Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

So that’s what we were supposed to learn today.

One of our crew got injured on the way into work. He staggered in (right at call time – that’s dedication) post accident – with two black eyes and a broken nose – so, less than five minutes into the day, he was off to the hospital and the remaining crew were frantically making calls to everyone we knew in an attempt to find another body for the day.

Everyone any of us knew was working (it’s really busy right now), so we got permission from our call steward to ‘pull a permit’.

In busy times, non-union workers are allowed to work union shows as ‘permits’. Thirty permit days in one year makes one eligible for union membership. Needless to say, there’s no shortage of folks who are willing and eager to get permit days. Also needless to say, we found a permit very quickly.

Our permit showed up just before lunch – and within 10 minutes of climbing the ladder into the perms was in an ambulance on his way to the hospital.

Here’s what did it:

Killer Pulley

In order to lift – two at a time – coils of cable that weigh about 90 lbs each 40 feet in the air, we use an electric hoist and a pulley (in this case, a hoist and pulley which clearly saw some action prior to WW2). The pulley is hung from the roof on a reinforced beam called a ‘high hang’. The hoist operator pulls the cable up to the perms, where whomever’s ‘catching’ grabs the coiled cable, pulls it onto the walkway, unties the rope and then sends the rope back down for the next coil of cable (or cable cart, distro boxes, case of bottled water, boombox, whatever).

Our permit – while attempting to catch a load of cable – got his hand caught in between the pulley and the rope.

The edges on the pulley are sharp (I’m not sure how well it shows in the photo), and combined with the fact that the rope was holding almost 200 lbs of cable as it squished his hand against the hardened steel, gave him an inch-long gash on the knuckle of his index finger.

He should have a) been wearing leather gloves and b) grabbed for the coiled cable in the center of the coil and not at the rope directly under the pulley.

I understand the desire not to loop one’s arm through center of the coiled cable. When you’re 40 feet up in the air with the safety rail removed (so the cable can easily be swung over to the walkway), the last thing you want to do is grab onto the very thing that might pull you off the catwalk to your death, but that rope/pulley/hand combination is bad news.

It really is true that you learn something new every day.

Our permit learned how not to catch cable.

We learned not to let a permit catch cable.

The good news is that the cut’s not bad. There’s no nerve or tendon damage. He’s going to hurt tonight, and the guys are now calling him ‘Stumpy’, but he’ll be fine.

He’ll also be much, much more cautious in the future.

Filed under: Photos, Work

September 2005
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