Radiohead stage collapse in Toronto leads to call for safer regulations

Jordana Divon
Contributing Writer
Daily Brew

It was the last thing any Toronto Radiohead fan expected as they headed toward Downsview Park.

Mid-afternoon, the stage where the British band was set to perform Saturday night collapsed, killing Radiohead's drum technician and injuring several others.

The show was immediately canceled and many took to Twitter, Facebook and news forums to express their shock and condolences to the family of Scott Johnson

On Sunday, the band released a statement saying they were "shattered" over the death of 33-year-old drum tech, while many are asking how something like this could have happened at such a high profile event.

A similar question was asked last July after a stage collapsed at the Ottawa Bluesfest during a Cheap Trick set, injuring eight.

According to an industry expert, the answer is clear.

Janet Sellery, a Stratford-based safety consultant specializing in the arts, told Global News that "inconsistent labour and safety standards," coupled with increasingly ambitious shows, are contributing to the recurrence of dangerous stage collapses in recent years.

"Because of the unique situations that the live performance and event industry involves, it's not clear to a lot of people how to implement them (regulations)," she told the news network.

"So even though people want to be compliant, you read something and it's clearly written about a construction site," which can be "confusing".

The solution, she suggested, is to bring safety regulations up to date and make sure that a band's creative vision doesn't supersede the technical capabilities of an individual venue.

Part of the problem is that the regulations often evolve at a much slower rate than new stage technologies, Sellery added.

Employment Alberta released a comprehensive document on safe stage practices, that covered everything from individual worker health and proper training to guidelines for employers, but the report was published before a windstorm collapsed the stage during the province's Big Valley Jamboree in 2009.

Meanwhile, the high profile nature of the Radiohead tragedy has resulted in headlines around the world. Hopefully it will also lead to a strong push for newer, safer guidelines.