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Fast and Furious movie fined after stunt performer suffers life-changing injuries

Fast and Furious movie fined after stunt performer suffers life-changing injuries
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

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FF9 Pictures Limited, the production company behind the Fast and Furious film franchise, has been fined after a stunt performer fell onto a concrete floor from height

Joe Watts had worked on a number of high-profile projects, including Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. When filming a fight scene for Fast and Furious 9: The Fast Saga at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, the line on his stunt vest detached and he fell 25 feet onto the concrete floor below.

The fall fractured Mr Watts’ skull and caused a severe traumatic brain injury, which has left him with permanent impairment and disability.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found several failings by FF9 Pictures Limited. The potential for a rope snap or link failure was not addressed on the company’s risk assessment, nor was there any system to double check links for damage, i.e. signs of deformation or stretching that might occur between takes.

Upon checking the manufacturer’s website, the link in question was forbidden for use as PPE, noting that shock loading (sudden and drastic increase of load, i.e. a typical requirement of stunt PPE) should be avoided.

Harnesses used for stunts were required to have six-monthly inspections, but Mr Watts’ harness had not been inspected. In addition, FF9 had changed the set and sequencing of the stunt, and did not extend crash matting to fit the new layout. This could have mitigated the consequences of an unintended fall.

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FF9 Pictures Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £800,000 and ordered to pay £14,752.85 in costs at Luton Magistrates’ Court on 24 November 2023.

Speaking after the sentencing, HSE Inspector Roxanne Barker said: “Mr Watts’ injuries were life-changing and he could have easily been killed. In stunt work, it is not about preventing a fall but minimising the risk of an injury.”

The fine for FF9 Pictures comes amidst growing concern about poor standards of health and safety in the entertainment industry. Actor Rory Kinnear, known for roles in James Bond and Black Mirror, spoke to the BBC about safety on sets. His father Roy Kinnear died when he was thrown from a horse while filming The Return of the Musketeers in 1988. Rory was only 10 years old at the time. He said:

“Thirty years later, things simply haven’t changed. You've got a lot of young people wanting to enter an industry that they know is perilous, both financially and in terms of work, but not necessarily aware of how perilous the practices on set are as well.

"Now is the time for this opportunity to be taken in terms of understanding that we don't need to exclude excitement or creativity or invention for safety, that the two can and must work together."

The president of the British Society of Cinematographers, Christopher Ross, says the dangers that come with the production of increasingly ambitious projects need to be addressed. He added:

"Film sets nowadays are starting to look more and more like construction sites - all the rigging, towers, cranes... every minute of every day you're on a film set you will encounter dangers that you may not have been educated about and the film industry needs to take proper responsibility for that."

For information on safely working at height, visit BrAInbox today for instant answers to questions like Do scaffolders need a rescue plan?

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