On Safety

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Safety in Tinseltown

March 24, 2014
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Hollywood: Where dreams are made, stars are born and, sometimes, the action gets a little too real.

Two stories were published this month offering contrasting views regarding workplace safety on movie sets.

In an interview published by The Synergist in March, Margaret Buckalew, a safety professional who has supervised production safety for several feature films, details her role in protecting workers during movie-making and discusses the safety culture of Hollywood. Buckalew states that although the industry struggles with certain issues, including fire and fall hazards, it has taken steps in the right direction.

“Overall, the movie industry in general has a pretty good safety culture,” she said. As evidence of the industry’s positive safety culture, Buckalew pointed to the Safety Pass Program, which lists safety training requirements for each person involved in a movie – everyone from a set painter to a director.

But an article published March 12 in Variety suggests Hollywood still has work to do. The article details the recent death of Sarah Jones, a camera assistant killed after being crushed by a train during the production of an independent film.

“As the death of Jones spotlights, there are gaping holes in the industry’s current safety plans,” the article states. Citing OSHA statistics, the article notes that 73 incidents resulting in serious injuries have occurred on movie sets from 2003 to 2012.

Although many crewmembers don’t speak up because of a fear of losing their job over safety concerns, the article points out that this trend may be turning in light of Jones’ death. Cast and crew organizations have voiced intentions of ensuring safety on set, and a safety campaign in honor of Jones has begun. Some productions even have begun holding daily safety meetings, which is something not often done on many sets, according to the article.

While the action on the screen is fake, the risk in creating that action is not. Here’s hoping the movie and television industry learns from Jones’ tragic death and won’t need future reminders of the importance of safety on set.

The opinions expressed in "On Safety" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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