On Safety

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Movie set death spurs safety movement

September 3, 2014

The death of a camera assistant on a film set has led to penalties for the production company – and sparked a safety movement within the industry.

Sarah Jones, 27, was killed in February when she was struck by a train during the production of an independent film in Georgia.

In response to the death, OSHA in August cited the production company for a willful violation for failing to provide safety measures to protect employees from moving trains and a serious violation for exposing workers to fall hazards while working on a train trestle not equipped with guardrails. Proposed penalties amount to $74,900.

In an agency press release announcing the citations, OSHA sharply criticized the production company for the incident.

“Employers are responsible for taking the necessary precautions to protect workers’ health and safety, and the entertainment industry is no exception,” OSHA administrator David Michaels said in the press release. “It is unacceptable that Film Allman LLC knowingly exposed their crew to moving trains while filming on a live track and railroad trestle.”

But this isn’t just a sad story about the death of a worker and how the company is being held responsible.

Earlier this summer, a coalition dedicated to ensuring no other lives are lost on movie sets launched a fundraising campaign for the development of a new mobile phone app. The app is intended to allow film crews to anonymously report safety hazards spotted on set. Fundraising goals for the project were met in only three days.

Additionally, shortly before OSHA’s citations were issued, Sarah’s family announced the launch of a new website that tells their daughter’s story, in the hope that set safety is not forgotten.

“Safety should not be an afterthought that gets in the way of a good shot, but rather, safety should be a culture, woven into the fabric of the industry,” Sarah’s father, Richard, said in a May letter to the American Society of Cinematographers. “It does matter to Sarah’s family that the ultimate price she paid improves and strengthens the industry that she so loved.”

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

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