Despite the pandemic, the Georgia film and television industry is booming, having reopened in August 2020 after shutdowns. Georgia’s industry has a lot going for it, including tax incentives, diverse locations, convenient studios, manageable weather and a skilled workforce. The Marvel franchise decamped to Georgia, and TV shows like “Stranger Things,” “The Walking Dead” and “The Vampire Diaries” are filled with recognizable backgrounds for the eagle-eyed viewer.
But, like any industry, the film and television business comes with risks to workers. Long days, location shoots and nighttime filming can make the existing risks that come from working with electrical equipment and heavy scenery all the more dangerous.
Types of film set injuries
When big-name actors are injured on the set, it typically makes the news. Tragic deaths are also widely covered, like that of camera assistant Sarah Jones, who was killed on a Georgia train trestle during the 2014 filming of “Midnight Rider.”
It’s challenging, though, to get an accurate picture of the number of on-set injuries that occur—both in Georgia and across the industry. Numbers are underreported as workers try to move on and protect their jobs.
Possible set injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Damaged hearing or vision
Common film set hazards
Film and television sets have the same risks as many types of workplaces—trips, slips and repetitive use. But there are other factors that can make a film set particularly dangerous:
- Electricity: High-voltage electrical equipment, hot lights and heavy rigs can lead to accidents. One local example: During the Atlanta filming of “Selma,” an electrician was almost killed by a shock from an arc light.
- Heavy equipment: The large set pieces, heavy props and used in action sequences can be risky.
- Dangerous heights: Faulty cables and towering rigs can lead to falls.
- Fires and explosions: Whether due to electrical malfunction or pyrotechnic stunts, fire has been a notable film set hazard as far back as “The Wizard of Oz.”
- Moving vehicle crashes: Car chases, motorcycle wipeouts and fast-paced train scenes can be hard to get right safely. During the 2019 Atlanta filming of “Bad Boys For Life,” an employee was hurt simulating a motorcycle explosion, leading to an OSHA citation.
Georgia film and television industry workers can also add dehydration or other heat-related illnesses to their list of potential risks.
How to avoid injuries
With a film or television production, everything is on a budget and a schedule.
A poorly run production might use either of those reasons to encourage or tolerate unsafe practices. The demand for bigger, more complex action sequences also creates additional risks.
A safely run production should be able to avoid most incidents by strictly following guidelines related to open flames, electrical safety, heights, firearms, animals and more. COVID-19 protocols are now also an important part of today’s productions.
Production safety managers can evaluate workflows for potential risks before accidents happen. Call sheets should have safety contacts and local hospital information. Daily briefings can both keep the cast and crew informed about unique risks for the filming day, as well as list safety best practices. When incidents do occur, trained set medics can respond quickly, potentially saving lives. A safety movement is also growing on sets across the country, partly inspired by the life and loss of Jones.
If you’re injured in an on-set accident, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation. In some cases, injured workers are also able to file a criminal negligence suit. After you’re hurt, be sure to receive the medical attention you need and report your injury to your supervisor.
Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys