On Set Injuries, Tips and Proper Safety Procedures
– by Ana Breton
Sarah Jones on set. (Photo via The Hollywood Reporter)
Earlier this year, New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) produced a “Safety on Set” panel in light of the death of Sarah Jones, the 27-year-old camera assistant who was struck and killed by a freight train during the production of “Midnight Rider” last February. The panelists at the event shared their thoughts about the incident and talked about what they have changed in their own film sets to improve overall safety.
Various men and women from diverse fields talked about the importance of taking precautions before shooting on a film or television set, whether it’s a student project or a professional production. Panelists discussed the importance of knowing who is in charge of safety on a set, and what steps a crew member should take when there is an injury on set.
Karen Mobley, a NYWIFT member who works as a background artist, shared her personal story of when she was injured on set a few years ago. During a production of a television show in the East Village, a lighting fixture fell on Mobley, and she had to undergo several surgeries on her shoulder and back. She is currently working again, and shared her experience with attentive audience members.
Christina DeHaven and Liberty Dwyer, who both work at Tisch School of the Arts, emphasized the importance of teaching students correct safety precautions on student films. They said that because most of their students will start as PAs in professional productions once they are out of school, it is important to teach them correct practices early on. They said it’s important for students to know correct safety practices, including speaking up if they are injured on a set in the future. Sometimes PAs and other lower crew members will choose to hide their injury out of fear of being embarrassed in front of a superior or even losing their job.
Stephen Sarafin, who works as a senior property casualty risk engineer at the New Jersey Loss Control at Chubb Insurance, talked about the legal paperwork involved when someone is injured on a set. He said the most common injury that he has to fill out paperwork for are “trips and slips.” Besides talking about the law side of production injuries, he also urged audience members to simply use common sense when they’re working on a film or television shoot.
Stephanie Perry, who is the director of theatrical contracts at SAG-AFTRA answered questions regarding what actors should expect as far as safety on set.
Several audience members chimed in on the lively discussion. One man, who works as an actor, said the panel was important because a lot of film productions feel like “temporary construction sites,” so knowing that a set has proper safety procedures is key to feeling like you’re working in a safe environment. Once you stop worrying about safety, you can continue to work on your craft, he said.
DeHaven, who served as the moderator for the panel, also shared the good news that students at Tisch now are required to take a film safety course before they graduate.
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