Job title: Health and safety advisor
David Deane is a health and safety advisor and founder of David Deane Associates Ltd (DDA). He has provided fire and safety advice for blockbuster explosions in films including Thor: The Dark World, Skyfall, and Jack Ryan.
Describe your job in your own words
We’re there to advise on the safety and welfare of all personnel working on a production and, also, members of the public who might 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 20 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 advise 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 filmmakers. 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 industry?
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 20 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 was born from this employment.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
They should start doing some health and safety courses. They also need very good interpersonal skills and need to be thick-skinned - we tend to attract a lot of abuse in this job. Practical on-the-job two-week safety awareness courses are available to all from David Deane Associates.