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A silent crowd gazed upwards to the top of, what seemed like, a 30 foot pole leading all the way to the top of the tent. The pole was held in place by nothing but 3 small wires. It was thin, shaking and at the top was a very chilled out performer dangling horizontally with one arm. The audience gasped as he plummeted to the ground faster than a piano from a top floor flat. He stopped. Thankfully!  Just three inches from the ground. Three inches from certain death.

Sweating, flushed, and feeling slightly sick I applauded the confidence and skill of this audacious, calm and energetic performer. My eyes were fixed on the ground below him. Hard, unforgiving concrete with not a safety net in sight. As an audience member the show was thrilling, exciting and amazing. As a health and safety lawyer I forced back the feeling of nausea as my mind rushed to the Work at Height Regulations and the risks which the performer was taking to secure a cheer from the audience.

Thankfully all of the performers made it safely to the final curtain and I made it safely to the bar to calm my nerves.

The Work at Height regulations require that nobody undertakes work at height unless it cannot possibly be avoided. If it cannot be avoided then safety procedures and assessments must be carried out to ensure the work at height is safe.

Could the performers of Limbo avoid the work at height? If they did, I probably wouldn’t have paid the £20 to go and see them. Danger is of course the show’s selling point. Acrobatics is what the performers have spent their life training for. The man at the top of that pole has probably spent more than 10,000 hours training on that thin, shaking piece of metal. He has probably careered towards the floor more times than I have driven a car.

There is of course a huge difference between him and your average worker. It’s not just the fact that such performers will train, sometimes for a lifetime to put on a dazzling spectacle and wow their audience but also the fact this performance is their sole focus. In contrast, employees may require to work at height to carry out a variety of other tasks that just happen to need carried out up high, sometimes  with the birds.  Employees may be concentrating on wiring that fuse, or welding that widget, rather than on how many inches down a pole they need to go for rapturous applause. The average person who needs to do such a job doesn’t spent hours practicing like the organisers and performers of @limbotheshow do every day. In these very different circumstances all employees need to be suitably protected. The wearing of a suitable harness, provision of a suitable lifting device or scaffolding being adequately netted to prevent falls are all requirements of the Work at Height regulations. They serve a very important purpose to protect those employees focussed on carrying out their job, whatever it may be, in building, maintaining and generally keeping the country in good working order.

Whilst the @limbotheshow perfomers made everything look effortless I’m sure none of them would welcome having to weld some metal at the top of the wire, whilst carrying out their risky balancing act. For comfort, I imagine there is plenty of safety involved in the show anyway and it’s all cleverly concealed by the skill of the acrobats, fire breathers, and SWORD SWALLOWERS!!!


A truly magical show, but this health and safety lawyer will not be trying it at home!

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