Posts Tagged ‘films’

Death on a Georgia Railroad Trestle Sparking Calls for Safety Reforms in Hollywood

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

If film making news isn’t on your radar, you might have missed the story about a gruesome death on a film set near near Jessup, Georgia in late February. Like many workplace deaths, it didn’t attract a lot of immediate notice beyond the local sphere and within the film industry. But the sadness and the anger at the preventable death of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones has been gaining momentum and prompting calls for increased safety in the film industry.
On February 20, a film crew for Midnight Rider, a biopic about Gregg Allman, was set up on a narrow railroad trestle bridge in Georgia. A train arrived unexpectedly and crew scrabbled frantically to save themselves: 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed by the train and seven other crew members were injured. You can read about the events, including reports from other crew members, in the Hollywood Reporter’s story, A Train, a Narrow Trestle and 60 Seconds to Escape: How ‘Midnight Rider’ Victim Sarah Jones Lost Her Life.
The incident is under investigation by several parties, including OSHA and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. But within the industry, many are not waiting for reports to speak out:

“The exact details of what precautions were — or were not — taken on the set that day and whether the production even had permission to film on the tracks are being sorted out. But in the days following the disaster, recriminations of shockingly lax safety protocols began to emerge.

“This was no accident,” says Ray Brown, president of the Motion Picture Studio Mechanics union local 479 in Atlanta and a Jones colleague, suggesting the incident was avoidable. “When I have done train work or around trains for smaller productions up to major blockbusters, there are always several railroad personnel there with their hard hats, glasses and radios, and I can’t imagine a more structured safety protocol even beyond airlines than the rail system.”

While the facts will come out, initial reports indicate that the owner of the track said it never granted permission to film, there were no railway safety personnel monitoring the set, there were no medics on scene and the crew had such trepidation about the work environment that they began the shoot with a group prayer for safety.
The film industry is rife with risks and crew safety ail too frequently given short shrift, particularly in low budget films with high-pressure deadlines. You can read some poignant thoughts about Sarah’s death and what it’s like to be on a film crew in the blog post You Think It’s About Magic But It’s Really About Money

“We have rules and we have safety meetings and we have unions to look out for us, yes. We have reps, and we have shop stewards, and we have grips who are supposed to be keeping an eye on safety on set — along with rigging and setting stands and laying track and pushing the dolly and the 30 other things that make up a grip’s job. But these folks can’t be everywhere at once, and, just like the rest of us, they can’t always stand up to the machine, especially when everyone is always in a hurry and making calls on the fly. When crews band together, we can say “no” and pull the plug at 18 hours. But nobody wants to be the first one to suggest that, because we all need to work for a living and get hired on the next job.

Since the tragic events, the film making community has been working to call attention to Sarah’s preventable death as well as to advocate for increased focus on film crew safety. Members of the film industry lobbied to have Sarah recognized during the Osacars (her name was added at the end of the In Memoriam segment) and the industry has launched a moving “Slates for Sarah” social media tribute and call to action.
If the film crews can’t effect changes, the lawyers may. BusinessWeek notes that the Accidental Death on Midnight Rider Set Enters Lawyer Phase.
This terrible incident brings to mind a prior film tragedy: the 1983 deaths of Vic Morrow, and child actors Renee Chen and Myca Dinh Le when a helicopter crashed on the set of The Twilight Zone. See Slate‘s A New Dimension of Filmmaking: How tragedy on the set of the 1983 feature-length adaptation of The Twilight Zone changed the way movies are made and the Crime Library‘s The Twilight Zone Tragedy.
Sounds like it’s time to shake up the industry again. It’s no more acceptable for the film industry to play fast and loose with worker lives than it is for coal mining, manufacturing, or any other industry.

Labor Day Roundup: Here’s to the Workers

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

As a belated tribute to Labor Day, we offer a smorgasbord of items about work, worker safety, and some of our favorite tributes to workers.
Celebrating the American Worker
America at Work – Alan Taylor compiles superlative photo essays for The Atlantic’s In Focus series. This collection of images from the recent Recession and its years of uncertainty — of men and women both at work and out of work in the United States.
Earl Dotter, Photojournalist – A remarkable portfolio of work documenting American workers. In the author’s words:
“For more than thirty five years the camera had enabled me to do meaningful work. Starting with Appalachian coal miners, and continuing through the years over a broad array of occupations in all regions of the country, I have observed and documented the working lives of Americans. Standing behind the lens, I have celebrated their accomplishments. I seek out those who are taking steps to improve their lives and their effectiveness at work, and use the camera to engage them by giving testimony to their achievements. The images that result tell of the satisfactions their work brings as well as its everyday challenges.”
Lost Labor – For more than 20 years, visual artist Raymon Elozua has been assembling a vast collection of company histories, pamphlets, and technical brochures that document America’s industrial history. This site features 155 photos from that collection – images of factories, machinery, and laborers hard at work. Many of the jobs depicted have faded into history. The artist grew up in the South Side of Chicago in the shadow of the giant steel mills and factories. His dad worked at U.S. Steel and his first job was at U.S. Steel, triggering a life long interest in everything about these industrial behemoths, from the architecture to the people who worked the jobs within. His interest in documenting this bygone era of American working life was sparked by the demise of the South Works industries.
Worker Safety
Hard Labor – The Center for Public Integrity says: “Each year, some 4,500 American workers die on the job and 50,000 perish from occupational diseases. Millions more are hurt and sickened at workplaces, and many others are cheated of wages and abused. In the coming months the Center for Public Integrity will publish, under the banner Hard Labor, stories exploring threats to workers — and the corporate and regulatory factors that endanger them.”
In particular, we point you to two recent stories:
Fishing deaths mount, but government slow to cast safety net for deadliest industry
Kentucky death case: Another black eye for state workplace safety enforcement
The Best Reporting on Worker Safety – ProPublica compiled “12 pieces of great reporting on workplace safety: from slaughterhouse diseases to lax regulatory oversight and deadly vats of chocolate.”
Workers in Popular Culture

From our archives

Box office bonanza: Your summer guide to risk management & the movies

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

NIOSH Science Blog’s recent blog post is taking on Hollywood – specifically, the summer’s blockbuster Horrible Bosses, an irreverent and risque dark comedy in which abused and aggrieved employees decide to murder their psycho bosses. We’d make the case that real life bosses can compete with the ones that Hollywood dreams up any day.
Complaining about bosses is an age-old tradition, but few take the concept of boss bashing literally. According to NIOSH, “The situations portrayed in the movie are not typical–worker-on-worker (or boss) violence accounts for only about 8% of workplace homicides. More than half of all workplace homicides occur in retail or service settings such as conveniences stores, taxicab services, and gas stations with the majority of these homicides occurring during a robbery.” The post author uses Horrible Bosses as a springboard to introduce and discuss the very real issue of workplace violence. It includes an array of links to related posts about professions that are particularly vulnerable to violent events, such as school personnel, taxi drivers, pharmacists, nurses.
This isn’t the first time that The NIOSH Science Blog has turned to Hollywood to illustrate health and safety issues. They’ve previously featured an entertaining pair of posts: Occupational Safety & Health in the Movies and OSH at the movies: the sequel. In the latter, the post author lists the Top 11 Films Depicting Occupational Safety & Health Issues, the Top 7 Films with Occupation Safety & Health Issues During Production, and the Top 10 Films in [a risk-related] Special Category.
Other online forums have tackled the issue of risk related issues in Hollywood from various angles:

  • RiskVue features the
    Top Movies No Risk Manager/Insurance Professional Should Miss
    , saying that, “The simple fact is risk managers and insurance professionals lack solid role models in the entertainment industry. Nevertheless, plenty of films have delved deep into the principles of risk and insurance management, offering lessons, guidance and a form of entertainment that only those in the industry can truly appreciate.”
  • A blog post at Consumer Insurance Blog deals with risks, hazards and liability issues involved in filmaking and production: Risk, insurance, & the movies. The post notes some of the risk issues involved in film making, which can include such disparate hazards as wild and trained animals, technology glitches, actors who have to leave the set mid-production to go to rehab, and weather related events that may delay production schedules or pose danger to the cast, the crew and the props.
  • Risk Management Magazine featured an article On Making Movies, highlighting insurane issues involved in the filmmaking industry. “The role of entertainment insurance is to determine the relevant risks of a project and create the necessary cushions and options to deal with whatever may come. Sometimes the crisis is large, such as that faced by A Simple Plan; other times it is one that requires minor alterations. An innovative and creative energy among all interested parties, from the director to the insurer, is vital to bringing audiences the kinds of movies so perfect in design, one cannot help but believe every minute.”

Here at WCI, our focus has been on TV. We are still awaiting the debut of that wacky TV sitcom Workers’ Comp. We haven’t heard about it since the report of the April filming – presumably the show will air in the fall. We are a tad skeptical and we aren’t the only ones:

Health Wonk Review, NCCI, networks, Missouri, and more

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Jason Shafrin of Healthcare Economist hosts this week’s edition of Health Wonk Review in newspaper style – it’s lean and clean, and packed with interesting pointers to the latest news.
NCCI conference – Peter Rousmaniere attended the annual NCCI Conference this year and reports back on his findings, posted at Joe’s place.
When less is more – Joe Paduda of Managed Care Matters beats a drum that needs beating. Why do buyers use unit cost reductions rather than total cost reductions as a metric of savings in measuring network performance? It’s a perverse incentive that encourages utilization.
You-Don’t-Say Department – a recent survey of small businesses shows that many are spending work comp dollars without knowing what they’re buying. About one out of every seven couldn’t name their insurer and don’t understand their coverage. In a related survey, almost one in five respondents who had just switched to a new insurer weren’t able to name that insurer. Our experience has been that small employers often learn about workers comp the hard way – it would be great if as an industry, we did a better job communicating what workers’ comp is and how it benefits both employers and employees.
Missouri gets tough – Missouri employers who try to cut corners by not carrying workers comp should think twice – the Supreme Court recently upheld a felony conviction for an employer that failed to carry workers comp coverage for his employees. The conviction includes one year in prison and $30,000 in fines and penalties. (More about the Court’s proceedings.)
Useful resource101 little known scholarship sources for nurses – a good reference list for both undergraduates and graduates.
And the winner is… – In an interesting bit of insurance trivia, Fireman’s Fund Insurance names the riskiest film of 2007.

“Can’t Take It No More”: OSHA’s Hollywood Moment

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

In 1972, twelve years before I founded Lynch Ryan and workers’ compensation entered my life in a meaningful way, after completing a rather extended, all expenses paid trip to Southeast Asia (beautiful scenery, but a bit inhospitable when I was there), I said goodbye to the armed services only to say hello to the armed services. America was in the middle of a recession and jobs were hard to come by, so I accepted an offer to become a safety trainee for the US Army at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. The safety program at Fort Devens, run by a nice fellow very close to retirement, seemed more of an afterthought than anything else, so I thought the career prospects had nowhere to go but up.
Just two years earlier President Nixon, to great fanfare, had signed into law the Occupational Safety & Health Act, which created a new federal administration called OSHA. (Actually, Nixon had fought tooth and nail to prevent OSHA’s passage, but upon realizing that this was one battle he was going to lose, he had a big signing ceremony and took credit for the whole thing – they didn’t call him “tricky Dick” for nothing.)
I entered the safety profession when OSHA was in its ascendancy. The Act gave OSHA teeth (the general duty clause, alone, was sharply fanged), and American business quickly stood up, took notice and started to make changes. It’s true that early on OSHA’s rules were confusing, its personnel inconsistent, at best, and its enforcement procedures controversial. But in August, 1972, when I found myself in the business, OSHA was getting its sea legs. The Army’s safety training program that I entered embraced OSHA, even though the ACT specifically excluded the federal government from having to follow OSHA’s rules. Three years later, when I became the Director of the Army’s safety efforts throughout New England, and would travel up and down the east coast lecturing on safety and health, it was obvious that OSHA was a big stick.
In 1979, with assistance from the AFL-CIO, OSHA produced a 27-minute movie called “Can’t Take It No More.” Narrated by Studs Terkel, it carried a powerful message, offering a history of the safety movement in America and targeting worker health. As part of our program, my training department would screen the film repeatedly over the next year and a half for soldiers and civilian employees.
In 1981, one of the first things the new Reagan administration did as it began to reverse OSHA’s aggressive thrust by ushering in “voluntary compliance,” was to recall all governmental copies of “Can’t Take It No More” and forbid any organization seeking government funding for a safety program from showing the film. I recall having to box up our three copies and send them back to Washington, DC, where they were to be destroyed. That was when I knew that, for OSHA, the good times were over.
I was reminded of all this yesterday when I read a brief piece about “Can’t Take It No More” written by Jordan Barab, one of the nation’s most passionate and dedicated safety advocates. Jordan even provided a link to the film itself, and I spent 27 minutes in a virtual time machine viewing this classic. You can do the same thing here: “Can’t Take It No More” .
Thanks Jordan.