How to Complete a Film Risk Assessment

Especially bigger film sets can potentially lead to an accident. To help avoid accidents on your next creative project, you should complete a film risk assessment. This is a document that evaluates potential risks so that you can put in protocols before filming begins. This post will break down how to fill out and use a risk assessment.
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What is a Risk Assessment

A film risk assessment is a form that addresses potential risks that might occur per scene and filming location. It’s important to take health and safety seriously in film production. It’s about taking practical steps to protect people from harm.
The form itself records the risks and precautions that will take place per scene and location. Some sets have obvious risks, such as the use of firearms and stunts (super rare on Scouty shoots). Then there are not so obvious location hazards such as sunburns when filming in full sun on a hot day. However, some dangers might not be clear, so it’s important to complete a risk assessment during a location recce.

This assessment not only lists potential risks but solutions to avoid them. For example, bringing suncream and creating a shaded area when filming in on a hot day in the full sun. A shoot with firearms and stunts will need a weapons master and on-site medic. As mentioned, most film set accidents are minor, and you can avoid them by taking simple precautions.
Why you should complete a risk assessment:

  1. Helps avoid accidents both big and small
  2. Creates the time to fix hazards in advance
  3. Cast and crew feel safer whilst working
  4. Insurance companies will ask for them

Who Uses a Film Risk Assessment

Several crew members will find the risk assessment useful, including the producer, location manager, 1st assistant director and production manager. It helps the producer ensure that the cast and crew are safe from potential injury. The location manager is responsible for looking after the location, including its safety. Finally, the 1st assistant director and production manager will watch for any risks whilst filming. 
The production call sheet will feature a copy of the risk assessment. This helps all cast and crew understand potential hazards and avoid them whilst working. The document also mentions who in particular at risk is – for example, Sparks might have a fall risk from scaffolding. Then it will list how to avoid this risk – secure the scaffold, and lighting assistants wear a harness. 
Insurance companies can also insist on a film risk assessment for the insurance to be valid. If this is an accident and you are in court, this kind of document will come in handy. Additionally, location hosts might ask for one, so they know that your insurance is covered. Last but not least, as an employer, you have the moral obligation to look after everyone working for you. 

How to Complete a Risk Assessment

The producer or location manager will complete the film risk assessment. There needs to be at least one person responsible for the safety of a film set. On large film sets, there might be a dedicated health and safety advisor. This is especially crucial in scenes with stunts and action scenes. From 2020, you may also need a covid marshall to oversee government regulations. 
When writing a risk assessment, you should complete one sheet for every individual location or scene. For example, two scenes might occur in the same location, but only one contains stunts. The potential safety hazard for these stunts will need additional considerations. During a location recce think about what could cause a hazard. This can be minor issues like a tripping risk from wires or injury from using heavy equipment. 
After making a note of potential hazards, you will need to think of precautions. For example, gaffer tape all wires to the ground, lift heavy equipment carefully and take breaks. You need to communicate these risks to all crew members before and during production. As mentioned, the call sheet often contains a copy every morning. Furthermore, you can update the risk assessment and continue to evaluate risks throughout production. 

Film Risk Assessment Breakdown

You should complete a film risk assessment for every scene in your script. Some forms will have slightly different headers and columns, but most follow the same structure below. To complete the form, go through each scene, consider the risks, and eliminate or reduce them. Make sure to re-evaluate and update these risks during filming. 

  • Potential Hazard – Write down the risk that could happen whilst on location. There are common problems, such as tripping over wires to more scene-specific issues like stunts. 
  • Person at Risk – Who is the crew or cast member at risk? Write down who this risk will mainly affect. Some issues will concern ‘all crew’ whilst others will only affect departments. 
  • Risk Level Before – How serious is this risk and rank it low, medium or high. More significant risks will need greater precautions and relayed to crew during production. 
  • Precautions – What can you do to eliminate or reduce the risk. For example, for tripping hazards, you can make sure that all wires are secured to the floor with gaffer tape. 
  • Risk Level After – Now that the precaution is in place, how has this affected the risk level. You will not be able to eliminate all risks, but you should reduce them. 
  • Comments – There might also be an additional space for notes regarding safety on set. This could be from the producer, department head, safety advisor or covid marshall. 

A film risk assessment is a valuable production document that could even save someone’s life. This form protects the cast, crew and public from possible injury. Of course, you can’t entirely prevent accidents, but you can avoid most by taking the time to complete this form.

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