The neighboring houses had structural damage, and windows were broken a block away. Only minor injuries, fortunately. Not sure what became of the termites.....

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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Boy, can I second this concern. I see it and experience it way too often. What's supposed to end at 2:00 AM winds up wrapping at dawn and that hour on the freeway getting home, pinching yourself and with the AC on max, is mucho muy dangerous. I've heard two credible tales of crew falling asleep at the wheel and waking up at the last second before hitting something.

 

 

I was working in Wisconsin a couple months ago and pretty much everyone fell asleep at the wheel. I was riding in the only car that went off the road though. I woke up to mariachi music as we were knocking over small trees and the craft from the back of the truck was flying everywhere, it was surreal. Luckily no one was hurt even though we crossed lanes. It was funny though getting out of the truck and seeing bags of chips in the trees, or maybe it was just funny because we weren't dead.

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Luckily no one was hurt even though we crossed lanes.

 

You were lucky. There was an AC who got killed that way a few years ago, on "Pleasantville". If this isn't the stupidest thing we do as an industry, I'm not sure what beats it.

 

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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I was on a set recently that got doused with thousands of gallons of water (on purpose, that was part of the scene). Everyone was ordered to stay off the set until SFX had determined that it was all safe. ALL of the lights were also ordered OFF before anyone stepped in in case of the obvious electrocution risk.

 

Well, as I was shooting the behind-the-scenes, I was at an off angle where I could see a light that didn't go off when the rest did. I made my way quickly to the First AD who put in a call quickly to the Best Boy Electrician to check on it.

 

It turns out that the particular light was on DC so there wasn't any danger, but I had to wonder why no one else was looking to verify that ALL the lights were off before the FX guys stepped into the flooded set.

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It can be scare how people become so passive and wait for other to take care of a problem. I worked on a set where a bates connector overheated and burst into flames. Other people saw it first, and yelled out fire, but did nothing to put it out. Only 2 people on the set of several dozens nearby did anything; the 1st AD and myself. He was across the warehouse, so I got to the extinguisher first.

 

 

Sorry, but I'm not in G&E, not my department.......

 

How many people even take note of where the extinguishers and alarm pull boxes are, when they are on location? One item often missing on smaller shoots/indie crews is an adequate first aid kit.

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It turns out that the particular light was on DC so there wasn't any danger, ....

 

Volt for Volt, DC is at least as dangerous as AC. We commonly had 120/240 Volt DC on stages, as carbon arc lights required it, and it was less trouble for sound. When the DWP went all 60 Hz AC in 1937, the studios all had their own motor/generator sets to supply DC.

 

DC is constant, so it locks up your muscles constantly. If you grab AC, unless it's too strong a current, you have 120 chances per second to let go (or 100 in the 50 Hz countries). Of course, if this was a little battery operated thing, the danger would be less. But under exactly the right circumstances, even a AAA cell could theoretically electrocute you.

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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