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Movie magic won't protect workers from deadly on-the-job injuries

In movie fairytales, living happily ever after is the expected ending, but that's not always the case during the making of a movie. Whether in California or elsewhere, injuries on the set are not uncommon. A recent accident that occurred while shooting a movie ended in the death of a young woman who was working on the set. Several other workers suffered on-the-job injuries on location for the film depicting acclaimed musician, and a founding member of The Allman Brother's Band, Gregg Allman.

The film industry has had its share of horrors while making movies. One of the most tragic was the death of actor Vic Morrow during the making of a movie version of "The Twilight Zone," when he and two child actors were killed in a helicopter crash during filming. Some of those in the industry have made it their mission to change the unsafe working conditions for those involved in all areas of filmmaking.   

In the current case, the crew was filming a scene that required crew members to go out on a train trestle. Someone with authority over the crew told them that if a train showed up they would have 60 seconds to get off the trestle. Unfortunately, a train did arrive and 60 seconds was not enough time for several workers to escape serious injuries and one worker lost her life.

Those close to the industry describe a complex hierarchy that takes place on film sets. Those in charge give the orders and those farther down the chain of command do not question their orders. In addition, film sets tend to work standard schedules of 12 hours per day or more which results in tired workers operating dangerous equipment while making important decisions, which can lead to unsafe working conditions.

An Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation is underway. It remains to be seen whether any criminal charges will be filed or whether any compensation or medical expenses will be paid to those injured, or whether the family of the young woman who was killed will be compensated for their loss. While movies can make magic, that doesn't mean that the industry should not be subject to the same laws enforced in other industries that protect workers from unsafe working conditions.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Details Emerge of Death on 'Midnight Rider' Movie Shoot," Sheelah Kolhatkar, March 5, 2014

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Law Offices of William W. Green & Associates
505 S. Villa Real
Anaheim, CA 92807

Phone: 714-464-6903
Toll Free: 866-543-7598
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