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How to Manage Height Safety in Screen Production

Picture: Tyler Casey

Working in film, theatre, and TV can require a great deal of talent and skill, especially in acting, body language, and disposition. However, one thing not often spoken about in the general public is how much health and safety information is necessary to work in such an industry.

Working at heights is common in these industries, and being aware of safety precautions can be crucial to avoiding accidents. Before you bring ladders and other height equipment to your next movie set, here’s what you need to know:

Safety Inspections Can Save Lives

Even though ladders, harnesses, fall arrest anchor points, and other height safety systems are all designed to keep you safe, they require inspections. Processes as simple as ladder inspections to check their structural integrity could be the difference between someone being safe and injured.

Over time, maintenance can be required of such equipment to make it safe for use. Failure to receive inspections and certifications from experts in the business may create an unsafe working environment.

Have Procedures in Place for Height Work

Many screen production manuals recommend having procedures for working at heights of under or over two metres. At under two metres, a stable platform and secure access steps or a ladder are crucial. Highlighting the edges with hi-vis tape in low lighting is also recommended.

At heights of over two metres, controls should be put in place to manage all risks. These controls can include passive fall prevention devices like safety rails.

Producers, actors, and other screen production workers should also use work positioning systems such as fencing and barriers, along with fall arrest systems like harnesses and lanyards to manage the risk.

Prioritise Personal Fall Protection Equipment

Approximately 20 people die from falling at height each year in Australia, according to the Working at Height Association (WAHA). This makes them the second and third-highest cause of fatalities in the workplace, despite regulations being implemented to prevent them.

Workplaces, including those in the film industry, may see the value in emphasising the importance of personal fall protection equipment. Such equipment can minimise the risk of someone falling from height and limiting how far they fall if they do. Take time to ensure that all anchor points can maintain the weight of the load and that all users are trained in its use and maintenance.

Take Care With Ladders

Whether you’re working on the set of a music video or a TV show, ladder safety is paramount for managing the risks associated with working at heights. Always observe the warnings outlined by ladder manufacturers, and identify any risks in the area you’ll be using the ladder.

For example, you might notice uneven ground, a doorway, or overhead power lines. Before using the ladder, look for damage or missing parts, and ensure all rungs are free of dirt or debris. Wear fully enclosed footwear during use, and avoid using a ladder while sick or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

There is often no way to get around using heights equipment in the film industry, particularly when you need to install lighting and film equipment. Therefore, rather than avoiding its use, you can focus on making sure that whichever height gear you use has been thoroughly inspected and is used with health and safety protocols in mind.


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