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UPDATE: Stagehands union, state settle Indiana fair fines

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A stagehands union that was fined $11,500 after seven people were killed when rigging collapsed onto a crowd at the Indiana State Fair has reached a settlement with the state absolving it of the penalty.

The union must implement a new safety training program as part of the agreement, which was signed Monday by Indiana's deputy labor commissioner and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 30's business manager.

The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the union in February 2012 after finding three serious violations and one non-serious violation in connection with the accident on Aug. 23, 2011. Those violations included the agency's finding that the union failed to ensure that work conditions were "reasonably safe and healthful" and free of hazards that could cause death or injuries.

Stagehand Nathan Byrd was among the seven people fatally injured when high winds toppled stage rigging and a stage roof onto fans awaiting the start of a concert by the country duo Sugarland. Several other stagehands were among the more than 40 people injured in the collapse.

The union appealed the agency's order, including the finding that the union — and not the Indiana State Fair Commission — was the employer of the stagehands who were working when the stage toppled. The union contended that it simply provided workers to the State Fair Commission and stage owner Mid-America Sound Corp., who helped erect the stage.

The agreement between the parties, including the union's Theatrical Payroll Services Inc. division, states that neither the state agency nor the union "concedes its position" on the safety order but that they have agreed to "amicably resolve their differences."

Under the settlement, the union must work with the state department of labor to add fall protection and hazard identification training for its current members and train them by March 15, 2014. The union must also add that training to its apprenticeship program, with each new union member required to complete the safety course.

Indiana Labor Commissioner Sean Keefer said in a statement that the agreement "creates a safer and more protected workplace for Indiana workers in the theater and stage business."

The union's business manager, John Baldwin, said Tuesday that the settlement avoids litigation and is beneficial for the union.

"We want to ensure that everybody's trained and all the workplaces are safe," Baldwin said. "It will help workers recognize hazards and make them able to look at things and see if there is a potential hazard that needs to be corrected."

In its February 2012 report on the rigging collapse, the state agency also fined stage owner Mid-America $63,000 for three serious violations of industry standards and the Indiana State Fair Commission $6,300 for failing to conduct proper safety evaluations of its concert venues.

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