"What? What do you mean, I was supposed to arrange for
that? How was I supposed to know that? It’s gonna cost HOW much?”
This is a
one-sided phone conversation no producer wants to have when it comes to safety
programs and provisions to make their film and television production sets safe.
Unfortunately, many producers are unaware of the responsibilities they assume
when starting a project.
Set safety is
everyone’s business and responsibility.
(Occupational Safety and Health Administration) guidelines, which apply to all
workplaces, require that "employers … provide a safe workplace … free from
serious recognized hazards”, and that "all employers must provide safety
training” for specific skills that their job may entail. Fall protection,
hearing protection, respiratory protection, environmental awareness and general
safety measures are just a few of the types of safety training that producers
are responsible for providing to employees. The Contract Services
Administration Training Trust Fund (CSATTF), also known as Safety Pass,
provides a wide variety of safety classes specifically for members of the
Hollywood locals of IATSE, Teamsters Local 399, Camera Local 600 (for
nationwide members) and, in conjunction with the DGA (but only as a training
entity and only at the behest of the DGA), for Assistant Directors and
Union crews are
required to take safety training classes before being hired on an IATSE
signatory production (or at least become compliant within a specified and
authorized time frame). The certification received from the classes means they
have been safety-trained to perform the duties required by their positions.
Safety training and skills training are two distinct processes, not to be
confused with each other. Non-union "reality” programming or non-fiction crews
also require safety training. All are performing the same jobs as their union
counterparts, often in remote, uncontrolled and hazardous environments. Where
does that leave the producer? How do we ensure we are hiring a competent crew,
providing a safe work environment and avoiding hazards on our own sets?
As a follow-up to
the Produced By Conference discussion panel "20 Seconds to Disaster” held in
June at Sony Studios, we want to make producers of all formats aware of some of
the responsibilities that come with the job. Here are a few things you may not
know that you don’t know.
easier to create when you’re out there in real places on real streets, no
matter what the hardships are while shooting.” Gale Anne Hurd
the world of Non-Union/Reality/Non-Fiction (NURNF) production, producers are
required to have a safety program in place, which includes providing safety
training to their employees. To accomplish this, they often look to freelance
individuals and/or companies who are OSHA-certified and can provide such
training services to companies or individuals. What are some serious recognized
hazards? Well, in addition to the aforementioned fall, hearing, respiratory
training and environmental awareness, recognized hazards include working in
confined spaces, welding and cutting, dealing with compressed gas usage, high
electrical currents, scaffold usage, aerial booms, noise exposure, blood-borne
pathogens, and many others. These are actually situations surprisingly common
on NURNF productions. Do we have you thinking about your last shoot? Good. Now
you know what you don’t know.
To be clear, the
term "producer” here is referring to the production company or primary
employer. A "hired gun” producer (who may or may not be an owner or officer of
the production company) is usually charged with implementing the safety program
by making sure their technical crews have the appropriate safety training for
the job(s) they are undertaking. If an accident or incident occurs over the
course of the project and said accident results in death, dismemberment, or
requires a hospital stay of 24 hours or more, then OSHA will almost certainly
investigate the circumstances. One of the first questions asked will be, "What
type of safety training did your employee(s) involved in this accident have?” A
producer’s assumption that a freelance employee had previous training elsewhere
does not protect them from potential fines or actions in association with an
employee’s culpability. Head off a potential problem by conducting a thorough
interview at the outset, specifically asking the question, "What is the extent
of your safety training?” If the answer is "not much,” you or the company will
be required to provide it before employing that person’s services.
agencies can be a good source of information regarding what type of safety
training may be required for a particular show or project. Those agencies will
insist on proof that certain safety measures are in place before binding the
production insurance. Does your show have stunts? Pyrotechnics? Firearms? Are
you working in or around water? Does your script call for an attic or basement,
maybe a water tank (which could be considered a ”confined space”)? Each one
represents another set of OSHA requirements. Again, it’s what you don’t know
that can hurt or kill you or someone else on the set. For instance ...
DID YOU KNOW...
Sure, part of a producer’s job is to put out fires, but did you know
they need to be trained and authorized to do so? That is, when a real (not just
metaphorical) fire breaks out, simply having a fire extinguisher on set is not
enough. You must have someone who has been "hands-on” trained to know what type
of extinguisher might be required as well has how to use it effectively for
putting out a small fire. If properly used and administered, a fire
extinguisher rated for the type of materials that may ignite (wood, paper,
gasoline, combustible metals, chemicals, etc.) will extinguish a small "incipient
stage fire” (fire within the first two minutes), but an incorrect type of
extinguisher or one used improperly can cause a small fire to grow into a
larger, more dangerous and headline-grabbing incident on your set. The employee
who uses a fire extinguisher must also (in advance) be authorized to do so by
the employer. Not just anyone can grab an extinguisher and go to town putting
out a fire. This has led to calamity in the past.
DID YOU KNOW...
that employers must ensure their employees have proper training in the
use of hand and power tools? In this instance, a "reasonable assumption” of
safety training can apply as long as the employer confirms that their employees
are 1) properly trained and/or experienced; and 2) using tools that are safe
and in good working order, regardless of whether they belong to the employer or
DID YOU KNOW...
that an employer is responsible to have a written fall protection
program on their work premises, well as provide suitably rated and inspected
fall protection means or equipment when their employees are working at an
elevation of 6 feet or more? This applies to a short steel deck platform,
scaffolding or even when standing on a table or a chair. The employer can
enforce safety standards that are different than OSHA’s, but no less stringent.
that a California-based employer must also have a written heat illness
prevention program that conforms to the recently passed guidelines and
requirements of the State of California? The guidelines require you to provide
suitable shade for 100% of the attending employees when the temperature reaches
is forecast to reach 80 degrees. In addition, you must provide a
minimum break of five minutes in a cool, shaded area for each employee who may
require it when working in the sun and/or heat.
DID YOU KNOW...
that hazard communication and the Global Harmonizing System that affects
labeling of products or materials have new, stricter requirements that took
effect June of 2015? These requirements can affect many things common on your
set, from window cleaner and dry-erase markers to hairspray.
DID YOU KNOW...
an employer must have in writing a proper emergency action plan (an E.A.P.) not
only for their offices but for each individual shooting location? An E.A.P.
lists specific actions or policies to be followed when an emergency or
evacuation occurs. The producer must designate a "competent*” person to implement and/or oversee the
employer’s safety policies.
that hearing protection—administrative,
engineering, or PPE (personal protective equipment)—must be provided to your
employees when the ambient noise levels reach or exceed 90 decibels (which is
only slightly over normal human conversation)? Or that even moderate noise
levels over extended periods can result in hearing loss and require protective
DID YOU KNOW...
an employer must select and authorize a "qualified*”
rigger to plan, execute, and create rigging for any tasks required for the
project? This includes suspending lighting truss or scenery, or even fabricating
a ladder or platform where one doesn’t normally exist.
So even after you labor long and hard to find the perfect projects to
create, rack your brain, patience, and intestinal fortitude to provide the
talent, financing, distribution outlets, and production logistics to get the
project made, you STILL have to make sure you create and sustain a proper
safety program that includes training. Otherwise one small or not so small
accident (they are never called "on purposes”) could undo and possibly destroy
all the hard work and best-laid plans you made in mounting your dream project.
With all that in mind, happy safe producing. n
*As OSHA defines them; A "competent”
person is someone charged with being able to recognize and identify an existing
danger or hazard and has the authority to implement steps to alleviate said
hazard or remove people from harm’s way. A "qualified” person is someone who
has been designated by the employer who has demonstrated their abilities via
training, experience or certified instruction to safely perform the assigned
duties and is (when required) licensed.