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David Deane, Health and Safety Advisor

Image of the Health and Safety Supervisor, from Skillset's visual guide to filmmaking, 'The Business'.

What does your job involve?

We’re there to advice on the safety and welfare of all personnel working on a production and also, members of the public whom may be affected by the film production process.
The level of my involvement depends on the budget and size of a production. A health and safety advisor might work full time on a big budget film, whereas a smaller picture might buy in the services of a health and safety advisor for something like twenty hours a week.

On a big picture we would put in place a health and safety management programme with a team of three or four people working to implement it. One person, for example, would keep an eye on set construction, working with the construction manager. He would look at all the plans and offer his comments. Working at heights is a very big issue for us, so we would advise on a safe system of work. The biggest concern of the Health and Safety Executive, with good reason, is the amount of injuries and deaths caused by working at heights. Over the last few years in the film, television and music industries there have been a small number of incidents of serious injury and a couple of fatalities

The advisor would stay with the construction team until they finish - it’s an area that needs to be kept an eye on at all times. He/she might also bring in different people with different skills to advice on safety, such as a scaffolding inspector, who would check the scaffolding and sign it off on a weekly basis.

When shooting starts, another advisor might also travel to locations with the film crew. He/she would assist with formal risk assessments on locations and would, for example, make sure that welfare facilities are available and that the buildings used for shooting are safe. Filmmakers tend to like shooting in old, dilapidated buildings so we might have to check it is sturdy enough and there are no traces of hazardous materials.

Some areas of Britain are quite hostile for film-makers. I was recently advising for a film shooting on the side of a mountain in the Lake District. They had to get a lot of gear up the mountain for filming. Because of manual handling restrictions, we advised that they got a helicopter to lift the equipment up. If the crew had tried to take the equipment up the mountain, an accident may have happened. By removing the hazard and using a safe system of work (a helicopter), compliance with HSE Regulations was complete.

How did you get into the business?

I first got involved in health and safety issues while working as a Group Station Commander in the fire and rescue service. I was based in South Buckinghamshire and would often visit the Pinewood, Denham and Beaconsfield Studios as part of my fire authority enforcement duties. When I left the fire service after twenty years, I saw that there was an opening for a health and safety advisor in the film industry and started working with Eon Productions as their in-house health and safety advisor. David Deane Associates Limited was born from this employment and is now employing ten full time safety advisors and in excess of 100 fire safety officers on full and part time contracts.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a health and safety advisor?

They should start doing some of the health and safety courses offered by Creative Skillset. They also need very good interpersonal skills and need to be thick skinned - we tend to attract a lot of abuse in this job. Also, practical on the job two week safety awareness courses are available to all from David Deane Associates.

Creative Skillset has worked with film and television industries to create the Health and Safety Framework, an agreement across sectors about which qualifications or training courses are needed for priority production roles. Find out more about the Health and Safety Framework here.

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