Depositphotos_2826190_lIn light of the recent tragedy that took the life of Sarah Jones on the set of Midnight Rider, Washington Filmworks reflects on the significance of set safety.

Washington Filmworks Executive Director Amy Lillard attended October’s Association of Film Commissioners International Conference in New York, and this was a very prevalent topic among discussions and meetings. In an effort to continue this conversation, we’re highlighting two indispensable resources that should be reviewed by anyone planning to work on a production set.

It’s not unusual for directors and media-makers to engage in fast-paced productions that are often times on a shoe-string budget. But it’s imperative that everyone on the set is responsible for risks and hazards, and production should never be at the expense of personal safety.

Renton Film Frenzy and the City of Renton have drafted Safety and Production Guidelines that participating filmmakers have to sign in order to start production. Although these are the requirements of filming within the city limits, they are reflective of important practices that need to be implemented by filmmakers everywhere.

The Guidelines covers the following topics:

  • General Causality – Involves safe placement of sets, props and equipment; the prop master should give a daily report regarding the day’s props and any hazardous threats related to them.
  • Electrical Hazards – Large amounts of electricity are used for lights – there’s danger of blowing out and overloading circuits, and even starting a fire or electrocution. The lighting person should be familiar with capacity limits and safe procedures for using electricity. If you are using more than two 650 watt bulbs or one 1000 watt bulb on a single home electrical circuit, you are in danger of blowing out the circuit. 
  • Fire Hazards – Powerful lights near flammable materials, smoking on set with paper and flammable materials, and using lighters without authorization can result in a fire.
  • Firearms – Any time guns with live ammunitions are used on the set, a licensed firearms expert is required by law to be present on the set supervising the scene.
  • Animals – Snakes and deadly animals can be a hazard on the set and you must have an exotic animal handler to work with these. Additionally, ordinary household animals must be treated safely or there could be legal action from the Humane Society.
  • Children, the Elderly, and the Disabled – A parent or guardian must be with participating children at all times, and minors can only film so long without having a break. Special precautions need to be made on the set for the elderly and disabled – passage from one part of the set to another must not be impeded for either.
  • Stunts – If an actor hurts themselves doing a stunt, you could be liable. Any stunts, even minor ones, need to be planned out and rehearsed so no one is hurt.
  • Permits – Permits are required by the city of ALL locations to insure that if anything the filmmakers are doing is unsafe, that they city can shut down the shoot immediately. The only place permits are not applicable are registered film studio back lots or soundstages.

For an even more in-depth and expansive look into the matter, Safety on the Set is an incredibly useful website and resource that details nearly every safety practice you could think of. We encourage every filmmaking community to review their best practices.

Some of the practices included in this resource are:

Please read and share both resources when embarking on a shoot so that no one gets hurt and everyone has a safe and successful production.