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OSHA Fines Film Company for “The Walking Dead” Stuntman’s Death

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said in a news release that it has issued a “serious citation” to Stalwart Films LLC. OSHA said it proposed the maximum allowable fine of $12,675 for “failure to provide adequate protection from fall hazards” while filming the popular television show, “The Walking Dead.”

John Bernecker, the 33 year old stuntman, died last summer from injuries suffered in a 20 foot fall on the set in Georgia.

The citation read that “the employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which was free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm in that employees were exposed to a fall hazard.”  The citation also gave some feasible and acceptable means of reducing the fall hazard including reducing the fall distance, using a freefall catch system, and providing and requiring the use of appropriate personal protective equipment.

“This tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for the entertainment industry,” said OSHA Atlanta Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer. “The entire industry needs to commit to safety practices for actors and stunt people involved in this type of work.”

Fall hazards are a serious risk on many job sites not just for stuntmen on a film set.  In fact, falls are the leading cause of death for construction workers.  OSHA promotes a three step approach to prevent falls and save lives.  Those three steps are Plan, Provide, and Train.   Employers should plan ahead to create a safe work environment, provide the right safety equipment, and train employees on working safely in elevated areas.