Today in Aylesbury Crown Court, Foodles Production UK (Ltd) were fined £1.6 million in relation to two breaches of heath and safety rules that resulted in the crushing of Harrison Ford’s leg by a hydraulic door.
The 74-year-old actor was knocked to the ground and broke his leg as he was pinned by the heavy door on the set of The Force Awakens some two years ago at Pinewood Studios.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) decided that the strength of the rapidly closing metal-framed door meant Ford was hit with a power comparable to the weight of a small car. They brought a prosecution against the film production company as a result.
Foodles Production (UK) Ltd, which is owned by Disney, admitted at the first opportunity two breaches under Health and Safety law back in July.
Prosecutor, Andrew Marshall, said that Ford had gone through the door with another actor and hit a close button. Apparently rehearsing the scene, he started to walk back through the door, believing the set was not live and that the door would not close. It did, and according to Mr Marshall there was a serious “risk of death.”
Appearing on the UK’s ITV chat show, The Jonathan Ross Show, Ford recounted the incident saying that in 1977 on the original films set that doors were operated by pulleys manually by stage hands, but “now we had lots of money and technology and so they built a f****** great hydraulic door which closed at light speed.”
Foodles pleaded guilty 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.
The Health and Safety Executive released the following statement following today’s verdict:
The makers of Star Wars: The Force Awakens have been sentenced after failing to protect the actors and workers while on set during filming at Pinewood Studio, Slough, Buckinghamshire.
Harrison Ford suffered a broken leg and deep lacerations when he was knocked off his feet and pinned to the floor of the Millennium Falcon set, as a prop door closed on him. HSE’s investigation found that there was no automatic emergency cut off, to protect those on set, instead relying on the reactions of the prop operator(s) to bring the door to a stop.
Aylesbury Crown Court heard how a combination of preventable events, starting with how the door was designed, led to the incident.
During dress rehearsals on the 12 June 2014 Harrison Ford walked back towards the entrance ramp of the Millennium Falcon and pressed the prop door button to ‘close’ the door. As the cameras were not rolling he did not expect it to close. The production crew member who was operating the prop believed they were in full rehearsal and closed the door.
The door’s steel frame was overlaid with sheets of metal and had a tapered edge. It’s operation moved from ceiling to floor in a sharp downward motion. It did not have any automated safety mechanisms to cut out if a person was unexpectedly under the door.
The risk of the door causing a serious injury or death had been highlighted by one of the health and safety officers for the production company. Foodles Production (UK) Ltd should have put a system in place to ensure the actors and production workers were protected. A different design with inbuilt safety features or using a different material could have guarded against any possible miscommunication on a busy film set.
Foodles Production (UK) Ltd, who had pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to Section 2 and Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, were today fined £1.6 million and ordered to pay costs of £20,861.22 at Aylesbury Crown Court.
HSE’s Divisional Director Tim Galloway said: “This incident was foreseeable and preventable and could have resulted in more serious injury or even death.
“The power and speed of the door was such that, had Mr Ford or anyone else had been struck on the head by the door as it closed, they might easily have been killed.
“It was only the almost instantaneous actions of the prop operator in hitting the emergency stop that prevented the door from continuing to press down on Mr Ford as he lay on the floor.
“I think everyone would accept that all the people who work in the film industry have a right to know that the risks they take to entertain us, including when making action movies, are properly managed and controlled.”