The start of September marks the deadline by which theatre owners should have had their suspended plaster ceilings inspected by a specialist to ensure that they are safe. The new guidance follows the collapse of the Apollo Theatre ceiling in 2013.
For any premises with suspended plaster ceilings the HSE says that appropriate surveys should be undertaken. FIS, The Theatres Trust (TTT) and Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT) have collaborated to provide a robust and structured process for building owners, operators and main contractors to establish the competency of companies and individuals to carry out inspection surveys and or remedial works to plaster ceilings and plaster works in theatres, historic building and places of entertainment.
Melvin Sandell, HM Inspector of Health and Safety, Entertainments, has said he will be contacting theatre owners after the 1 September deadline and ask for evidence that their ceiling has been completely inspected by a competent person and explain how that competence was determined.
Mr Sandell told theatre owners: “If by the 1st September you will not yet be able to (inspect your ceiling) I recommend you contact your local authority as soon as possible to explain what you are doing to ensure the safety of your ceiling and agree the date by which you will have completed an appropriate inspection.”
The hazards which can exist with suspended plaster ceilings are not limited to theatres or places of entertainment but will be present in any building with this type of construction.
For guidance on establishing the competence of inspectors and plaster work contractors the FIS has published information about Heritage Buildings on its website.