...keeping safe at work
Justice is being served for Star Wars actor Harrison Ford after the producers of ‘The Force Awakens’ admit liability for two of four counts of negligence under the Health and Safety at Work Act – in an incident which could have killed the 71-year-old actor on set.
Kimberley Jackson, a personal injury specialist at Simpson Millar, discusses the implications and explains why working conditions need to be adequately safe – whatever your business!
Disaster On Set
In 2014, whilst on set of Millennium Falcon for the new Star Wars movie, Harrison Ford was struck by a large metal door and suffered a broken leg – following the incident Ford had to be emergency-airlifted to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Comparing the weight of the door to that of a small car, it is a wonder that Harrison was not hurt further.
The case finally made its way into court this week, brought by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who are the regulators for workplace Health and Safety. Bringing not one, but four criminal charges against the producers, grave concerns were expressed due to the producers failing to protect their workers.
The HSE argued that this was a foreseeable accident that could have been prevented.
Accepting The Outcome
The producers, Foodles, who are a Disney subsidiary, have admitted that they failed to protect their workers.
In similar cases, a defence of ‘Volenti’, meaning that there is a voluntary assumption of risk, could be argued. Many high status actors such as Ford are frequently famed for filming their own dangerous stunts. In this case, however, the Court heard from the prosecution:
“The breaches had caused a risk of death – if the emergency stop had not been pressed in time then it would have been a very different outcome for Ford.”
Kimberley Jackson Comments:
“In this particular scenario, Ford had walked onto the set assuming that the set was not live. He had not been aware that somebody else had been operating it and as a result he ended up pinned to the floor by the hydraulic door.
“Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare at work of all employees. Employers need to ensure that employees are not exposed to any risks to their health and safety.
“This applies to workers regardless of whether they are working on a multi-million pound film set or whether they are working on a production line in a factory.
“As shown in this case, failure to meet the demands of the legislation could lead to criminal prosecutions as well as civil claims for injury. Foodles is due to be sentenced on 22 August at Aylesbury crown court.”
Written by Kimberley Jackson
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