In the film industry, several crew members are at risk of falling from a height. From camera operators, to stunt doubles, set construction engineers, to lighting technicians, all need fall protection measures in the workplace. But is there any specific fall protection equipment for the film industry?
Table of contents:
Assess The Risks First
To start with, when any member of the cast, crew or production team is working at height, there needs to be a thorough risk assessment. This will help to determine what equipment you’ll need. For example, sometimes fall restraint systems or fall limiters are enough. But if a crew member is working at height near a fall hazard they can’t avoid, you’ll need a fall arrest system in place.
Risk Control : Who Is Responsible
When it comes to stunts, fights or other hazardous activities on a film set, who is ultimately responsible?
Legally, all health and safety duties rest with the employer, which usually means the production company. On a day to day basis, the overall responsibility is with the producer, or person in charge of the production process.
Furthermore, each crew member has a personal responsibility to keep themselves safe. Also, not to cause any unnecessary danger to anyone else.
What To Consider
When it comes to working at height, the producer should consider the following;
- are you able to reduce or get rid of the risk altogether by using a different technique? For example, how about using CGI instead?
- can you change any potentially hazardous materials for safer ones?
- or could you construct a set that is less hazardous if it does fail? Perhaps by redesigning the structure or adding to it?
Sometimes it might not be possible to get rid of the risk or change it to something safer. If this is the case, you need more measures in place.
Fall Protection Safety Measures
If you do need further measures, there is a system to follow. It begins with collective safety over individuals.
You must give priority to measures which protect everyone over individuals. For example, can you reduce noise so it doesn’t cause damage to people’s hearing? Or can you provide screens to protect crew members if there’s the risk of flying debris on site?
Next, you need to identify the procedures you require to work safely. For example, are you using competent people to advise, plan and execute stunts? This requires specialist experience and knowledge. Also, can you ensure that there are safe working distances from potential hazards and is this clear to everyone? Are there contingency plans in place in case something does go wrong?
Personal Protective Equipment or PPE
After carrying out the measures above, it might make you aware that there are still risks on site you can’t control. Then the next step is to get personal protective equipment for workers. Necessary PPE might include safety glasses, headphones, body harnesses or lifelines.
Types Of Fall Protection Equipment For The Film Industry
Each film set is different, so you need to assess your working conditions and environment every time a crew member is working at height. Different types of fall protection equipment include;
Guard Rails can prevent a film worker from falling over the edge of an elevated surface or structure. They should be of a sufficient height so the worker cannot fall over them.
Securing Ladders and Scaffolding
If you are working on ladders or temporary scaffolding then you must secure them by tying them down to ensure they don’t move. Only use ladders on firm, level surfaces.
You can anchor a film worker securely with a wire rope or synthetic sling. This will provide fall protection by preventing a fall completely or limiting the distance of a fall.
A body harness helps to prevent a vertical fall. It can also reduce the physical harm and impact if a worker does fall and is suspended by the harness.
Fall Protection Systems
By this stage, when it comes to fall protection equipment for the film industry, you may need one or two items of personal protective equipment or a full system. A fall protection system includes several elements of fall protection equipment which work together to give maximum protection to the person working at height. For example;
A work positioning system holds a worker in place at height while allowing them to work hands free. So an example in the film industry could be a camera operator filming from height to get the right shot from above and they need both hands on the camera. Work positioning requires a support structure such as a ladder, a full body harness or body belt and an anchor bolt or trolley for connecting the harness.
Fall hazards may exist all over a film set, but the aim of a restraint system is to prevent the worker from reaching the location where a fall hazard exists in the first place. For example, perhaps there is a fall hazard while setting up lighting for a particular scene. Restraint equipment will prevent the lighting technician from falling off an edge or down a hole while working.
Restraint equipment includes a support structure for anchorage and a connector such as an anchor sling or roof anchor system. As well as a full body harness and a positioning lanyard.
You may see workers washing windows or painting a building using a suspension system. The aim is to safely lower and support a worker vertically. On a film set this is useful for crew members adjusting or decorating a set. Or for camera operators filming a sequence.
A suspension system includes a support structure for anchorage, a connector such as an anchor sling or tripod. Along with a full body harness and a vertical lifeline ascender and descender with rope grab.
Fall Arrest Equipment For The Film Industry
Finally, if you cannot avoid a fall hazard and you have to work near one, then a fall arrest system is necessary. This works alongside other fall protection equipment for the film industry. So if a scene is taking place with stunts filmed over or near a hazard, then the workers must have protection in place. Examples include a safety net to fall into or airbags to fall onto. The aim of the equipment is to ‘arrest’ the fall. A person is already falling, but the safety equipment is designed to reduce the impact of the fall. Without it, there is a risk of severe injury or even death.
Hence, it’s essential to have a rescue plan in place to retrieve the worker who has fallen. They might be suspended in the air or in the middle of a safety net where access is a safety risk to others. Therefore the rescue plan always includes a named person who has specialist training to retrieve the fallen worker safely.