Vigilant EHS Blog

The goal of this blog is to share and contribute to the discussions around issues currently facing our business world - focused on the environment, health and safety. I hope you find it informative and engaging. If you have any comments, concerns or ideas for future blogs, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Blog #2 - Return to Work Considerations in The Motion Picture Industry

April 7, 2020

By Eric Busch and Dave Michalski

The COVID-19 pandemic will end, and we will enter the post-pandemic period. For industries across the globe how we return to the “new normal” will vary greatly. In this blog issue we look at what considerations should be taken in preparing to return to work in the television and motion picture industry.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in a post-pandemic period, influenza activity will have returned to levels normally seen for seasonal flu in most countries with adequate surveillance*. Once we have entered this period, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), WHO, Europe CDC and other agencies will begin to roll out guidelines for employers and employees to re-enter public life and the workplace.

The motion picture industry has a challenging road ahead as we look to resume production calendars with a Health and Safety conscience mindset. How do I protect my Cast, Crew and Extras? How do I effectively screen them? How do I manage a normally open workplace with various call times throughout the day, and keep everyone, and the general public, healthy and safe?

Before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and productions were still in full swing, sets and locations were increasingly being closed, allowing essential personal only. We can imagine our return to work will, and should, still see these controls, but we need to consider how we screen Essential Personal before allowing them back on set. Current policy for Essential Businesses working through the pandemic involve passive screening, active screening or both. Productions and studios have to consider if these screening measures are enough, and how to apply them to everyone when our workforce is fluid throughout the day.

The motion picture industry does not have the luxury of continuing to allow its employees to work from home. Yes, writers can collaborate in a work-from-home environment and department heads can hold virtual meetings to plan the execution of shooting necessary scenes, but at some point, we have to be in close-contact with others. What does daily production look like post-COVID-19?
Here is a short list of considerations before returning to work:

Do we need to limit the size of the crew on set to maintain social distancing?
  • Can cast, crew and extras be divided by task and location, or sub-divided – think working trucks, staging, holding or prep areas.
  • What supplies will be needed to allow for this?

Do we have the proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and enough supplies to equip everyone? These include: Masks (Surgical? N95? Cloth/cotton?)
  • Non-Latex gloves
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Alcohol wipes

How will we protect our workers at higher risk for severe illness due to COVID-19?

What happens if we must send someone home that is either showing symptoms or ignoring safety protocol? What if that person is critical to the day’s schedule, i.e. director, lead actor, etc.?

If using active screening – how is that done on location? What evidence do we have that people were screened and approved to work?

How will we ensure that base camp and craft services are sanitized and safe?

These questions, and many more as this situation evolves, need to be addressed before we return to work. With every answer a new question will emerge. Although, we don’t need to have all the answers right now, we will need to start the conversation, the planning, and understand what questions need to be considered.

We are all making decisions based upon the best, most reliable information available from the CDC and WHO. Each day experts learn a little more about COVID-19 which continues to shape our plan. If you would like additional information or need assistance with your business resumption plans, please contact us here.

*World Health Organization:
March 24, 2020 : Blog #1 - COVID-19: When to Discontinue Isolation?