5 Revealing Things I Learned From an Expert in Film Set Safety
Film set safety has been the major issue on sets for the past several months. The pandemic has certainly drawn attention to the crucial role set medics are now playing in keeping sets safe. I recently had a conversation with set medic Dave Giere, a colleague I’ve worked with in the past. Dave is a highly qualified set medic, as well as a paramedic. He’s also completed numerous OSHA safety courses. I wanted to find out how his job and life on set in general have changed due to COVID-19.
Here are 5 revealing things I learned from Dave about the current safety status on set:
- Testing and Temperature Checks
Unlike 6 months ago, PCR and antigen testing, as well as temperature checks, are now included in set safety protocols. Working with production on things such as the selection of labs for tests and highlighting safety protocols for clients has now become part of Dave’s job. He’s often brought in to showcase the production company’s COVID-19 preparedness to clients. Most PCR molecular test turnaround is now 24 – 48 hours. PCR testing is still the most accurate testing, although the speed of getting results with the antigen test makes it the next best thing. It should be noted however, that only the PCR test is considered an acceptable test on union TV shows and features per the Industry-Wide COVID-19 Return to Work contract agreement. The IACP (International Association of Commercial Producers) trade organization uses the standard of 2 rapid antigen tests if it’s not possible logistically to use a PCR test.
I asked Dave about the casting notice I received that stated actors were to get their own test and come to set with proof of testing. He said he does not recommend that, because it lacks the continuity of tests all coming from the same lab. I agree, which is why I turned down the audition.
- There’s no uniform standard for compliance officer training.
At present, there’s no uniform standard for compliance officer training and certification, and no requirement that training be from an accredited school. Online training courses are generally 2 hours or less, on average. Compliance officers do not need to be medically trained personnel. That leaves set medics actively involved with safety compliance, even if there’s a compliance officer present. Commercial film sets rarely have compliance officers, as crews tend to be smaller than on TV shows or feature films. Usually the set medic performs both functions on commercial sets. Dave says he can do his job alone for up to 50 crew members, in most cases. After that, he requires that another person be brought in to assist him with safety protocols.
- Crew compliance is improving.
Dave has noticed that most crew members accept the safety protocols and understand that they’re necessary for maximum safety on set. Any crew members who resist safety protocols are being pressured by their peers to comply with the regulations. Dave’s glad to see that there’s now more group participation in safety on set than there was in the beginning of crews coming back to work.
- Safe behavior between the time the test is taken and the person arrives on set is key.
Because there’s a 48 hour gap between when a test taken and when the person goes to set, it’s essential safety protocols are maintained during that time. Dave says ideally, the person should quarantine during that time, but in most situations they’re left on their own to make their own decisions about safety. It’s important that they’re very cautious during this time. This is a major downside of not having immediate test results currently available.
- Everyone must remain vigilant at all times on set.
On commercial shoots, there are generally no safety zone designations on set, as on TV and feature film sets. Commercials often film in multiple locations in one day. Dave is concerned that if we start to get too loose about safety on set and numbers start to rise, that could be problematic for the industry. Vigilance is especially crucial for anyone around the mask-less actors, including the director, the DP and the clients. It’s essential that in the hustle and bustle of filming, the safety protocols established in prep are strictly adhered to on set, particularly for the safety of the actors.
It’s obviously a very different experience working on set than what we knew pre-pandemic. However, the industry is moving forward. It’s up to people like Dave Giere to help ensure that film set safety remains the number one industry priority.