Safety Practices During Production

Safety is paramount, and given today’s tools, skills and technology there is never a reason to put anyone’s safety at risk. No member of the cast or crew should ever be put in jeopardy for the purpose of a shot. Anyone who is responsible for a dangerous situation and does nothing to correct it is subject by law to a charge of criminal negligence. For purposes of this section, we will consider any place where shooting occurs, a “set” whether it involves one or two persons or dozens of cast and crew members. Regardless of their size, working conditions on film sets change from day to day, especially when working on location. The best way to prevent accidents is to be aware of the work environment and the equipment being used.

Call sheets are the best way to communicate safety information to the cast and crew. In the case of unusual circumstances such as stunts and special effects, safety meetings should be held with all the involved parties.

All members of the cast and crew must discuss any concerns they have regarding their safety and/or potential hazards. This can be achieved by encouraging everyone to feel free to voice their concerns or ask questions regarding issues of safety.


Everyone can help ensure that the set is safe by encouraging and following some general safety guidelines.

  • Encourage communication and teamwork. Ask everyone to have eyes and ears open and watch out for each other. Each person working on a project has to speak up if there is something they feel is unsafe or potentially hazardous.
  • Prepare. Strategize your plans in advance as much as possible, and communicate them to your collaborators.
    • Visit locations in advance of the shoot, bringing key collaborators with you to assess safety, access, schedule, and shooting strategies. This should include identifying parking areas, restrooms, and shade and rest locations.
    • Hold planning meetings with collaborators before the shoot to review your intentions, plans and concerns.
    • Share information. Gather and share everyone’s email and phone number. Call sheets are the best way to communicate safety information to the cast and crew. A call sheet is a comprehensive list of the locations, scenes, cast and crew for each day of production and is distributed prior to that day’s shooting. Calls sheets include maps to each location, call times for cast and crew and pertinent safety information.
    • Identify nearby emergency facilities, such as a hospital, fire station, and police station. Include physical addresses and phone numbers on any call sheet or schedule you give to your collaborators.
  • Safety meetings should be held for the entire crew upon arrival at each new location.
    Require additional safety meetings for all stunts, special effects, water or other potentially hazardous activity. In the case of unusual circumstances such as stunts and special effects, safety meetings should be held with all the involved parties. Normally, that would include the director, the first assistant director, the director of photography, the stunt coordinator, the stunt performers, and any special effects crew involved.
  • Work reasonable hours. Avoid work days longer than 12 hours, including commute time to and from the location.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. When you arrive at a new location, begin with a walk- through of the area to see if there is any damage or danger. Keep an eye on your crew and lend a hand as needed. Throughout the work day, keep use of electronic devices to a minimum to avoid distraction and do not use earbuds or headphones.
  • Demand good housekeeping on the set. Walkways and work areas should be kept free of equipment and debris.
  • Require “no smoking” policies on set. Provide designated smoking areas with butt cans. Be sure to empty and take away these cans at the end of the shoot.
  • Have firefighting equipment (extinguishers, sprinklers, hoses, etc.) on set and make sure they are all in working order.
  • Make sure that cables are routed properly and cover them with mats, gaffer’s tape and/or crossovers in traffic areas.
  • Do not allow pranks or rough housing on the set. Distracting crew members from their jobs could result in injury
  • Make sure the crew is informed of weather and shooting conditions, including clothing (heat, cold, rain, snow, etc.). Provide protective equipment such as safety glasses or hearing protection when needed. Be aware of general location safety concerns such as extreme temperature or precipitation, unsafe terrain, nasty critters and vegetation.


Means of escape in case of fire on set should be plainly identified and kept clear at all times. Built sets, props and equipment should not obstruct the statutory fire signage used within studios, stages or theaters. If necessary, temporary signage should be provided.


Even in a school or student setting, the set is a workplace. Clothing should be appropriate for the type of work being done. Jewelry, loose sleeves, exposed shirt tails, or other
loose clothing should not be worn on set or around machinery where it might become entangled. Long hair should be tied back.


Appropriate shoes should be worn at all times, particularly where there is a risk of injury from hot surfaces, electricity, corrosive materials, hazardous substances, falling objects or heavy equipment and machinery. Flip-flops, high heels or sandals are never appropriate on-set foot wear and no one should ever be barefoot on set. If an on-camera performer must be barefoot, keep this to a minimum, requiring shoes during run-throughs and any off-camera time.


Wear gloves when the work involves exposure to cuts, burns, chemical agents or electrical hazards capable of causing injury or impairments. Crew members who are working on set with construction and decoration, or those working with grip and lighting equipment, should arrive on set with a pair of durable work gloves. Do not wear hand protection where there is a danger of it becoming entangled in moving machinery. Hand protection should be appropriate for the type of exposure, (e.g. porous, where exposure is to cuts; non- porous [or non-porous over porous], where exposure is to harmful chemicals). Dispose of gloves that have been exposed to hazards, allergens, toxins or any material that may cause dermatitis, inflammation, burns or other damaging skin conditions.


Wear eye and face protection when working in locations where there is a risk of eye or face injuries such as punctures, abrasions or burns as a result of contact with flying particles, hazardous substances, projections or harmful light. When creating wind effects, be sure to check the location for any debris that may be picked up by the fans. Provide goggles and masks to the crew when appropriate.


Provide hearing protection when the cast or crew will be exposed to excessive noise.


Falls are the single most common injury-producing accident on film sets. Whether
it is tumbling from an overhead grid, slipping off a scaffold, toppling off a ladder, or tripping over a cable, the result can range from minor to fatal. Often these falls are the result of haste and/or not utilizing proper safety measures such as fall restraint systems, nets and guardrails.

The most important thing you can do to prevent falling accidents is to be aware of the tempo of the set. Have a sense of when things are starting to get hectic and out of control. And when they are – slow the pace down. Haste makes waste. If you see the crew starting to ignore safety concerns in order to move faster, you have a moral obligation to put the brakes on.


It is frequently necessary to use ladders to build or decorate sets and to hang lights or grip equipment. When using ladders, follow these guidelines:

  • Inspect all ladders before each use for broken or missing rungs, steps, split side rails, or other defects.
  • Never use a metal ladder near electrical wires.
  • Never place ladders in doorways unless protected by barricades or guards.
  • Never climb above the second rung from the top on a stepladder or above the third rung from the top on a straight ladder.
  • Do not reach farther than arm’s-length on any ladder; move the ladder when necessary.
  • Straight ladders should extend at least 3 feet above the top landing support point.
  • Straight ladders should be tied down as close to the top landing support point as possible.
  • Always use a 4 to 1 ratio (1 foot away for every 4 feet of ladder height) when using a straight ladder.
  • Always face the ladder when ascending or descending and maintain a firm grip.
  • If you carry tools, use a tool belt or a bucket attached to a hand line to pull equipment up and to lower it down.


It is frequently necessary to use rolling ladders to build or decorate sets and to hang lights or grip equipment. When using rolling ladders, follow these guidelines:

  • Never move the ladder while on it.
  • Whenever possible, face the ladder and maintain three points of contact while climbing up or down.
  • Avoid overreaching (the limit is one arm length either side, without leaning the body past the side rails.)
  • Only one person should be on a ladder at a time with a second person as spotter.
  • Reposition the ladder to reach new areas. Never overreach, push, pull or “walk” the ladder while working on it.
  • When using rolling “A” frame trestle ladders, never extend them beyond twenty feet or manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • Always lock the wheels to prevent any rolling or instability.


Identify the need for an extended work day as far in advance as possible so that you can plan thoroughly. The following are common sense measures that you should apply when an extended work day is necessary. Sleep deprivation may be caused by long working hours or by other factors that crew members experience before they arrive on set. It is up to each person on the crew to recognize when they are sleep deprived.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) cautions drivers as to the following danger signs: eyes closing by themselves, difficulty in paying attention, frequent yawning, and swerving in lane.

AAA warns that drivers experiencing any of these danger signs could fall asleep at any time. AAA recommends three basic solutions: sleep, exercise, caffeine.

AAA urges drivers, who are too drowsy to drive, to safely pull off the road to a safe area, lock the doors and take a nap. Crew members who believe that they are too tired to drive safely should notify their supervisor so that alternate arrangements can be made. These might include providing other means of transportation such as a ride with someone else, providing a place to rest, and encouraging your crew members to carpool.

When an extended work day is necessary, provide appropriate beverages and nourishing food for the crew to help them stay alert.


Although the twelve hour work day has already been referenced in this handbook, it is important to understand where it came from and how important it is.

Brent Hershman was a 35-year-old camera assistant on New Line Cinema’s Pleasantville. He died in a single car accident on the Century Freeway at 1:30 am on March 6, 1997, after working a succession of 18 and 19 hour days. Brent’s death inspired a campaign for more humane working conditions, especially for craftspeople working on motion picture sets. A petition calling for a limit on the number of hours worked in a single day gained the signatures of more than 10,000 industry professionals.

As a result of that effort, IA Local 600, International Photographers Guild, The International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE), the Directors Guild of America (DGA), and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) have joined together to promote BRENT’S RULE, which would limit the hours worked on motion picture sets. Many companies have successfully produced films under self-imposed limits of a 12 hour shooting day. When a 12 hour day is impractical, some companies have offered local housing or transportation home in order to promote safety for the cast and crew.

The School of Film/Video strongly encourages its students to observe Brent’s Rule. Limit your shooting days to 12 hours or less from when the first person arrives to when the last one leaves. To do so is in the best interest of your cast, crew and film. If you have a 12 hour production day, take 12 hours off before your next call.

Table of Contents