For over 40 years, Clair Global has been a leader in the event audio industry, providing sound reinforcement and technical staff to acts ranging from Alan Jackson to ZZ Top. From the company’s humble beginnings in its founder’s garage to their current position on the world’s top stages, one thing has remained consistent – an unwavering dedication to exceptional quality, innovation, and customer service. For Clair, exceeding their customer’s expectations begins with people. In this first edition of “Leaders in Event Safety”, Clair Global Training Manager Dave Lester explains how the company’s intensive hiring and training process not only creates satisfied customers, but helps to ensures an unprecedented level of safety.

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Exceeding client expectations.

It’s an easy turn of phrase that in practice can be extremely difficult to achieve. In the fast-paced and ever-changing event industry, keeping up with all of your client’s expectations can be a challenge in itself. As the industry becomes ever more competitive, a level of service that was considered acceptable just last month may be seen as wholly insufficient today. The same holds true for technology – gone are the days where the quality of your production can be “good enough”. For all of these changes, there’s one expectation that has remained consistent – your clients, workers, and audience rightly expect to walk away from a show at the end of the night and not fall victim to or witness an accident.

With so many potential hazards facing the typical event, how does a company exceed or even meet that expectation of safety? On the surface, the answer is obvious – do the right thing. However, defining what the “right thing” is amid a sea of standards, regulations, and governing bodies can be a daunting task. To get it right, education and training are critically important.

Our philosophy at Clair is be the best. To Clair, being the best means providing the best service and people without exception, and exceeding our client’s expectations. It starts with recruiting people that have the desire to be the best, and have the right attitude and aptitude to work with today’s complex and sophisticated technology. It’s not easy to get a job at Clair. We actively recruit from Universities and Colleges that have programs with degrees in related fields. Hundreds of resumes are submitted, and dozens upon dozens of interviews are conducted. In the end, maybe only 5 or 6 candidates are selected per year.

These candidates must then relocate to Lititz, Pennsylvania, where they will be immersed in the company philosophy and begin a formal 26-week education and evaluation program. There are written and practical exams designed to demonstrate proof of absolute competence for a given task. For instance, to qualify for employment as a Clair Field Service Representative a candidate must demonstrate their abilities and competence in assembly and dismantling of the company’s concert sound systems. To achieve this, candidates will undergo weeks of education and practical hands-on training assembling and dismantling the company’s sound systems, and then must pass a practical exam that demonstrates ability. If they don’t pass (make mistakes) they are let go. Even the brightest of candidates may lack the mechanical aptitude to fly a sound system to our expectations, and such weaknesses must be identified well before they head out into the field. Other areas of education and examination include applicable articles of the National Electrical Code (NEC), personal protective equipment (PPE), and the oft-overlooked subject of communications. One of the most important yet difficult tasks for any new candidate is to effectively communicate with local stagehands. The majority of mistakes occur when communication breaks down, whether a veteran of the road or a newbie.

Another challenge that our Field Service Representatives face is currency. An employee may be out on tour with one gear package for many months, then be expected to jump onto a different tour with different gear with minimal delay. If an employee cannot adapt quickly, the possibility of error and accidents increases dramatically. We combat this issue on a several fronts. There is constant point-of-deployment education, a support web site with educational videos and in-depth documentation on our equipment, a health and safety folder that contains the MSDS for the limited chemicals placed in every work box, and the company’s Safety Handbook and Health and Safety Assessment. We work hard to ensure that all relevant information is easily available for our road staff to reference when needed. We also have an annual System Engineer summit meeting in February to discuss and educate on different topics of concern, with safety being a primary focus. We have given exams at these as well.

As you can see, we’re big on testing to ensure our employees comprehend the tasks that are part of the job. Both the company and our clients expect employees know their job and will not make a critical error that causes an injury to themselves or others. Just as an airline pilot must pass periodic FAA and medical examinations to prove competency, every Clair employee must prove their competence to company expectations. No exceptions.

In short, the goal of this program could be described as “safety through unrivaled competence”. Although not safety-specific, Clair’s training process is designed to meet OSHA’s requirement that an employer conduct training and education to reduce or eliminate hazards where they may exist. Even if OSHA didn’t require such training, it’s just the right thing to do. Our clients demand it and so do we. Ensuring this level of competence in our employees isn’t cheap, but at the end of the day, we all reap the benefits.

– Dave Lester, Clair Global, July 2013