Alec Baldwin and the failings of Hollywood health and safety

Alec Baldwin's situation questions the safety of Hollywood sets
Alec Baldwin's tragic incident is the 43rd since 1990. Source: GPA Photo Archive (via: Flickr)
There has been an estimated 43 fatal accidents on Hollywood film sets since 1990, leading to questions about the industry's health and safety procedures.

By Vicky Witts | Head of Comment

The glitz and glamour considered to be staples of the film and television industry can make becoming an actor or member of a film crew seem hugely desirable. However, behind the scenes, harassment claims, and a lack of safety measures are increasingly being brought to light, which are bringing into question just how well the industry treats its workers.

Alec Baldwin is one of the most recent actors affected by errors in Hollywood, when on the 21st of October, while on the set of his upcoming film “Rust”, he fired a prop gun, (believed to be safe), which lead to the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. The incident has sparked much debate online about who is to blame, with some accusing Baldwin for firing the gun unnecessarily, while others suggest that the armourers were to blame for providing the loaded weapon.

Regardless of who was ‘to blame’ for this tragic event, the situation illuminates problems with the ways that the film industry attempts to protect its workers. This is not the first time that workers have been injured or fatally harmed while filming shows and movies either, with the Rust tragedy being the 43rd fatal incident on a US film set since 1990. Parallels have been drawn between Hutchins’ death, and the 1993 death of Brandon Lee on the film set of ‘The Crow’, when he was shot using a faulty gun that had an issue with a ‘dummy cartridge’. Not all incidents have been down to faults with props however, such as when stuntwoman Joi “SJ” Harris was killed in a motorbike crash in 2018, on the set for Deadpool 2.

What needs to be done differently?

As the majority of these tragic incidents were declared as accidental, it may seem that there is not much to be done to prevent these situations from occuring in the future. However, many individuals and members of the industry are calling for changes to be made in law and safety protocol to be reviewed on sets.

In response to the incident with Alec Baldwin, Neal Zoromski, a prop master with 30 years of experience in Hollywood, told the Los Angeles Times that there was more of a focus on saving money on the film than there was on enforcing safety protocols, which is one of the reasons why he turned down the chance to work on Rust.

Attempts to place blame on individual directors, actors, or prop-workers is not productive in addressing the overall issue- that production companies need to ensure that everyone involved in the film-making process is safe, and that this takes precedence over other matters that do not risk lives, such as budgeting. Whether this is by enforcing extra checks of props before they are used, or having harsher consequences for companies found endangering their workers,  the responsibility of protecting workers’ lives shouldn’t come down to one individual, but the entirety of the film company as a whole.

Victoria Witts Comment

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