In June 2014 the actor was crushed underneath a hydraulically powered door with “the power…. comparable to the weight of a small car” according to a spokesman from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).
The company held responsible for the accident have now pleaded guilty to two health and safety breaches under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.
The first breach is under Section 2(1) of the above act where the company as an employer had a duty to “ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees”.
The second breach is under Section 3(1) of the Act where the company had a duty as an employer to “conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety”.
This particular incident injured Mr Ford who was not an employee and therefore Section 3(1) directly relates to him. The HSE however are also prosecuting the company under Section 2(1) as the incident could have affected one of their employees.
The company also faced changes in relation to risk assessments and the safe use of equipment however these were withdrawn and will be incorporated in to the above two breaches.
The case has been transferred to Aylesbury Crown Court with the date to be confirmed, according to the HSE.
Angus Withington, defending, said that while the company in question pleaded guilty, it would contest the level of risk involved. This issue of ‘risk’ relates to the Sentencing Guidelines and will be another test of how the courts apply the new guidelines.
Various parties working in the UK film industry will certainly be observing the sentence that’s handed out by the Court with interest. The company are owned by Disney although being a limited company they may escape being classed as a large or very large organisation under the new prosecution guidelines. The sentence may also have a knock on effect on the UK entertainment industry as a whole and push companies to look more closely at how they’re managing health and safety in what can be a very challenging environment, whilst still delivering productions that push boundaries.
This is supported by the HSE’s stance who have said that “The British film industry has a world renowned reputation for making exceptional films. Managing on-set risks in a sensible and proportionate way for all actors and staff – regardless of their celebrity status – is vital to protecting both on-screen and off-screen talent, as well as protecting the reputation of the industry.”
The HSE website already has pages covering health & safety in the entertainment and leisure industry. The site also provides guidance on assigning roles under the 2015 Construction (Design & Management) Regulations within this industry, so there is no excuse for not managing the risks effectively; as a health & safety professional I acknowledge the challenges but as a certain someone once said “there is no try….”