Production Company fined £1.6m for Harrison Ford Injury on Star Wars Set


3 mins

Posted on 31 Oct 2016

Earlier this month, the company that created the hydraulic door of the Millennium Falcon which broke Harrison Ford’s leg on the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was fined £1.6m for health and safety breaches. Foodles Production (UK) Ltd pleaded guilty on 26 July this year to two breaches of health and safety legislation: failing to protect actors and workers on the film set and creating an unsafe workplace.

Harrison Ford broke his leg at Pinewood Studios in London on 12 June 2014 when the door closed on him during rehearsals. The actor is an action movie legend who has starred in films such as, Patriot Games, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Clear and Present Danger. However, it is not just film sets with fast-paced action sequences, explosives and moving props that pose a risk to employees. 

According to a Labour Force Survey, 611,000 injuries occurred at work in 2014/15. While the majority of these accidents will not have been caused by hydraulic metal-framed doors with a closing force comparable to the weight of a small car, going to work in an office is not completely without risk.

A spokesperson for the Health and Safety Executive described Harrison Ford’s accident as “foreseeable and preventable”. As an employer, the production company responsible for the set needed to provide a safe environment for the actors and crew: that means identifying and managing the risks whether they are extraordinary risks linked to the mechanical workings of purpose-built props or everyday risks that are part and parcel of daily life. 

In an office environment that might mean making sure doors open and close easily without catching, repairing carpet to reduce the risk of tripping, ensuring cables don’t snake across the office floor and wires are not exposed putting users of electrical equipment at risk of a shock.

All employers in any sector within the UK have a duty of care to their employees and others on the work premises. If companies breach this duty they can face criminal prosecution. All employers should have suitable safe working practices in place to identify any significant hazards that will need to be eliminated or contained, controlled and managed within the work environment. The practices must be relative to the risks and nature of work undertaken. 

Obviously, there will be different risks in an office than a construction or manufacturing site. But whether on the film set of an adventure movie or in a city office, there will be inherent risks which will need to be assessed through a detailed risk assessment process which needs to be constantly reviewed to adapt to changing circumstances in the work place.

Employees themselves are not without responsibility. Leaving bags in pathways, using equipment in a way not intended, running not walking, can all lead to accidents. But the key thing is for the employer to have identified these risks, put a policy in place and communicated it clearly to the employees in an effort to avoid workplace injuries. Causing yourself injury by flouting health and safety policy won’t result in the kind of payout Harrison Ford can expect, it’s more likely to earn you time off work without pay for breaking the rules!

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