5 Easy Things We Can Do to Support Safe Sets
Recent lawsuits resulting from the tragic shooting accident on the set of the film Rust are a reminder that we all need to do whatever we can to support safe sets. It’s not in our best interest to look the other way when we see unsafe conditions on set.
Anyone who’s worked in the industry for even a short time has witnessed something unsafe on set. The constant pressure to work faster means safety too often takes a back seat to speed.
Here are five things we can each do to help ensure the sets we work on are safe:
- Attend all safety meetings on set and pay attention.
We should never view safety meetings as a time-wasting annoyance that’s keeping us from our work. The morning safety meeting may well be the most essential information you receive all day.
Whether the day involves stunts, animals, gunfire, or a difficult location, we all need to be aware of what will happen on set and be prepared.
If you don’t understand something or have a question, ask. Safe sets are everyone’s responsibility.
- Read the call sheet before arriving on set.
Yeah, it seems like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you the number of times people ask me about things that are clearly listed on the call sheet.
Don’t just look at your call time; read the entire call sheet. It only takes a few minutes, and you’ll have a better understanding of the day’s work.
Make sure to read any safety bulletins attached to the call sheet, as well as notes about what clothing to bring. Night work, wet work, or being out in the sun all day are situations you need to be prepared for with warm clothes, a sun hat, etc.
Shivering on set all night because you didn’t read the call sheet and bring a warm jacket for night shooting makes for a miserable night of work.
We a.d.s spend a lot of time putting together the call sheet. Do yourself and us a favor and read the dang thing.
- Make your department safe.
Practicing safety on set isn’t just for crew members handling guns or rigging special effects. Every person in every department has a part to play in making sets safe.
Department heads are responsible for their department working safely. Union members take numerous classes on various aspects of safety that apply to their departments.
None of us is too experienced to learn something new about set safety. If you’re new to the industry and haven’t taken any safety courses, you can still help ensure your department's safety.
Staying alert and using common sense while doing your job go a long way.
There’s a safe and unsafe way to do everything, including loading trucks, using ladders, and wrapping out locations. Choose the safe way.
- Use the union safety hotlines to report safety hazards, if necessary.
IATSE safety hotline: 844-422-9273
DGA safety hotline: 310-289-5326; after-hours: 800-342-3457
OSHA puts responsibility for reporting hazards on employers, but employers don’t always have the best reporting plans, and as freelancers, we work for multiple employers.
Also, employers aren’t the ones on set all day; we are. So we need to use all the tools at our disposal to keep our workplaces safe, including using the union safety hotlines, if necessary.
- Don’t be rushed out of working safely or speaking up.
Years ago, I was working on the second unit of a film that involved a stunt where a stuntwoman had to jump out of a second-story window on stage onto a horse. It was quite a long drop, and I was glad I wasn’t the one doing it.
To make a long story short, the stunt pads that the stuntwoman would fall onto if she missed or slipped off the horse were removed because they were in the shot. Rather than take the time to reframe the shot so it was safe for the performer, the pads were removed.
Guess what? The stuntwoman slipped off the horse and landed on the hard, padless floor on her face, and ended up in the hospital.
The safety lapses in this scenario are too numerous to go into, but everyone involved chose speed and pleasing the director, who happened to also be the executive producer, over safety.
No clever shot is worth a life or a trip to the hospital. If we want safe sets, we have to speak up when conditions aren’t safe.
Hopefully, the safety tips here will serve as reminders that we all have a role in keeping the sets we work on safe. We won’t have safe sets unless we do our part to create them.
No one can be everywhere or see everything, so if you see something unsafe on set, report it to one of the a.d.s immediately.
Let’s all do everything we can to prevent another tragic accident on set. The lives we save may be our own.