Rory Kinnear is advocating for enhancements to health and safety on set. As Hollywood resumes operations after the recent writers’ and actors’ strikes, industry figures are urging the prioritisation of health and safety to prevent further endangerment of lives.
A series of notable accidents has sparked concerns about the risks faced by actors and crew members during film and TV production. Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins lost her life in 2021 due to a live bullet discharged from a prop gun wielded by actor Alec Baldwin on the set of the film Rust. In the UK, filming for the BBC motoring series Top Gear was halted following an accident that injured presenter Freddie Flintoff. The Health and Safety Executive, the national safety regulator in the UK, investigated the incident but opted not to pursue further action. A settlement between Flintoff and the BBC was reached last month.
BBC News has identified widespread apprehension about subpar safety practices in the UK’s film and TV industry. Rory Kinnear, whose father, actor Roy Kinnear, died in a horse-related incident during the filming of The Return of the Musketeers in 1988, emphasized the need for change. Kinnear, reflecting on the incident, stated, “Thirty years later, things simply haven’t changed. You’ve got a lot of young people wanting to enter an industry that they know is perilous, both financially and in terms of work, but not necessarily aware of how perilous the practices on set are as well.”
Kinnear believes that the current moment is opportune for understanding that safety and creativity can coexist. He urged, “Now is the time for this opportunity to be taken in terms of understanding that we don’t need to exclude excitement or creativity or invention for safety, that the two can and must work together.”
Christopher Ross, President of the British Society of Cinematographers, echoed concerns about the hazards associated with ambitious projects. He emphasised the need to address the dangers arising from the production of increasingly complex films. Ross remarked, “Film sets nowadays are starting to look more and more like construction sites… the film industry needs to take proper responsibility for that.”
Andra Milsome, who has been advocating for changes in health and safety regulations since her husband Mark’s fatal incident during filming, emphasized the importance of recognising and managing risks. She noted that the industry must take proper responsibility for safety practices on set.
In response to these concerns, the call for more standardized training and regulation in the industry has grown. The Health and Safety Executive provides guidance for production companies, but there is a demand for uniformity in training and regulations to ensure consistent practices across the industry.
BECTU, the broadcasting, entertainment, communications, and theatre union, conducted a survey in which 730 respondents expressed concerns about safety at work. Over 700 respondents indicated that they had felt their safety or that of a colleague had been compromised at work. Almost 500 respondents supported the implementation of more formal safety protocols and standards in the industry.
Due to the prevalence of freelancers in the industry, many hesitate to question decisions on set for fear of professional repercussions. Industry professionals are pushing for a change in the approach to health and safety, especially considering the potential skills shortage resulting from the construction of new film and sound studios.
To address these issues, the Mark Milsome Foundation and industry training body ScreenSkills propose the creation of a health and safety “passport.” This passport would include different levels of training tailored to specific jobs and roles, with qualifications digitally uploaded to CVs for employer verification.
Christopher Ross emphasised the urgency of change, stating, “I would love for there not to be another death on a film set. That would be a great legacy.” He called for collective action from corporate and government bodies and, if necessary, changes in the law to prevent further unnecessary deaths and injuries on film sets.