Health and Safety on Film Sets

Health and Safety on Film Sets

02nd August 2016

Here at Safety Fabrications we can never stress enough how important health and safety in the workplace is and there’s a story in the news right now that bears this out with all the glamour of the film industry, a Hollywood celebrity, a spaceship and the latest Star Wars film.  It seems that during the filming of Star Wars:  The Force Awakens in 2014, the illustrious actor Harrison Ford sustained severe injuries from an accident involving a hydraulic door on the set of the Millennium Falcon spaceship.  The incident happened at Pinewood Studios in London where Ford was crushed by the heavy door and ended up with a broken leg, an injury that resulted in Ford being airlifted to hospital in Oxford.

The case is now being heard at Milton Keynes Magistrates’ Court where Andrew Marshall is prosecuting the company responsible, Foodles Production for two breaches under UK health and safety legislation.  According to Marshall, the breaches had caused “risk of death” as the weight of the Millennium Falcon door in question was comparable to that of a small car and only the fact that the emergency stop was pressed in time resulted in the injuries not being life threatening.

When interviewed by Jonathan Ross last December, Harrison Ford revealed that the hydraulics involved in the Millennium Falcon spaceship had developed considerably since the first Star Wars film in 1977 when the doors were controlled with a hand-operated pulley mechanism.  According to Ford the amount of money involved in the film has resulted in cool new technology that has left a lot to be desired when it comes to health and safety. 

Foodles Production (which is owned by Disney) has pleaded guilty to the charges but is contesting the level of risk involved.  The company will be sentenced in August at Aylesbury Crown Court.  While the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has welcomed the guilty plea, it has described the accident as a “foreseeable incident”.  A spokesman for HSE said:

 “The British film industry has a world-renowned reputation for making exceptional films. Managing on-set risks in a sensible and proportionate way for all actors and staff – regardless of their celebrity status – is vital to protecting both on-screen and off-screen talent, as well as protecting the reputation of the industry.”

Fortunately, Harrison Ford recovered from the injuries he sustained on set in time to finish filming his role of Han Solo in the new film which is set 30 years after the events in The Return of the Jedi filmed 1983.  Director JJ Abrams later described how Ford’s injury had bonded the crew on set and said that the actor was better and stronger than ever when he returned to work after recovering from the injuries.  A spokeswoman for Foodles Production confirmed that the company had cooperated fully with the HSE during the investigation of the incident and that the safety of the cast and crew was “always top priority throughout the production”.