The Memo: Crew members injured in explosion on Gladiator 2 film set

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Gladiator 2 filming accident: Who’s at fault and what’s the law?

Alice Gregory – 19 June 2023

Seven crew members were recently injured on the set of Gladiator 2 when an explosion took place during a planned stunt sequence. Although the injuries weren’t life-threatening, six were treated for burns and four had to stay in hospital. Paramount Pictures, the film’s production company, has said that those injured were able to receive swift treatment and are in ‘stable condition’. The company also assured the public that it has strict health and safety measures in place on all its films.

In the UK, there are strict regulations that film producers have to stick to in order to prevent accidents like this on set. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 are key pieces of legislation that all employers – including film productions – must follow. These stipulate that employers should take reasonable steps to ensure health and safety and control risks. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that, on a film set, the responsibility for monitoring risks is given to the producer, who is legally required to carry out risk assessments for any potentially dangerous stunts. There should be clear and regular communication between stunt coordinators, producers, directors and anyone else involved in the production of hazardous action sequences.

But if you boil it down to its most simple terms, this is an accident at work – the realm of personal injury lawyers. Those affected can make a personal injury claim against their employer who, in this case, would be the production company. The injured person (i.e., the claimant) can negotiate and settle compensation with their employer (i.e., the defendant) without going to trial. However, if the defendant doesn’t reply or correspondence breaks down, this can escalate to civil litigation. Claimants are advised to seek medical help as soon as possible after the accident and gather plenty of evidence to build a case, and defendants may have to pay general and special damages. General damages compensate for physical and/or mental pain and suffering from an injury, while special damages cover costs such as loss of earnings, medical treatment and other out-of-pocket expenses.

Employers can also face criminal penalties from a local authority or regulator, such as the HSE. Neglecting to comply with workplace regulations is a criminal offence for which employers can be prosecuted. Fortunately, the Gladiator 2 injuries weren’t life-threatening, but workplace fatalities lead to further criminal investigations, as seen in recent news with the shooting of Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust. In the UK, health and safety negligence and a breach of duty of care can lead to prosecutions for individual or corporate manslaughter, depending on who is found to be at fault.