Jesup, GA–Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant, was killed and eight other workers were injured while trying to escape an oncoming freight train during the filming of a scene on Feb. 20 for the movie “Midnight Rider,” a biopic based on the life of musician Gregg Allman. Film Allman LLC of Pasadena, California, was cited by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for one willful and one serious safety violation for exposing employees to struck-by and fall hazards.
“Employers are responsible for taking the necessary precautions to protect workers’ health and safety, and the entertainment industry is no exception,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “It is unacceptable that Film Allman LLC knowingly exposed their crew to moving trains while filming on a live track and railroad trestle.”
OSHA initiated the inspection in response to the incident, which occurred during the filming of a scene on the tracks of the Doctortown train trestle in Georgia that spans the Altamaha River. While the crew was filming, a CSX Corp. train traveling on the tracks was observed heading toward them. Crew members immediately started exiting the tracks, trying to remove set pieces and get off the trestle. However, they were unable to outrun the oncoming train. Ms. Jones was killed and eight other crew members were injured by debris when the train hit a hospital bed being used as a set piece.
“Their failure to develop a safety plan to prevent such hazards, including obtaining permission from the rail owner to use the tracks for filming, led to the death of one crew member and injuries to eight other employees,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s Regional Administrator for the Southeast.
A willful citation was issued for the employer’s failure to provide safety measures to protect employees from moving trains. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
The serious citation was issued for exposing workers to fall hazards while working on a train trestle that was not equipped with safety guardrails or other fall protection measures. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, fatal work injuries in Georgia accounted for 101 of the 4,628 fatal work injuries reported in 2012.
Film Allman LLC was on location filming the Gregg Allman biopic. The movie production company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply; request a conference with OSHA’s Savannah, Georgia, area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission. At the time of the incident, the company employed 20 workers on the set and approximately 74 workers nationwide. Proposed penalties total $74,900.