Safety On Film Sets: Health And Safety In All Workplaces


The Law Of... Staying Safe In Hollywood

Hollywood continues to produce films that push the danger boundaries and grow more adventurous every year. But the special FX and feats performed by real human beings rather than computer generated images puts the lives of those carrying out stunts at risk.

Anna Thompson, Personal Injury specialist, takes a look at some recent tragedies within Hollywood and how advice provided for stunt crew could help you and the health and safety at your workplace.

set accidents

Tragedy On Set

From Tom Cruise's broken ankle on the set of Mission Impossible to more tragic events seen on the sets of both Deadpool 2 and The Walking Dead, 2017 has been a dangerous year for accidents occurring on set. Whilst the frequency of accidents occurring on set has improved in the last 20 years, film making is still a dangerous business.

In August 2017, Tom Cruise was performing a stunt where he was jumping from one building to another with the assistance of a harness. During the stunt, the Mission Impossible actor hit a wall and broke his ankle. Fortunately, Tom Cruise is expected to make a full recovery and on the release of Mission Impossible 6 is still on schedule.

That same month saw a freak accident occur on the set of Deadpool 2. Joi Harris died while filming a low-speed stunt on a motorbike after she lost control of the bike. Joi Harris had been a professional motorbike racer and Deadpool 2 had been her first film working as a stunt double. She was not wearing a helmet during the stunt.

In July 2017, the tragic death of John Bernecker occurred during the practice of a seemingly routine stunt on the set of The Walking Dead. The 33-year-old died after falling headfirst from a balcony. He was supposed to fall from the balcony onto a pad made from a layer of boxes and another large pad but missed the padding by inches. John Bernecker had nearly a decade of experience in stunt work.

The Dangerous Life Of A Stunt Double

Elaborate action sequences feature in films are often mistakenly believed to be produced through the use of Computer Generated Images (CGI). However, the accidents that have occurred over the last few years in Hollywood would suggest that stunt work is still prevalent in the production of films.

Before CGI, broken bones and cuts and bruises were a pre-requisite of stunts, but are now much more easily avoided as padding used to protect stunt workers is easily covered using CGI. But there is of course, still a risk.

Andy Armstrong, stunt coordinator for films such as The Amazing Spider-Man said,

"It's a terribly fine line when it comes to guaranteeing safety, because in reality there is no guarantee. If these stunts were common, you wouldn't want it in the movie. So you're invariably asking someone to do something outside the box, which is where it becomes so difficult to regulate."

Safety On Set

Whilst accident rates have dropped, life-changing injuries are still occurring on Hollywood sets. Much like the Health and Safety Executive of the United Kingdom, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of America investigates accidents that occur in any workplace in the USA, which includes set accidents.

One of the main worries, however, is that accidents that occur on film sets are rarely reported on and the details often covered up. When OSHA fines a film company for accidents that occur on set, they are often contested and prosecutions are rarely pursued. It is also common for stunt doubles to be legally barred from suing.

Safety In The Workplace

In the UK, regardless of the workplace, the employer is responsible for the reasonable safety of all their workers. That includes any jobs that are particularly dangerous from the outset. It is important that employers take all necessary precautions to protect employers from possible accidents.

Precautions in the workplace could include providing:

  • Appropriate health and safety training
  • Effective equipment necessary for the job
  • Regular assessment of health and safety
  • Access to first aid

If an accident occurs that was the result of an employer's negligence in providing what is necessary for a safe working environment, it is possible to claim for damages.

Anna comments:

"Whilst there have been significant improvements in set safety in the last 20 years, people are still suffering at the hands of ill planned stunts and questionable health and safety."

"It is sad to see that Hollywood sets are lacking in openness about the accidents that have occurred on sets during 2017. When tragedies occur, it is possible to take solace in the mistakes that can be learned from but only if the truth is communicated."

Our Personal Injury solicitors can provide you with the advice you need if you are in an accident that was the result of another's carelessness. Call today for a free initial consultation.

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