Acronym soup: the new labels for safety

The Chair of ScreenSafe, David Strong, introduced the organisation as an initiative of the NZ Film & Video Technicians Guild. Formed in July 2015, it consists of volunteers from both Wellington and Auckland who do the work in their spare time (as do all the committee members in the Techos and other guilds).

The overall aim is the promotion of health and safety in the screen sector; its first focus is on the new Act and its consequences. Although it is still the responsibility of every individual to discover and learn about the new Act, ScreenSafe is gathering legal advice from a variety of sources which they will test with the government agency Worksafe NZ. They plan to provide us all with an interpretation of the Act by the end of March.

Then, by the end of June, they plan to provide templates for health and safety on their website – free for all the industry to use. The full ScreenSafe presentation is available to view here.

A scenario was offered as an example.

A scene is being shot. The director instructs something to occur. The safety officer on site says “No, don’t do that!” because s/he deems it unsafe. The director insists, instructing the crew to proceed nevertheless. An incident occurs, where harm is caused. Who is responsible? Who will end up being prosecuted?

Clearly the director bears responsibility, for overriding the safety officer. But Worksafe NZ will also investigate the production company, and others in the chain back through to the scriptwriter – those who initiated the action that resulted in the incident and harm. The safety officer will also be investigated. Did s/he do enough in terms of attempting to stop the unsafe practice? Could s/he have done more to prevent the harm occurring?

In the past when a harmful incident occurred, there tended to be lots of finger-pointing. From 4 April, we will all be responsible!

Beginning the Q&A that followed the presentations, a first assistant director asked (on behalf of the many crew present) whether there was a specification in the Act as to how many hours of work in a day are regarded as acceptable, or safe.

The answer was that there is no clear answer as to how many hours overtime is reasonable beyond a 40-hour week – although Worksafe is unlikely to look kindly on a 20-hour day! (Disturbingly, given the number of times a 20-hour day was mentioned throughout the evening, long hours are still common practice.)

Later in the Q&A, Dave Gibson of the Film Commission took a calming and reasoned stance concerning the new Act. He also brought up a previous suggestion that the new spread of responsibilities included ‘funders and runners’.

Gibson pointed out that the NZFC has encouraged compliance with the Blue Book, the Pink Book and the Safety Code of Practice. Both the NZFC and NZ On Air have updated their contracts to acknowledge the requirements of the incoming legislation.


Written by Tony Forster

Tony has worked in theatre and screen production for some decades. He recently made his first feature documentary, An Accidental Berliner

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