Appearing at Milton Keynes Magistrates Court, Foodles Production (UK) Ltd – the London-based company – has pleaded guilty to criminal charges in relation to a prosecution brought by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) following a serious accident at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire involving actor Harrison Ford. Sentencing was due to take place on Monday 22 August, but has now been put back until October.
The accident occurred during production of ‘Star Wars Episode Seven: The Force Awakens’. 71 year-old Ford suffered a broken leg and other injuries when he was struck by a metal door on the set of the Millennium Falcon. The incident took place on 12 June 2014.
A spokesperson for the HSE said: “During the filming of ‘Star Wars Episode Seven: The Force Awakens’, the actor Harrison Ford was badly injured after he became trapped under a rapidly closing metal-framed door. The power of the door’s drive system was comparable to the weight of a small car. This was a foreseeable incident. Foodles Production (UK) Ltd has accepted that it failed to protect actors and staff. The HSE welcomes the firm’s guilty plea.”
The spokesperson continued: “Every employer in every industry has a legal duty to manage risks in the workplace. Risks are part and parcel of everyday life, and this is acknowledged by Health and Safety law, but they still need to be identified and managed in a proportionate way.”
In conclusion, the HSE spokesperson commented: “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 for protecting both on-screen and off-screen talent, as well as safeguarding the reputation of the industry.”
Responsibilities of owners, managers and specifiers
According to the Door & Hardware Federation (DHF), whose constituent members manufacture, supply and maintain industrial and commercial doors, automated gates, garage doors and barriers, this high profile incident “throws into sharp focus” the responsibilities of owners and managers, and indeed all of those who specify powered access products and equipment.
The DHF’s training officer Nick Perkins said: “This court case serves as a warning to everybody involved in the powered access sector that they must ensure all adequate safety measures are provided wherever there’s the risk of people being injured by a moving door, gate or barrier. Without safety measures in place there’s the real risk of accidents leading to death, serious injury and criminal prosecution of those responsible.”
Perkins continued: “In this case, Harrison Ford was pinned down by the hydraulically operated door. Luckily he survived, albeit with serious injuries that included a broken leg. His death was only prevented because someone was thankfully able to activate an emergency stop, but not before injury had been caused.”
Perkins added that owners and managers must ensure industrial doors, powered gates and traffic barriers – regardless of when they were installed – meet the current standards which detail the levels of safety required.
Owners are advised to ensure that their powered access systems and equipment are checked for safety against the current standards and regularly maintained by both properly trained and qualified specialists.
“As this court case shows,” asserted Perkins, “owners and all those responsible for powered access systems and equipment could face prosecution in the event of an incident at one of their sites. They should also be aware that installers and maintainers are also bound by criminal legislation to ensure that all work, whether carried out on a new or an existing access system, is absolutely safe.”
Perkins pointed out that adequate levels of safety in all powered access installations can be achieved by using one of several safety features including hold-to-run controls or light curtain/photo scanner presence detectors or by ensuring that correct force limitation is duly in place.