Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Health and Safety

Published : 4th June 2012

More of a question for UK-CMLers.

I am shooting a drama for Channel 4 and have been asked to complete a risk assessment for the production. I am not sure when it became the norm to expect a DP to do this on tv drama - but I am a little confused as I am not expected to perform this duty when shooting commercials and music videos. And there is a health & safety 'adviser' on the unit list who I would expect to be responsible for these duties.

If memory serves, last time I worked in tv in the UK [a few years ago] I had a disagreement with production when they asked me to sign a form saying I accepted responsibility for all the health and safety relating to my department which I refused to do.


Can anyone enlighten me as to how standard this now is and when it became so?

Thanks

jake polonsky
dp london
www.jakepolonsky.com


>>I am shooting a drama for Channel 4 and have been asked to complete a risk assessment for the production

I'd suggest seeking the advice of a Solicitor (thank you "Rumfield of the Bailey") with respect to any legal liability that may devolve to you.

I'm often called on to give legal advice with respect to Federal Communications Commission rules and regulations. I'm very careful to differentiate between issues that are technical in nature (therefore within my area of competence) as opposed to issues that are legal at heart with resulting legal risk.

Hal Smith
Engineer and Somewhat DP
Edmond, OK


I'm looking forward to the answer to this one, I was under the impression that it was the Gaffer and Key Grip that were responsible for health and safety since they are not "creatively" involved......I also thought this is one of the reasons for the rash of NVQ official qualifications.......maybe our esteemed union are going to make a case for us all to be NVQ'd......as once we're responsible for health and safety the producers can wash their hands........and my maybe mistaken impression was that they were principal health and safety officers.

You guys think you have it bad in the states union wise, join the club.

Andrew Boulter
Cinematographer
Azerbiadjan - for now.....no unions or health and safety here.......
+44 7768877686
http://www.andrewboulter.com



When I was last asked to do this I completed a form and ticked almost every box for hazardous working conditions and then wrote a statement that a film set had the potential to be a very dangerous place and that to ensure safety all crew should wear heavy protective boots, hi vis jackets, heavy gloves, hard hats and should make sure that other industries safety rules were be observed ie we shouldn't go any higher than 2 mtrs above the ground because of risk of falling and injury and that in all cases where someone needed to go higher full safety precautions, harness, supervision etc, should be observed, also that as all airline baggage heavier than 20Kgs had to be marked as heavy and be a 2 person life we should also observe this to avoid the possibility of back injury, of course it would make Steadicam a bit difficult!

I went on a lot longer and strangely enough never heard another word.

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Cinematographer
EU Based
Skype geoff.boyle
mobile: +44 (0)7920 143848
www.gboyle.co.uk


As you probably know, in the US it's the First Assistant Director that is typically responsible for safety. He's the one that is suppose to give a safety speech in the morning, making note of any special circumstances, ie. helicopter being used, etc.

Mako, Makofoto, S. Pasadena, CA


>> I went on a lot longer and strangely enough never heard another word.

Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area

showreel -> www.artadams.net
trade writing -> art.provideocoalition.com


In the US the 1st Assistant Director is responsible to execute the producers plan for general safety concerns, evacuation plan, etc. and each department for safety that's department specific.

Florian Stadler, DP, LA/NY
www.florianstadler.com


I know I know, that's why I am asking people in the UK, when did DPs suddenly become responsible for health and safety on tv productions? Or do UK movies also ask DPs to complete risk assessments?

jake polonsky
dp london
www.jakepolonsky.com


As you previously noted, because the DP is a creative, assigning them safety duties as well is a glaring and inherent conflict of interest. Not to mention the fact that in the normal course of their duties, a DP is hardly able to keep a weather eye out for the whole set. Especially if they've also got him operating :-)

There must be a mistake (at some level).

Tim Sassoon
(ex-pat Brit)
Santa Monica, CA


jake polonsky wrote:


>> I am shooting a drama for Channel 4 and have been asked to complete a risk assessment for the >>production.

I know of one British TV show where up until recently the DP, Operator, Grip & Gaffer all had to provide Risk Assessments. If you labelled any risk as more serious than 'Low', production would 'invite' you to reassess it.

Stuart Brereton
DP, LA


In the US,union jobs that happen within the Western Region fall under a particular set of contract specifics too convoluted and boring to describe here, but one of the stipulations is that ALL crew members take a number of safety classes put on by the producers. These classes teach us how to avoid dehydration, how to safely operate
scissor lifts and boom lifts, how to wear safe shoes, how to avoid falling off of things, how to avoid kicking things off of high places onto other people, how to protect our eyesight and hearing against loss from occupational hazards, etc etc etc etc ad nauseam.

Ninety percent of the classroom stuff is common sense. Ten percent of it relates to OHSA and Cal OHSA (Occupational Health & Safety Administration or something like that)

The net result is ALL crewmembers have now been "educated" which will make for a slightly safer work environment (a good thing) and greatly reduces the liability for the employer - "we trained them and they passed the test that showed they understood.... if they hurt themselves by breaking the rules it ain't our fault"

The 1st AD (and in some jurisdictions the Key Grip) may still be responsible as the on sight safety officers, but now that we have been trained out here, none of us is supposed to do anything unsafe - since the safe ways of working have been disclosed to us, we have no excuse for doing something stupid.

Like most of my brethren and sisteren? who had to sit through these mind-numbing classes, I think they were largely a waste of time, but only largely...if a few people avoid injury or death because of kernels planted in
their brains during this training, it is actually worth the time spent... even if the prime purpose was to limit the studio's liability.

DoPs and other HODs are seen by the outside world as supervisors or foremen.... not quite management but not just labor... and in normal industrial settings, supervisors and foremen have safety responsibilities...

Mark Weingartner
DP, VFX Supervisor, and Stereographer
Los Angeles based


Having just completed the new A2 Safety Class (they pay one something like $15/hour, ie. $45 per class a lot more then the $5/day Jury Duty pay!) the instructor mentioned that work related accidents were down something like 30% since the classes were instituted. Not bad!!!

http://www.csatf.org/safety.shtml

btw. these classes are mandatory, and you will not be able to work on a studio production without having passed the courses. One is issued an ID Passport with stamps showing the completion of the various classes. One can also access ones completion record on-line. Different unions have to take different classes. I believe the Grips have to take every class.

There was one fellow in our class who was taking the class while being on payroll, ie. the production company had sent him to the three hour class so that he could work on their shoot

Mako/Makofoto, S. Pasadena, CA


Mako Koiwai wrote:

>> Different unions have to take different classes.

Thanks to my membership in two different unions and some changes in the Aerial Rigging class syllabus over the years, I have now taken FIFTEEN of these three hour classes since the inception of the Safety Class program. That's a lot of merit badges on my Movie Scout uniform.

I've kept all the manuals on file... some of technical material, such as the calculations for safe loading of Boom lifts including moment arm away from thebasket pivot point are quite useful.

It's worth noting that as with the construction trades, the craftsmen who work on movies have a wide range of skills but also a wide range of paths of having acquired those skills... most did not go to a vocational training program to learn how to use the tools of the trade and not everyone has an intuitive grasp ofphysics or engineering... while there are times we will find that some of these rules restrict the way we like to work, the fact is (and the statistics point out) that these classes have contributed to making our workplace safer.

I've been fortunate to work on a long list of prominent projects over the years. Not one single one of them was worth dying for... or even worth permanent injury.

That said, I sure don't want to miss a shot as the sun is setting because I'm waiting for someone to rig a hand-rail on a platform so we can put a camera on it without fall protection belts or fall arrest harnesses.... and while I don't mind climbing and working in harness, sometimes the safety lanyards or yo-yos pose more of a risk than working un-belayed and being aware of one's surroundings...

Mark Weingartner
DP, VFX Supervisor, and Stereographer
Los Angeles based


Good Afternoon Mako:

I believe the distinction should be made that the Safety Pass classes are not mandatory for everyone. The Safety Pass classes are mandatory only for California-based union personnel who want to work on a union project based in/from California OR for union personnel going to California to work on a union project.

As per a letter I just received from Bruce Doering:

* Safety Pass training is only required of employees who work in or are hired and transported from California.
* If you fail to complete a training course in a timely manner, you will be listed as "safety suspended" from the Roster.
* Once you complete the training, you will be reinstated. You do not have to work any days to re-qualify to get back on the Roster.

So, for those of us who live in the other 49 States who do not intend to
work in California, Safety Pass training is not mandatory.

Cheers,

John Sheeren
DP/Op/AC
Houston, Texas
Student of S3D


>> I am shooting a drama for Channel 4 and have been asked to complete a risk assessment for the production.

----If I'm not being credited for 1AD and I'm not being paid for that extra responsibility, and they want me to be legally liable (READ: showing up in court if something gets litigated) and they want me to expose myself to possible litigation, my instinctive response falls into one of two categories:

1) "Not only no but HELL NO."

2) RUN, as fast as I can as far away as possible from these people. Clearly they're intending to cut even more corners, one of which might wind up endangering MY safety.

There's people for this on a proper crew.

I don't ask my attorney to pull focus and he doesn't ask me to write legal briefs.
So far that relationship has worked well.

Jeffery Haas
camera-edit
Mansfield TX


Of course, I was being Southern Cali-centric.

They really need to make those classes available on-line. Set-up like the on-line Driving Schools, ie. Time controlled w/ mini tests between section (playing the Devils Advocate!)

Mako/Makofoto, S. Pasadena, Ca


In my experience, safety on a film set should be everyone's concern. Anyone spotting a potential hazard should immediately alert first theirdepartment head, then the First AD, who should call a stop to whatever is going on, until the hazard is confirmed and eliminated, or else deemed harmless.That said, if there are stunts (explosions, fire, car crashes, gunfire, etc.) being filmed, and stunt people are employed, then there will be, by contract, a Stunt Coordinator supervising. This Stunt Coordinator will also decide where it is safe to placecameras, lights and other equipment, and where it is safe for crew people to be working during filming.


Often it is safe to place a camera somewhere, but only as a locked-off remote, without any human crew operating that camera, for example.Without any stunt performers, then there will probably NOT be a Stunt
Coordinator, and Safety is generally deferred to the Key Grip. If any safety equipment or rigging is needed, such as safety platforms or handrails, barricades, safety shields for cameras, etc., the Grip department is most likely
to be doing that work anyway.The Prop department should be the source for any required hardhats, face shields, eye and ear protection, fire extinguishers, safety harnesses, etc. (though many crew people have their own).But EVERYONE should always be on the lookout for potential hazards, and should report any such hazards immediately.

We do a lot of crazy stuff in this business, and in crazy locations, always trying to be more spectacular than the last job, so constant vigilance by all is vital.

It is too easy to become so involved in making a great shot that you ignore your own common sense.They are not paying us anywhere near enough to risk getting hurt or killed during some stunt, for some stupid movie or TV show.

There is one screen credit NO ONE WANTS - "Dedicated to the Memory of . . . "


Doug Hart
1AC, NYC
Over 40 years working in this industry, and never a serious injury to
myself or anyone on my crew


>> * Safety Pass training is only required of employees who work in or are hired and transported from >>California.

And, I believe, only on studio features and episodic television shows. Spots and music videos are a different world with different requirements.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area


Interesting observations from our American colleagues.

Are their safety classes [mandatory or otherwise] that we are supposed to be taking in the UK to qualify us to 'work safely'? I seem to remember being told on my last TV job [for ITV] that I should have completed some safety courses run by the BBC....?

If so, why has no one told me about them??

Jake Polonsky
dp & health and safety manager apparently, london
www.jakepolonsky.com



Jake Polonsky wrote:


>> I seem to remember being told on my last TV job [for ITV] that I should have completed some safety >>courses run by the BBC....?

The BBC has a Healthy & Safety 'Passport' scheme that some productions require you to have in order to work on them, but there appears to be no rhyme or reason as which shows do and which shows don't.

Stuart Brereton
DP, LA


>> In my experience, safety on a film set should be everyone's concern.

---Absolutely agreed, but the original post questioned the wisdom of hanging legal responsibility on the DP.

Everything else is a given, and hats off to common sense as well, but it seems the producers are looking to depart from tradition in some way, yes?

Jeffery Haas
camera-edit
Mansfield TX


>> it seems the producers are looking to depart from tradition in some way, yes?

Or depart from responsibility I think it's the nuttiest idea in the world to make the DP responsible for set safety. If that were me I'd spend more time thinking about set safety than shooting, so as long as that's okay I'm constantly asking other people if what I'm asking them to do is safe, because they generally know better than I do, so I don't think I'm a good choice.

Once again, an idea that looks good on paper that doesn't actually work in reality. There's a lot of those around recently.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area


Deep Freeze Films GMAIL wrote:

>> and they want me to be legally liable (READ: showing up in court if something gets litigated)

If someone gets killed, you are likely to be issued a supeona to appear in court. Whether or not you fill out paperwork on a risk assessment, you are likely to be asked to testify.

If you are an Employee, you won't get sued.

If you work as an Independent Contractor, however, you are likely an easier target...

When the shit hits the fan, everybody gets sued if it looks like they have deep pockets...

Insurance buys you a business partner who stands to lose a lot of money if you are found culpable in something ... and who will work hard to prove it is someone else's fault.

That's the way it is.

Mark Weingartner
DP, VFX Supervisor, and Stereographer
Los Angeles based


Deep freezevideo writes:

>> Absolutely agreed, but the original post questioned the wisdom of hanging legal responsibility on the DP.


A scary thought, indeed.


While most DPs have worked their way up from the ranks, either through the Camera Dept. or Lighting, and should have the necessary experience to have opinions about on-set safety issues, other DP's have come from less confidence-inspiring related crafts, such as Still Photography or Editing, or, even scarier, Directing.
It seems to me that the Employer (the Production Company or Producer) is ultimately responsible for on-the-job health and safety, no matter what forms may have been handed out and signed by other employees.


Responsibility cannot just be "assigned" to another person quite so easily.

Doug Hart
1AC, NYC


>> While most DPs have worked their way up from the ranks [...]other DP's have come from less confidence->>inspiring related crafts(SNIP) Responsibility cannot just be "assigned" to another person quite so easily.

Right. I'm all for increased safety education, all for increased participation I value the opinion of everyone in the crew, particularly those who have worked their way up in the traditional manner, they've saved my posterior on
a couple of occasions. But I hesitate to hang legal responsibility on someone who isn't financing  the production.

My gut tells someone above the line seems to be excercising considerable influence on below the line items which are normally fixed costs...one almost wonders if there is suddenly an Earl Scheib mentality WRT insurance, maybe a clause or a creative accounting trick that shifts deductibles into some flexible nether zone related to net?

The mind boggles. One either has well educated and trained crew and a proper production insurance policy or one doesn't. Things worked a certain way for nearly a century and now all of a sudden it's a brave new world?

But I could be wrong.

Jeffery Haas
camera-edit
Mansfield TX


>>It seems to me that the Employer (the Production Company or Producer) is ultimately responsible for on->>the-job health and safety, no matter what forms may have been handed out and signed by other >>employees.
>>Responsibility cannot just be "assigned" to another person quite so easily.

I agree completely, but the political climate is about assigning risk and blame to those who don't have the means to fight back, more so now than ever.

I'd like to bring up the "Twilight Zone - The Movie" debacle, where several people including two young children died, and the celebrity director was found at trial to not be responsible.

Whether that was due to the remarkable but consistent ineptitude of the L.A. prosecutor's office when dealing with celebrities is not for me to say.

I can say this, though: at least one person who was injured in the accident and who testified that the director was in control of the set and therefore at fault was blackballed and did not work again as a result.

One more thing: I recently received a letter from one of the major studios informing me that as a vendor, they were no longer issuing certificates ofinsurance for rented equipment, and additionally that if I wanted to work for
them again, I would have to carry liability insurance insuring THEM.

Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC
Hollywood, California



>>I can say this, though: at least one person who was injured in the accident and who testified that the >>director was in control of the set and therefore at fault was blackballed and did not work again as a result.

The AC on the X Cam who shot the rehearsal was my AC about a month later. He said he was thinking of leaving the industry over lunch (off set). I told him he should follow his heart, not the politics. He and the operator were black balled and he ultimately became a very successful director of relatively non-violent shows. I've shut down three different shows that were unsafe. One wanted to do a motorcycle stunt after 18 hours and the driver stoned on coke. They wanted the operators in the line of fire. The other two were similar. I never worked for any of these producers again. One was a close personal friend. Oh well..... I have a clear conscience.

Francis M. Woods
Director of Photography
President of Pasadena Society of Artists (Founded in 1925)
http://www.pasadenasocietyofartists.org/
Past Senior Lecturer the American Film Institute -- Cinematography
Large Format B&W Still Photographer
Pasadena, California
http://markwoods.com


>> One was a close personal friend. Oh well..... I have a clear conscience.

Not much of a friend then. My friends don't make stupid decisions about health, safety and human lives.

I had a mentor who watched -his- mentor, a legendary AC by the name of Dick Barth, run over by a car and killed during a tow-and-drop car stunt, due to the negligence of someone on the crew who put him and his operator in the line of fire against the advice of the stunt coordinator. His instructions to me were to walk away if I ever felt unsafe on a set. I haven't walked away, but I've drawn a couple of lines in the sand and, fortunately, had them honored. I don't think I worked with those people again, now that I think about it, but that's fine by me.

There's nothing in this business worth dying over. Or even getting hurt over. I'll take responsibility for the things I can control, and I won't knowingly put anyone in danger, but I'm not doing safety assessments. That's not my job.

>> they were no longer issuing certificates of insurance for rented equipment, and additionally that if I wanted to >>work for them again, I would have to carry liability insurance insuring THEM.

That's a regular problem in the Bay Area: none of the high tech companies will insure vendors. The workaround is that we run everything through a production company who does have insurance.

Not much help for you, but we've been dealing with this issue for a while.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area


>>they were no longer issuing certificates of insurance for rented equipment, and additionally that if I wanted to >> work for them again, I would have to carry liability insurance insuring THEM.

---Another slow turn of the screw.

Jeffery Haas
camera-edit
Mansfield TX


I just returned from England and Scotland, everyday along with our call sheets we were issued a "Risk Assesment" from the AD dept. Depending what department was involved in the next days activities, we had additional pages from stunts, effects, aerial dept's etc. Before we started on the project we were all issued a "Play Book" ( we had to sign for) 159 pages long. Covering the 3 helicopters and 2 planes, skydiving stunt men that were involved in the shoot. Nothing came from the director, DP, key grip, gaffer.


Wayne Baker
Aerial IMAX
Camera Tech.
Scotland


>>That's a regular problem in the Bay Area: none of the high tech companies will insure vendors. The >>workaround is that we run everything through a production company who does have insurance.

It's become an industry wide policy to try to shift cost to vendors and subcontractors that in the past were traditionally the sort of expenses that the larger company picked up...like insurance.

One high tech firm whose equipment I often recommend for clients wanted me to do contract installs on one of their new, very cutting edge products. They wanted me bad enough to all comp me and pay all expenses to attend their week long training program on the gear at their corporate training center.

At the end of the school they told me their legal department was writing a new vendor subcontractor agreement and they'd get it to me as soon as possible. I read through it when it arrived, the language was unbelievable.
They wanted me to sign a contract where if anything went wrong with an install, I agreed to indemnify THEM for any losses and they would be the exclusive judge of any culpability on my part. That is from a corporation that is worth billions of dollars while I run a little two-man engineering firm. Obviously I told them "Thanks, but no thanks". I later heard via the grapevine that another engineer who was offered the contract had an attorney wife, who after reading through the contract, told him that if he signed it she would divorce him.

I read this as another deliberate attempt to gut the middle class and turn us all into serfs.

Hal Smith
Engineer and Somewhat DP
Edmond, OK


You know, the only times when I have seen things patently unsafe and just plain stupid on a film set in the past few years, those things have been done by the client. How do you tell the client firmly but politely that sitting on the edge of a ledge is frowned upon by OSHA?

Scott Dorsey
Kludge Audio
Williamsburg, VA.


>> I agreed to indemnify THEM

"Indemnify" as a legal term is extremely dangerous. You waive any and all rights to go after the other party, period. I've been told to run away from any contract that contains that word. Or, barring that, cross it out and initial it, but only if it appears on the signature page.

>> I read this as another deliberate attempt to gut the middle class and turn us all into serfs.

Well, until we all refuse to go along nothing is going to change. Sadly, the opposition is much better organized.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area


Art, it's a much more dangerous legal term than you suggest. It does not mean you waive all rights to go after the other party. It means that you will defend the other party if someone else comes after them, and compensate them for any loss that might occur.

Indemnify

verb (used with object), -fied, -fying.
1. to compensate for damage or loss sustained, expenseincurred, etc.
2. to guard or secure against anticipated loss; give security against (future damage or liability).

Synonyms
1. recompense, reimburse, repay.
---

David Fuller
Director/Camera. (Not a Lawyer, but I shoot for one.)
________________________________
A I R S T R E A M P I C T U R E S
Gorham, ME 04038


>> It means that you will defend the other party if someone else comes after them, and compensate them for >>any loss that might occur.

Oh yeah, that was the other part. Eeek. Thanks.

-----------------------

Art Adams | Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area