February 24, 2016

The Force is strong … but not as strong as legislation …

After Harrison Ford broke his leg on set, the latest stage for a Star Wars follow up will be a high court room, with a Disney subsidiary facing charges for four safety breaches. What can businesses learn from this spaceship slip up?

“May the 4th be with you” … or in this case, 8 days after the 4th when a high profile ‘Star Wars’ Health & Safety court case will take place. 

Towards the end of 2015, movie fans from all over the UK were awaiting the latest episode of the Star Wars franchise. “Episode VII – The Force Awakens” opened recently to continue smashing box office records all over the country.

The eagerly anticipated movie is the most successful film ever at the UK box office and has already taken more than $2bn worldwide.

But what hasn’t been as high profile as the movie is the announcement this week that the film makers, Foodles Production (UK) Ltd, a subsidiary of Disney, has been summoned to court to face four charges by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) for breaches of Health & Safety legislation.

The charges are a result of one of the film’s stars, Harrison Ford, suffered a broken leg and other injuries when he was struck by a heavy hydraulic metal door on the set of the Millennium Falcon.

The film company will appear in court on May 12th 2016 to face the charges and although they fully cooperated with the investigators they could face substantial prosecution costs and damage to their otherwise, unblemished, public reputation.

What charges are they facing?

The charges the company face are breaches of the following legislation;

  • Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
  • Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which states: “It shall be the duty of every 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.”
  • Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which states “Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of (a)the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and (b) the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking, for the purpose of identifying the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions and by Part II of the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997.”
  • Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, which states: “Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken in accordance with paragraph (2) which are effective (a) to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar; or (b) to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone.”

What can businesses learn?

This accident may have been able to have been avoided and it is the business responsibility to ensure a safe place of work.

This may seem difficult to do given the nature of a high octane action movie set at Pinewood Studios in London,

However, although details are not clear just now on what caused the accident, resulting in the broken leg for Harrison Ford, the charges appear to be aimed at maintaining a safe place of work. It is also aimed at having suitable and sufficient risk assessments in place for all tasks with a risk of significant injury and that working with machinery requires safe working practices and trained personnel.

An HSE spokesperson said…

“By law, employers must take reasonable steps to protect workers. This is as true on a film set as a factory floor,”

“We have investigated thoroughly and believe that we have sufficient evidence to bring the case to court.”

The film makers and the Jedi, may be able to take on the Sith and the Force in the movies, but the charges raised against Foodles Productions prove that the force of the Health & Safety legislation and resulting impending potential prosecutions are stronger still.

A robust Health & Safety management system

By having a robust health & safety management system in place, which includes suitable and sufficient risk assessments with good control measures, the business will be more compliant in managing the risks of injury to their employees and other personnel.

Risk Assessments and their findings should be shared with all relevant personnel and only trained personnel should carry them out. The assessments should be reviewed annually or following any changes to the processes or tasks and especially after any accident or near miss. This will ensure that existing control measures are still working and also give the opportunity to introduce new controls as required.

Contact us

For advice and guidance on ensuring that your business is legally compliant in providing and maintain a safe place or work or to check your risk assessments are suitable and sufficient,contact us or call 0845 184 4615.

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About the author

Michael Sturgess