By Mary Ann Skweres
Accidents will happen. In the film industry they happened as early as 1914. During the making of Cecil B. DeMille’s silent classic The Virginian, an undefanged rattlesnake had to be shot before it had a chance to bite. On Halloween 1993, Brandon Lee was killed on the set of The Crow—shot by a blank while filming his screen character’s death scene. A slug was lodged in the barrel from a previous scene. The prop-master had loaded the gun with blanks but did not check the barrel. Prepping the gun was really the weapons master’s responsibility, but he had been sent home to save costs.
No criminal actions were filed against the producers. Ultimately the cost for CGI to finish the film added $8 million to the budget. In addition, the family received an undisclosed settlement in their wrongful death lawsuit against the production company. The incalculable loss was Lee’s life.
More mundane, less newsworthy incidents occur in all the crafts. Due to cost-cutting measures, unqualified workers are sometimes asked to carry out tasks that they’re not trained to perform. Also, because of the freelance nature of the business and the tightening job market, workers can feel pressured to oblige in order to assure some degree of job security.
To address these issues in the film and television industry, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed requirements for training employees, and documenting that training, in the safe use of equipment and work practices on the job. The industry’s Labor-Management Safety Committee, along with the Contract Services Administration Training Trust Fund, is implementing the Safety Passport Program to meet these requirements.
The program has been developed to provide training to the freelance community by offering industry-wide general safety and job-specific skill training. All current IATSE and Basic Craft members listed on either the Industry Experience Roster or the Television Commercial Roster are eligible to participate. For individuals with job classifications without a Roster listing, certain employment-experience criteria must be met.
All participants in the Safety Passport Program take a one-hour introductory course, then are eligible for other courses specific to job classifications. At the end, a Safety Passport is issued in which the completed training is recorded.
The 24-month program is set to begin with the opening of a training facility in Glendale on November 19th. Below the Line will report future issues.
By Mary Ann Skweres