Exclusive – Safety is Our Middle Name

If you have ever been on a film set or to a live event, you might not notice but there is a constant struggle going on under your radar. The battle between safety and injury is a constant work in progress. If you travel to and from an event without injury, it’s because somebody did their job properly.  Safety measures have been put in place to eliminate risk to the audience and the performers. On a film set, there are multiple departments with dozens of people micro tasking to create a big picture. The risk for injury is always present and safety always comes first, however people continue to succumb to injury and sometimes death.


It’s not always easy to predict what can go wrong until it happens. Safety is always being tweaked to adjust for new situations and procedures. With new chapters being added to the playbook annually, surely someone must be leading the charge in universal safety. Luckily for those working in the Live Events or Motion Picture Industry, there is. The Actsafe Safety Association has created a model of safety that raises the bar and changes the game. Being injury free and curious how to stay that way I reached out to Don Parman – Performing Arts Industry Advisor. He is the interim executive director of Actsafe for the past 2 years but has been involved with the program for over 10 years.


Although they primarily focus on the safety of working on live sets, all of the resources they build into the motion picture sector, they adapt to the live theatre/performing arts industry as well.


“Is there a hotline someone can call if they don’t feel safe on a set?”

“There is a studio production hotline on our website www.actsafe.ca There’s also individual studio hotlines as well. You can find a list of them also on our website. You can generally find them on any call-sheet listed at the top.”


“How do you go about tabulating/determining the highest reoccurrence of injuries?”

“We have access to work-safe statistics but they tend to be a full year back. We also take into account what we receive from our stakeholders. We have a Motion Picture Standing Committee, which has representatives from the workers and employers. When they come, they bring many issues with them because most of their problems happen in real time and the work-safe process may not be fast enough. They’ll tell us what’s happening in the area of their industry. It’s accumulated through anecdotal information coming from the industry and from statistics we gather through Work Safe BC.


“It sounds like you have quite a team behind you.”

“We do. There are seven full time staff here. Everyone brings a unique set of skills to the table. I represent the Live Event side and our manager Anand Kanna represents the Motion Picture side. We have a communications coordinator as well as an analytics manager that gathers data. We have a front end staff as well that manages our online system as well as our star system, which is our record keeping program.”


“How is the Actsafe Safety Association financed?”

“We are a non-profit and financed through a combination of funds collected through our programs and services that we offer, as well as a levy that is judicated through Work-Safe BC.”


“Do you also cover concert events?”

“I do get involved with them and we are an available resource. Having worked along side them with touring managers in the past, I’ve tried to stay in touch with most of the major venues in town as well.”


“Hypothetically, I’m holding a day job on a big movie set in town. How do I become aware of the safety measures/policies that your organization has already established to protect me?”

“We do a combination of things. The employers are all aware of them because they sit on the committee; as well the union also has representation on the committee. We’ll get a call and go out to a site to provide training; ATB training, propane and safety training. We’ll also attend events where they’ll be present in order to build relationships. Prevention week is a great time for us to focus on narrowing down how to get content to their workers. All of the unions have been very supportive in promoting us through their websites and their social media. We all work together to be as efficient as possible to get to the workers.”   


“Considering you do work through many unions, how does that translate when US companies come to town?”

“Most of them will work through the local union chapters. Generally, the people that do come up from the US are usually in management positions or higher up or they’re specific designers, which don’t necessarily fall into those union categories. In saying that, we have a great relationship with the US Contract Services in Los Angeles and we share all our educational materials, making them aware of what we’re doing up here. When they do come up, they’ll quite often have some of the information already. Every company will receive an introductory package from us regardless of whether they’re American or Canadian, which will include all things different when filming in BC.”


“Is this information only available to union backed films?”

“Not at all. One of our increased focuses in 2019 will be getting to more Independent studios and producers as well as some of the fringe groups and documentary filmmakers. Some people are harder to get to because they don’t have studio or union representation.”


“Being that this is the 20th anniversary for Actsafe Safety Association, how have the campaigns changed from its inception to now?”

“In the early days it was a lot of work around just recognizing that there were any responsibilities on the safety front for the employers. It was introducing things like first-aid assessment and whether or not they needed to have a safety program and what the building blocks were for that. It’s really come light years in those 20 years. If you just look at the last 10 years, you wouldn’t have seen every crewmember at Rogers Arena wearing a vest, hard-hat and steel toes. It’s all due to all the work through the unions and us and our partnerships with organizations like Work Safe BC to get the message out there and getting employers on site. It’s made a huge difference and I think the biggest asset from the work we’ve done is the relationship in being able to talk about where the hazards are and being able to deal with them in a more timely fashion.”


“Do the safety campaigns only run for a week per year?”

“To be honest, this is the first time we’ve done this one. We’re trying out a new digital platform and always experimenting. It can sometimes be difficult for studios and shows because they’re all over the map.  I think we currently have 50 productions running on the Motion Picture and Television side. They’re in the studio one day and on location the next. We’re always finding better ways to get to them. We always have to adjust because we’re a very different industry to a lot of others. This is a new endeavor and there’s probably going to be a new one next year as well as an outreach piece to get to the studios. On the live event side we’ve created a conference that is going into it’s third year in March. Workers are so spread across the province, we’ve put a conference together for them to come to us. We can deliver a lot of information in a shorter period of time. We try to remain agile and employ flexible people because live events are happening on weekends and it’s difficult to plan anything. The digital format is great because it gives the studios and employers a resource they can put to their workers that’s very easy and mobile.”


“Is it safe to say that your Actsafe Safety Association is one of the few lifelines available to crew members working in Live Events or Motion Picture?”

“When we talk about reporting, Work Safe BC and the Studio Safety hotline are the two main ones. We don’t have the resources for a reporting line but as far as health and safety specifically for these industries we’re the only one in N. America. There’s nobody else like us.  We’ve kind of become a model for other places and do get many requests from other provinces and jurisdictions wanting to recreate our model. To the best of my knowledge there’s maybe 6 people in the entire country doing what I do.  Specifically with health and safety working in the live event industry; we’re a unique animal.”


“Have you compared your model against other provinces?”

We try to make our content and resources shareable because safety is safety and if we can help others we will. I work with a couple other organizations that I’ve delivered workshops for and spoken in seven provinces, partly to help educate people and show them different ways to do things on the safety front. We have people grabbing our content from our pdf’s all over the world and I’ve even sent a package to a friend of mine in Japan. I really enjoy it along with spreading the word. It’s been very rewarding.”


This year’s Back Here, Safety Matters campaign, shines a light on preventable truck related injuries with the goal of changing how both the employers and workers approach safety around vehicles. Vehicles and working surfaces are the source of 33.2% of injuries in the motion picture, commercial and television industries, Actsafe hopes to shift the behavior of workers, supervisors, employers and equipment workers to reduce preventable truck-related injuries.

In addition, there is a Burnaby conference on March 7 and 8. There are also pre- conference workshops available 2 days before with a possible symposium on the following Saturday that will focus on a few other organizations that will be added and will be carrying on with their own work.

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