The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has cited Midnight Rider producers for safety violations, stemming from the tragic on-set death of twenty-seven year old camera assistant Sara Jones.

Jones was tragically killed last February on the set of Midnight Rider while the crew was attempting to film a scene on a live train trestle.  Jones’ family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging that producers of the film subjected the cast and crew to dangerous conditions and failed to warn them of the situation.  Staff were allegedly told there would be no more trains running that day, and that, in the event of an oncoming train, they would have sixty seconds to clear the tracks.  Jones was killed attempting to clear the tracks after an unexpected freight train approached.  Several other crewmembers sustained both physical and mental injuries related to the train incident.  In addition to the investigation by the Department of Labor, director Randall Miller and producers Jay Sedrish and Jody Savin were charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass.

Jones’ parents are not the first to accuse Film Allman producers of dangerous work conditions.  Following Jones’ death, costume designer Katie Dover spoke out about the lack of safety she experienced working on another project with Rider producers.  Dover was injured in preproduction after a table reportedly fell on her hand, leaving her with permanent nerve damage and out of work for six months.  No medic was present on set.

OSHA cited Midnight Rider producers for willful and serious safety violations and “struck-by and fall-by” violations.  The Department of Labor defines a willful safety violation as “a violation in which the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement (purposeful disregard) or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.”  OSHA presented Midnight Rider producers with a $74,900 fine associated with the train accident.  Dr. David Michaels, assistant director of The Department of Labor’s OSHA division, made it clear following the investigation that employers in the entertainment industry would be held to the same standard as everyone else.

As an industry used to special treatment by the public, it’s refreshing to see that, when it comes to safety and appropriate workplace conditions for its workers, there’s no get out of jail free card in Hollywood.

–Erin Shackelford

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One Response to Producers Cited with Willful Safety Violations Following On-Set Tragedy

  1. Kelsey Zottnick says:

    Wow, that sounded tragic and absolutely preventable. I’m surprised that the fine wasn’t higher! Hopefully the industry takes note. Maybe preemptive investigations, like the ones they do in the food industry, would spur producers to be proactive about safety measures.