Health And Safety Spotlight: Wellbeing and Working Hours

Published On: June 24, 2024Categories: Health & Safety, Media

CJ Brown is RiskPal’s Health & Safety Advisor. One key reason we decided to host a panel on “Improving Working Practices in Television” is due to the insights CJ gains from his daily interactions with TV operations. His extensive experience in the industry allows him to identify common challenges and areas for improvement, making him a valuable resource for enhancing safety and efficiency in television production.

CJ Brown, RiskPal Heath & Safety Advisor

CJ is RiskPal’s Health & Safety Guardian Angel. He offers expert advice to and is frequently embedded with RiskPal’s clients. He specialises in refining our client’s risk assessment processes, which are frequently a challenge for them. CJ guides clients through every aspect, from policies and systems of work to building infrastructure and fire safety.

Health and Safety in TV Productions

CJ explains that he feels the key safety concern in television is long working hours.

“I spent a lot of years working on sports production for TV, and it involves incredibly long days”, CJ says. “People are travelling to venues often far away from their homes. They have to set up, check the equipment and sometimes stand around for hours waiting for the event to begin. The event itself can be really intense and exhausting. Afterward, there is the de-rig, where we take apart the kit and box it up. Then, after all that, there is the drive home. It could be a 16 or even 18-hour day, travel time included.”

Member of a TV crew holding a camera filming an event

Production teams are working incredibly long hours, performing tasks that require concentration and physical exertion.During the job, everyone runs on adrenaline, but after the adrenaline fades is often when accidents can happen. De-riging can be particularly dangerous because people are tired and just want to get home.

“It would sometimes be a mad scramble. There would be cables flying around and tripping hazards everywhere. I was once on a job where someone got whipped in the face by a cable, leaving a bruise next to their eye. We were lucky – it could have been a lot worse.” 

The drive home can be especially dangerous and is seldomly considered in the risk assessment even though TV crews are known to have had accidents on the commute.

CJ is passionate about capturing great experiences – but doing so safely. Scroll down to read our full interview with CJ.

What advice do you have for companies who are approaching risk assessment for the first time?

CJ: Remembering that it’s absolutely essential, particularly on the de-rig. Companies must establish safe systems of work and then give their teams the space to do so. Risk assessment responsibilities must be delegated down. It needs to start at the top and be instilled within the team.

Also, advice to those at the top is to check your people! It’s one thing having a risk assessment in place, it’s another to make sure it’s being followed, and that responsibility falls onto the employer. You must make sure your people are compliant.

How do you suggest that companies address the issue of reduced staff in TV productions while ensuring that the welfare of the remaining crew members is not compromised?

CJ: Again, it comes down to checking on your people. That might be people like technical managers who, because of the amount of new tech there is now, are expected to be checking on so many different things and wearing different hats. It might also be freelancers and the amount of work they are accepting. All in all, we need to be sure not to overload people. 

One thing to also consider is lessening continuous working days. Production is very intense and highly involved, so ensuring people have stints of that hard work followed by breaks is vital.

Directors and companies often like having specific people for their jobs because they know them and trust their output. However, those Directors and companies need to realise that they can have someone else working the job and trust in the output there too. 

Do you think employees have a responsibility to protect their own welfare at work?

CJ: Yes, but legally, it comes down to the employer. Individuals have the responsibility to know and set their boundaries. There’s no point in working yourself to the point of exhaustion.

I would encourage employees to raise concerns as soon as they come up, but that’s a tricky thing to encourage, particularly for freelancers who are far less likely to do this.

Generally speaking, staff are well managed, and companies will support them correctly. Freelancers, on the other hand, are less likely to turn down work because they don’t know when their next job is coming.

This also involves booking coordinators, who need to be aware of freelancers’ recent work arrangements and make reasonable judgements about whether it’s appropriate for them to be working a job.

Do you think staff or freelancers are more at risk?

CJ: Definitely freelancers. There is less work for the people out there at the moment, so people will protect their work and their clients and they don’t want to say no.

Do you think the biggest compromises on production teams’ safety come down to exhaustion?

CJ: Yes. The long working hours and the need for fewer people to do more work mean people are exhausted. When you are exhausted, your concentration falls, you are less aware, and therefore, you are more at risk.

At RiskPal, we empower safety and security leaders to drive safety engagement within their organisation. RiskPal is a risk assessment software helping you create, manage, and retain your risk assessments. We are dedicated to making safety simple and compliance straight forward. Reach out if you have any questions or need assistance in enhancing your safety and risk management processes.

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