New Rigging Rule 2023 *UPDATED 2/6/24

UPDATE – February 6, 2024:

The Exhibitor Advocate is pleased to share that Freeman has revised their regulations regarding engineering stamps. The Exhibitor Advocate, along with our partners at EDPA and ESCA, approached Freeman with concerns from exhibitors on a rigging regulation that began rolling out in August of 2023. We’re pleased that Freeman heard the concerns of exhibitors and agreed to revise the regulation to allow engineering stamps to be accepted regardless of what state and what year in which the stamp was acquired, as long as there had been no structural changes. Below is the language that Freeman has shared:

Engineering Stamp Requirements:
A structure’s engineering stamp is valid if these requirements are met:

  • The engineering stamp is issued by structural or civil engineering firm in the United States
  • The structure has not been modified from the time of the original design stamp
  • Venue, municipality, or state codes will take precedent over Freeman standards
 

Hanging Signs and Graphics:

  • Any sign or hung structure over 250lbs will require a secondary lifting device
  • Facilities may have more stringent codes. When this happens, Freeman will adhere to the more stringent guidelines

 

Please consult show kits for specific guidelines for each show.

The revised regulation maintains the safety of our show floors without adding unnecessary cost and burden to exhibitors. The resolution of this issue reaffirms the power of partnerships and the solutions that can be realized when we collaborate as an industry.

At The Exhibitor Advocate, our passion lies in supporting the very backbone of our industry—you, the exhibitors. The resolution to the rigging rule represents just one example of the challenges The Exhibitor Advocate tackles on behalf of exhibitors every day. However, our work is far from done, and with your support and engagement, it will only gain momentum. Join us today and add your voice to an industry-wide movement that’s effecting positive, lasting change.

ORIGINAL POST FROM DECEMBER 2023:

Engineering Stamp Requirement

Over the past few months, The Exhibitor Advocate has been working on behalf of exhibitors to address a new rigging rule that was implemented at several large trade shows. Through our partnership with ESCA, we’ve been able to provide feedback to the GSC about the burden on exhibitors and work collaboratively with ESCA, EDPA and EACA, to address the safety concerns without adding additional, unnecessary cost to exhibitors. It is our understanding that the General Services Contractors are currently working to revise the language of the rule to maintain safety and create consistency across all of our shows.

 

 The Background

The rule started popping up in August of this year and, to our knowledge, was not included in any of the show service kits. In many cases, there was no communication from the show organizer or the GSC that the rule had been changed. Exhibitors were alerted of the new rule when they began move-in onsite. When provided in writing, the rule stated the following:

  • Contractor requires a stamped certification from a design professional (Civil or Structural Engineer) registered in the state where the Event will be held, affirming all calculations and specifications for any custom-built suspended elements such as but not limited to non-serially manufactured signs, lightboxes, headers, videowall surrounds, and entry portals.
  • Contractor may request a stamped certification from a design professional (Civil or Structural Engineer) registered in the state where the Event will be held affirming all calculations and specifications and/or a peer review from such registered design professional for attachment of any structure to provide additional support terminating to the venue (Ex. Tie-off of header, seismic lines, tie-off of video walls).
  • Contractor may request approval from a registered design professional (Civil or Structural Engineer) and/or a peer review from a registered design professional for all non-serially manufactured LED and Video Display systems. All LED and video display systems must comply to ANSI E1.50-1. This applies to ground supported and suspended LED and Video Display systems.

 

The Issue

The issue exhibitors had with the new rule revolves around the requirement to have an engineering stamp from the state where the event is being held, and the year the event is held. Many exhibitors have hanging signs that already have an engineering stamp, that is recognized nationally, making the state-specific stamp unnecessary. These stamps do not expire. As long as there is no structural change, it is unnecessary to have the element re-stamped every year.

No one is debating the need for safety at our shows. Rules like this, particularly when they’re implemented to address safety concerns, are nothing new to our industry. So let us break down why it is problematic for exhibitors, and the importance of all stakeholders working together to address these issues.

 

Timing

Beginning in August of 2023, exhibitors and their booth design partners, were being informed of the new requirement after they submitted their show service orders, or worse, when they began move-in onsite. In one instance that we’re aware of, the show management team made a point of emailing all their exhibitors and EAC (Exhibitor Appointed Contractor) partners, alerting them of the new rule. Although this notice was beneficial, the timing didn’t solve the difficulty exhibitors experienced in scrambling to acquire new engineering partners to stamp their previously approved rigging items.

Most exhibitors, in partnership with their exhibit house, spend 6-12 months before a show designing, building and preparing for the event. We often use the same materials for multiple shows and from year to year at the same show. We rely on the information in the service kit to be accurate so we can plan accordingly for the show and design our materials in accordance with the rules and regulations. Most importantly, many exhibitors have previously secured engineering stamps for their hanging signs. However, that stamp might’ve been secured for another show in a different city. Until a couple months ago, that stamp, no matter what state the engineer was from, was valid for the exhibitors’ trade shows. Finding out that a different engineering stamp is required, after the kit has been distributed and we’ve passed the planning phase, takes valuable time away from executing the build of the booth and can leave an exhibitor scrambling.

 

Cost

The number one issue for exhibitors in our industry is rising costs. It is the number one reason exhibitors question the value of trade shows, downsize their participation level, and discontinue exhibiting altogether. When a rule like this is issued, it has cost implications to the exhibitor. If we haven’t planned for the expense, it can blow our budget. On top of other unpredictable costs associated with the trade show, these expenses can dramatically affect an exhibitor’s budget, not just for the show, but for their entire business. Exhibitors have told The Exhibitor Advocate that these unexpected costs have also put their jobs in jeopardy. These small changes can have big consequences.

 

Safety is the Top Priority

Everyone has a vested interest in ensuring the safety of the show floor. The Exhibitor Advocate will always support rules and regulations that are justified, maintain safety and create a better experience on the show floor.

Exhibitors have a responsibility to play their part in following rules and regulations. Show organizers have a responsibility to communicate those rules and regulations to their exhibitors and attendees. General Service Contractors have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the show. This is an ecosystem and we must work together to make it successful.

While keeping safety as the top priority, we have asked the GSC’s to revise the rule with the following considerations:

  • Accept the nationally recognized engineering stamps for these materials regardless of what state they were acquired
  • Accept engineering stamps regardless of the year they were acquired (assuming there are no structural changes to the equipment since the stamp was provided)
  • Include all rules and requirements for rigged materials in the show service kit.


We will continue to monitor the situation and report back to you when the rigging rule has been revised. Until then, if you have questions or concerns, we encourage you to speak to the Operations Team of your show organizer or contact The Exhibitor Advocate for additional support: info@exhibitoradvocacy.com