Film sets tend to be full of potential hazards, whether the sets are created by big-budget production companies or smaller groups. No matter the size of the crew you have or the number of locations you’ll be in, health and safety should be incorporated into production even before cameras begin rolling. From conducting a risk assessment to handling weather conditions, there are a few film production safety tips that every crew should follow to ensure a successful shoot. Here’s everything you need to know about safety on set.
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Plan and Prepare
Begin with safety at the forefront of your production. If you prioritize health and safety from the beginning, you’ll be well on your way to a successful shoot. Whether you’re on a big film set with a safety manager on hand or you’re a smaller crew, safety needs to be on everyone’s minds each day.
Before you even begin filming, visit the locations you’ll be shooting in. Conduct a tech scout (also known as a tech recce) so you can survey your filming locations and get an idea of what shots you’ll need and how they’ll be done. This is the best time to introduce safety: observe potential hazards on locations, sources for power, and escape routes in case an emergency occurs. Doing a tech scout helps you understand the health and safety measures that will be required for your shoot so you can plan accordingly.
Conduct a Risk Assessment
As you’re doing your tech scout, conduct a risk assessment for each individual filming location. These assessments occur in three steps:
- Identify potential hazards. First, you identify all potential hazards within each location or setup. A “hazard” refers to something that has the potential for harm. Some hazards are obvious, while others are not.
- Evaluate risk. With hazards identified, evaluate risk. “Risk” means the chance of that harm actually occurring due to the hazard.
- Determine safety measures. Finally, determine safety measures (or “safeguards”) to put in place to minimize risk. Be sure to take note of and stock up on any equipment you might need to put your safety measures in place.
Qualified producers can complete risk assessments. Or, there are Safety Supervisors in the film industry who are specifically trained to help you with set safety. Pre-production, these supervisors provide professional guidance to minimize risks. Either way, the assessment needs to be an official, legal document that is reviewed by everyone involved in production. This shows that you have taken measures to ensure your film set is safe.
Common Safety Hazards on Set
Common safety hazards on film sets include:
- Tripping hazards, including cables that haven’t been taped down or covered, unused equipment lying around, and more.
- Lifting hazards due to people getting hurt as they lift heavy equipment
- Fall hazards caused by shooting a scene from high up or near the edge of something without proper fall protection.
Secure All Equipment
Two of the biggest hazards on film sets are heavy equipment and electrical cords. On indoor sets especially, long cables will be snaking everywhere. To prevent people from tripping, use cable path tape, rubber matting or cable crossovers—also called “Yellow jackets”—to secure your cords to the ground. Colored tape can help you organize cables so everyone knows which cables go to which equipment. This will also help lower the risk for electrical accidents. Once you no longer need certain cables, you should safely store them away.
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C-stands are another important piece of equipment that can pose a hazard. Anyone on your set who handles C-stands needs to be trained on how to properly set them up and take them down. These stands hold hot, heavy lights, backdrops, and hundreds of pounds of gear. An accident involving C-stands can be catastrophic to production. It’s important to tell your crew members that no one can perform any tasks that they haven’t been specifically authorized and trained for.
Protection from the Elements
One of the most important considerations for safety on set is also one of the most commonly overlooked: weather conditions. If you film outdoors, it’s essential to ensure your cast and crew has the clothes and supplies they need to stay warm, dry, and hydrated.
In the winter, people need hats, layers of clothing, and hand warmers. Even in mild weather, it can get cold quickly. In the summer, people need to be protected from sunburn and heatstroke. You can never have too many bottles of sunscreen on hand, and plenty of water should always be provided.
Wits End has seasonal supply kits available that are filled with everything you need to keep your team safe from the weather, no matter what type of conditions you film in:
Ensure Everyone is on the Same Page
To make sure set safety efforts are successful, you need to communicate the standards to your cast and crew. Every single member of the cast and crew should be familiar with your general safety guidelines and trained in further safety measures that they may need to take depending on their role. Many construction companies begin each work day with “toolbox talks”—a meeting with everyone to discuss the project at hand, inherent risks, and safety precautions. You can begin each filming day by conducting your own toolbox talk.
Many film companies, both large and small, have safety guidelines that everyone must read and sign before production begins. Some film crews have a safety section to their film schedules for the day. However you decide to handle your safety briefs, each team member needs to be on the same page. Remember to include basic safety information such the location of emergency exits, fire extinguishers, emergency assembly areas, and first aid kits.
It takes a lot of time and resources to run a successful production. The last thing you want is for health and safety to become a barrier for filming. It helps to incorporate safety on set from the beginning of production and to ensure each team member understands the risks. Everyone should be encouraged to take safety very seriously.
Be aware of potential hazards, make sure everyone has the safety information they need, and seek out creative solutions to your problems. Shots can be done with the safety of the cast and crew in the forefront at all times. Just like any other workplace, safety comes first on film sets.