Tougher construction rules coming to temporary stages


Preventing another tragedy similar to the one at the Indiana State Fair last summer may be more difficult and take more time than lawmakers expected. They passed legislation mandating tougher construction, inspections and safety requirements be in place this summer.

But one of the bill's co-sponsors, State Representative Ed Delaney (D-Indianapolis) is skeptical.

"I don't think we have the resources in place to do the full job now," he says.

The new legislation requires temporary structures, like stages, to meet the same safety requirements as permanent buildings. It spells out who is responsible for inspections and requires safety and evacuation plans to be in place.

Thursday's results of two investigations into the deadly stage collapse and the complicated design, construction, and inspection process surprised Delaney.

"What it takes to build one of these places properly, to inspect and understand it to measure it. I would be shocked if we are able to do that thoroughly," he said.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security, however, is already writing proposed new rules. They are expected to be approved in May. State Senator Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis), another co-sponsor of the bill, expects they will be in place by July.

"If someone visits a facility this summer, they can feel comfortable that the stage, the scaffolding, all the equipment will be safe," Merritt said.

The investigations faulted the State Fair for not having adequate safety and evacuation plans. Both are now mandatory. For now, Delaney says enforcing them ought to be the state's priority.

"A person who knows they are responsible, who is going to say, 'I'm making the decision, I don't care what the band says. I don't care if the audience is unhappy. This is recessed or canceled'," Delaney said.

Had someone made that critical call at the State Fair, many believe there would have been no tragedy. State officials wanted to see the results of the investigations before finalizing any proposals.

The new rules won't be new to Indianapolis. The building and safety standards being discussed now were already required for all those temporary structures put up for the Super Bowl.