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Hollywood Production Co. Cited for Worker's Death

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The Disney production company that produced the film The Lone Ranger has been fined $61,445 by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal OSHA) for a death on set last year.

Silver Bullet Productions was cited for allowing a hazardous situation that resulted in the September drowning death of a welder and water safety worker who was attempting to clean a large water tank being used by the production. The incident took place at a ranch in Acton, CA.

The Lone Ranger was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and stars actor Johnny Depp. The victim, who had over twenty years of experience, had also worked on all of the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean films with Bruckheimer and Depp.

According to Cal OSHA reports, the 48-year-old victim was using scuba equipment to enhance water clarity for filming while cleaning the 100-foot-by-80-foot-by-25-foot tank with a vacuum. The man’s "dive buddy" was away for ten minutes and, when he returned, he noticed that no bubbles were coming to the surface of the water. When emergency responders arrived, the victim was in full cardiac arrest. He was flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital, but EMT’s were unable to restart his heart on the flight. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Cal OSHA determined the primary cause of the accident was the diver working alone and not being given a prior medical examination to determine his fitness to dive. The production company was also cited for not having a standby diver and allowing the victim to dive without a tether. Those four violations resulted in $45,000 worth of fines.

The company was also cited for several other violations including not providing documentation of safety and health training for all employees, not keeping records of each dive in the tank, not keeping proper records of all equipment maintenance, not maintaining a required Illness Prevention Program for hazard training, not developing a manual for diver safety and not properly maintaining the compressor for supplying air. Those general violations resulted in another $16,645 in fines.

When people think of film productions, it’s big Hollywood blockbusters that usually come to mind. However, film productions take place all over the country, including Virginia. There are Hollywood studio productions that are filmed on location, as well as smaller, independent film productions, commercials and industrial shoots – all posing the same risks to cast and crew if proper safety protocols aren’t followed.

Some of the causes of accidents on production sets include improper use or fastening of equipment, damage caused by loose or improperly installed camera or lighting equipment, failure to properly warn of or conceal exposed cables or wires and improper use of special effects explosives.

From big-budget to no-budget, the safety of those on set should always be a priority. Compromising safety for stunts, cost-effectiveness or any other reason is totally unacceptable.

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton & Favaloro personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.