The vast majority of us automatically envision construction sites, warehouses, retail stores or even offices when we hear the term workplace accident. However, it’s important to remember that people can suffer serious and debilitating work injuries in even the most unconventional professions.
Consider a case right here in Chicago, where a performer in the Lyric Opera of Chicago suffered burn injuries during a full dress rehearsal earlier this week.
According to reports, a 24-year-old man playing the role of a circus performer in the opera house’s upcoming production of “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg” was required to blow fire while walking around on stilts during the second scene of the third act.
However, a photographer with the Chicago Tribune, who was in the audience to take pictures for an upcoming feature, later said that something appeared to go wrong after the young man put propellant into his mouth.
“He blew one or two fireballs, and then it looked like he had spilled it on his chin or his chest or something,” he said. “It kind of consumed him, and he was staggering across the stage and then fell off his stilts on the opposite side of the stage.”
Stagehands standing in the wings were able to put the fire out with extinguishers and emergency personnel were summoned shortly thereafter.
The young man was ultimately taken to Loyola University Medical Center where he received treatment for burns to his mouth. Fortunately, he is expected to be discharged by the end of the week, something that can likely be attributed to the flameproof costume and mask he was wearing.
OSHA investigators were already dispatched to the opera house and are currently in the process of interviewing performers, witnesses and other employees to determine what happened and if any citations need to be issued.
It is worth noting that the Chicago Fire Department previously approved the stunt.
Please visit our workers’ compensation page to learn more about your rights and your options if you’ve been seriously injured in a workplace accident.
Sources: The Chicago Tribune, “Actor critically hurt in Lyric Opera rehearsal,” Liam Ford and Ellen Jean Hirst, Feb. 5, 2013; The Belleville News-Democrat, “Chicago opera faces probe after performer burned,” Feb. 5, 2013