Australia: Contractor Safety Concerns Highlighted In Madonna Concert Stage Collapse

Last Updated: 20 August 2009

Article by Michael Tooma, Alena Titterton and Harriet Oldmeadow

On 16 July 2009 at around 5:15 pm (local time) the roof of a stage that was being built at the 60,000 seater Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France collapsed. Construction workers were building the stage for a Madonna concert to be held on Sunday 19 July 2009, as part of Madonna's latest world tour. Initial reports from fire fighters attending the scene indicate that during the course of construction, four cranes were used to lift the stage into place, at which time the roof of the stage became unbalanced and one of the cranes fell, crashing onto the 60-tonne metal and cable structure below which caused the structure to collapse.

The collapse of the structure had devastating consequences, with a fifty-three year old French construction worker being killed instantly and another twenty-three year old worker dying in hospital as a result of injuries sustained from the collapse. Numerous other workers sustained injuries in the collapse.

This tragic accident serves as a reminder for those operating in event management in the Australian entertainment industry of the criticality of having adequate contractor management systems to ensure compliance with occupational health and safety (OHS) legislative obligations.

OHS obligations

Concert and other entertainment event management organisations have broad duties to ensure the health, safety and welfare of persons in the workplace.

In addition to the broad safety duties, NSW OHS legislation for example, imposes significant specific obligations on those who undertake building and construction work. These duties range from obligations on principal contractors to develop site specific OHS management plans, ensure induction training for construction workers, ensure subcontractors provide safe work method statements to specific control measures to be adopted by those undertaking construction work.

In New South Wales the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001 (the OHS Regulation) requires employers to ensure that any danger to persons arising from the collapse of a building during a temporary state of weakness or instability before its construction is completed is controlled by the use of adequate temporary guys, stays, supports and fixings or other measures. In addition, employers must ensure that, in the event construction work is likely to reduce the stability of an existing building or a building in the course of construction so as to endanger a person, shoring is used or other appropriate measures are taken to prevent the collapse of the building.1 Building is defined broadly in the legislation and includes any structure as well as any part of a building or structure.2 The adoption of appropriate supporting control measures such as those required by OHS legislation in New South Wales may have prevented the stage imbalance which appears to have contributed to the collapse of the structure in Marseille.

Contractor management is key

Similarly to the arrangements of the event organiser for the Madonna concert in Marseilles, building and construction work undertaken for event organisers in the entertainment industry is usually undertaken by a host of subcontractors. The critical element for such enterprises is contractor management.

Those operating in the entertainment industry should ensure they have contractor management systems in place when engaging contractors to undertake building and construction work in preparation for events. A contractor management system should ensure that:

  • a systematic process for contractor selection and assessment is adopted
  • prior to the engagement of a contractor, a high level risk assessment of the project is undertaken in order to determine the risks associated with the project and any requirements for information, instruction and resources to provide to the contractor
  • the contractor is required to participate in an induction to the project which provides the contractor and its personnel with information regarding the risks associated with the project
  • contractors are required to undertake a risk assessment and provide a written safe work method statement to the event management organisation which sets out how the contractor intends to undertake the work safely, including details of any control measures to be implemented
  • the contractor is appropriately supervised in complying with the safe work method statements for the work to be undertaken, and
  • a formal handover of the site is conducted at the end of the contractor's work to ensure that the contractor has appropriately completed the project and the site is safe and free from risk.

A systematic approach to contractor management can guard against accidents like the stage collapse in Marseille. Should you need assistance please contact one of Deacons' OHS partners.


1 See clause 234 of the OHS Regulation.

2 See clause 3 of the OHS Regulation.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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