Harrison Ford hasn’t had much luck on his movie sets. In the latest Star Wars movie, the 73-year old film star was taken to hospital after suffering a broken leg – a heavy hydraulic door fell on himon the set of the Millennium Falcon.
Ford received £1 million in compensation at the time after spending weeks in a wheelchair. But now on top of this, the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is taking further legal action against the production company.
Foodles Production (UK) Ltd, the film company behind the latest Star Wars blockbuster, are to be prosecuted over four alleged breaches of health and safety law. A HSE press statement says, “by law, employers must take reasonable steps to protect workers – this is as true on a film set as a factory floor.”
Is this reasonable? What health and safety requirements are production teams bound by? How accident-prone are Hollywood actors? Read on to find out.
What Causes Casualties On Film Sets?
Film sets – where that Hollywood magic, excitement and action are brought to life – are notoriously prone to accidents. Wikipedia has an extensive list dedicated solely to film casualties, demonstrating just how many risks some actors take for their art and fame.
Injuries on set are shockingly common: around 20 to 40 people are killed or seriously injured during a film production each year – that’s more, proportionately, than in US road construction or mining.The majority of accidents involve falls, fight sequences and trips and slips, whilst the majority of fatalities occur as a result of helicopter accidents.
Which Actors Have Suffered The Most?
The most accident-prone actor of all time is international film hero, Jackie Chan. The martial-arts expert has broken his nose in four films, as well as his breastbone, suffered a skull fracture, dislocated both shoulder blades, his cheekbone, pelvis and severely injured his spine three times.
On a Chinese film set, “What health and safety?” is the watchword – and that seem to be the way Chan likes it. But other actors aren’t quite so gung-ho. Plus, Hollywood insist that health and safety is of the utmost importance.
Jennifer Lawrence have also had more than her fair share of unfortunate injuries on set. Whilst filming The Hunger Games, Lawrence suffered a severe ear infection after a diving scene. She also almost died chocking, twice: once due to a smoke machine that malfunctioned, and the other time was whilst swallowing her daily vitamin pills (luckily, Woody Harrelson was on set to deliver the Heimlich manoeuvre).
How Do Film Productions Manage Health and Safety?
Just like in any other industry, film production sets must have a management system in place to control the risk to actors and other employees. In the majority of cases, the employer will be the producer or production company, and they are responsible for the safety of everyone on set. The producer needs to be a health and safety competence person andcan be fined up to £20,000 per count, and even jailed for up to two years in the most serious negligence cases.
Despite this, films seem to regularly overlook safety concerns, which is due to a number of reasons:
- Crew and actors are typically freelance, meaning they don’t feel confident speaking up when placed in risky situations;
- Time and budget constraints mean proactive checks are often skipped over (despite the risks of lawsuits);
- Ultimately, the needs of the shot often take priority over the safety of the cast and crew.
It seems the demand and rewards of Hollywood are often so high that safety can become loss of a concern. Perhaps staying fit and healthy is simply the best way those in the film industry can protect themselves against injuries. Read tips about injury recovery here.