This past weekend, in San Diego California, TwitchCon took place for the fifth time since opening in 2015. TwitchCon is a convention focused on the website Twitch; with featured creators, content, panels, and events taking place over three days in North America (United States), and two days in Europe.
Twitch Con is a “IRL party starring the entire Twitch community.” According to the official website, but sometimes, parties can go a little too hard. At this year’s event, it seems that a few errors were made by some prime vendors.
Lenovo and Intel worked together to form an interactive feature space for attendees to have fun and play around, this featured space was a foam pit with two platforms centrally located about four feet (1.2192 meters) above the ground. In the United States, all businesses must abide by OSHA safety guideline 1926.501 which outlines that a fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in “general industry workplaces.” A foam mat with blocks that would move around the attendees, would not constitute safety guidelines being met.
According to Nathan Grayson (@Vahn16) on Twitter, the foam pit’s depth was only “to knee height” (less than one meter) deep. A thin foam mat was placed below the foam cushions that were sprinkled in the “pit”.
The average foam pit depth should be 4-8 feet deep, that of your typical swimming pool. This pit was deceptive in looks, providing convention attendees with the idea that safety was considered, and it wouldn’t fall under “Shallow-depth” (less than four feet deep). As it’s quite impossible to see the bottom of the foam pit, an attendee can only hope that it would be deep. (Image shown below of actual schematic of how a foam pit should be set up).
While a waiver was required to be signed by all participants, there hasn’t been an official announcement made by Lenovo and Intel at this time about what was covered on the waiver, or the lack of precautions installed.
There have been three reports of hospital related injuries from this weekend’s foam pit at Twitch Con, from broken ankles to a knee dislocation, and from a prominent Twitch streamer, Adriana Chechik, a broken back.
When a person is in the excitement of a day’s events, it can become easy to want to celebrate in the moment.
This is on Lenovo, Intel, and Twitch for not bringing in a proper team to test the depth. Not only that, if these companies wanted to invest in this type of event, they could have hosted an off-campus event at a small, sanctioned business. In San Diego there is a multitude of trampoline and foam pit themed event spaces. Two within a 30-minute drive from the San Diego Convention Center.
IF Lenovo and Intel had provided shuttle runs, rented out a space for an evening, and focused more on creating a party atmosphere and event, they could have avoided this. Or, by hiring on people to consult and help with staging at the convention center. These are two different options that would have provided all attendees with a positive experience, but now? All three companies will have to pay for their lack of oversight.
According to BuzzFeed News who was onsite for this event, their staff were unable to secure comments from Lenovo, Twitch, and the contractor who built the booth.
None of the attendee’s should have experienced this, nor be put in a situation that would disable them. Attendee’s put their trust in event organizers to keep them safe, and a waiver signed does not mean “risk my life”, but an implicit request on the knowledge that the event organizer has put in safety precautions to protect the people and outside of those precautions, (by acting recklessly) then they can’t be held liable.
As an event organizer, I am appalled at the lack of safety precautions taken, and the haste at which this set up seems to have been built. I have worked with a variety of people in the industry, I have seen the time it can take to build and prep for the shows behind the scenes, often only having less than 48 hours to put together booths, and if you take that into consideration, then yes, a hastily built foam pit without prior testing is a disaster waiting to happen.
There are many ways this could have been optimized and avoided, but the pre-planning and risk management not taken into consideration by Lenovo and Intel is shown in this lack of foresight.
Osha.gov FULL Fall Guidelines