14 October 2016
Harrison Ford’s Millennium Falcon Injury: A Lesson in Duty of Care For Employers
Though the image of Han Solo injured in the Millennium Falcon may conjure a sci-fi scenario, Harrison Ford’s accident on the set of Star Wars is an incident that many businesses may well learn from.
If you’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon, it’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.
In the original films of the 1970s, the Millennium Falcon set consisted of a stage hand and pulley system, but on the modern set of The Force Awakens, a heavy remote-controlled hydraulic door was designed to imitate that of the original spaceship.
Whilst walking on the set with another actor during a dress rehearsal, Ford had not been informed the set was live and, as the set had not been live during previous rehearsals, he pushed a button that was received as a signal to close the door by a remote operator.
Reports suggest that the actor was fortunate to escape with a broken leg and scarring, with the door acting like a “blunt guillotine” as he was crushed.
The company – Foodles Production (UK) Ltd – was fined £1.6 million following legal action after admitting two health and safety breaches, and Ford was also reported to have received a large sum in compensation. For more information on this, see Star Wars Firm Fined £1.6 Million For Harrison Ford Injury
Hollywood and far away galaxies aside, the company had the same duty of care to their employees as any other workplace and these breaches of health and safety led to an accident at work.
There are several ways in which an employer has a duty of care to their employees to ensure the work place environment is safe. This may range from providing safety equipment or machinery to ensuring safety procedures are followed and maintained, and that all employees are aware of the workplace’s health and safety protocol.
Take a quick look at the following video for more information on an employer’s responsibilities when it comes to health and safety at work.
Foodles pleaded guilty at a hearing in July to one count under section two of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which related to a breach of duty in relation to employees, and a second under section three, a breach over people not employed by the company.
Two further charges, under Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and one under Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 were both withdrawn as the facts were incorporated into the two admitted breaches.
This very serious and potentially fatal incident could quite easily have been avoided.
Firstly, the person operating the door really ought to have had sight of Ford and others within the vicinity of the door. Secondly, the actor should have been told that the set was live and that the door would close despite it not doing so in previous rehearsals. Thirdly, there ought to have been an automated emergency stop process for the door.
On the whole the judge was quite right in criticising the production company in such strong terms and the level of the fine shows the serious nature of the health and safety failings.
Accidents at work come in many different forms, and when they cause injury and lead to time off work and a loss of earnings, that is when a person should seek legal advice.
Following an injury at work, often employees are uncertain whether they can bring a claim and whether they should. For further reading on this, see: Frequently Asked Questions After an Accident at Work
Matthew Tomlinson is a senior personal injury solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Sheffield.
For examples of our previous clients’ brighter outcomes, see our legal case studies.
If you have been injured in an accident at work or would like to speak with a personal injury solicitor, call us for a free consultation on 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.