Rust producers appeal findings that crew didn't follow safety protocol

Rust film producers launch an appeal against safety agency’s finding that they ‘knew firearm safety procedures were not being followed on set’ and say it’s ‘out of its depth’ after Alec Baldwin shot dead Halyna Hutchins

  • Rust Movie Productions challenged a report by the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau finding numerous firearm safety violations
  • In their report, officials cited a slew of ‘willful and serious’ violations that led them to their decision and slammed brass for failing to follow safety guidelines 
  • The company argued Tuesday that the agency is unequipped to make determinations of safety violations on movie sets
  • The producers were ordered to pay the sum by New Mexico safety regulars for safety failures after death of Halyna Hutchins
  • The cinematographer was fatally shot in October by Alec Baldwin

The production company of the ill-fated Rust film is challenging a New Mexico safety agency’s findings that found producers ‘knew that firearm safety procedures were not being followed on set’ of an accidental shooting – and are accusing the agency of being ‘out of its depth.’

Rust Movie Productions filed a notice of contest Tuesday arguing the New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau is unequipped to make determinations of safety violations on movie sets.

‘The supposed ‘fire extinguisher’ NMED claims should have been inspected and maintained is not a real fire extinguisher – it is a special effects device used to create fake smoke,’ according to the motion. ‘The attempt to extend the application of a fire extinguisher regulation to a special effects device shows their misunderstanding of the film industry.’

The OHSB released a report in April citing a slew of ‘willful and serious’ safety violations following a six-month investigation into the circumstances leading up to the accidental October shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza. 

Following the report, Rust Movie Productions was fined $136,793, the maximum allowable by state law in New Mexico.

A vehicle from the Office of the Medical Investigator enters the front gate leading to the Bonanza Creek Ranch on October 22, 2021 in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Rust Movie Productions filed a notice of contest on Tuesday arguing that the New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau is unequipped to make determinations of safety violations on movie sets

Alec Baldwin and Halyna Hutchins, along with other cast, are pictured on the Rust set in October. Baldwin and other producers of the film have been ordered to pay $136,793 by New Mexico safety regulators for failures that led to the shooting of the cinematographer

 In the April report, officials noted that while the film industry has ‘clear national guidelines’ for firearms safety, Rust Movie Productions ‘failed to follow these guidelines or take other effective measures to protect workers’.

The guidelines require live ammunition ‘never to be used nor brought onto any studio lot or stage’ and that safety meetings take place every day when firearms are being handled.

They also requires that employees ‘refrain from pointing a firearm at anyone’ except after consultation with senior figures such as the armorer.

But the report concludes: ‘By failing to follow these practices, an avoidable loss of life occurred.’

Hutchins, 42, was shot and killed on set by Baldwin on October 21, after the actor fired a prop gun that inexplicably contained live ammunition in her direction while practicing for a scene

Alec Baldwin speaks on the phone in the parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in Santa Fe after he was questioned about the shooting on the set of the film Rust

Rust Movie Productions said in a filing on Tuesday that it wasn’t the employer responsible for supervising the film set.

‘The law properly permits producers to delegate such critical functions as firearm safety to experts in that field and does not place such responsibility on producers whose expertise is in arranging financing and contracting for the logistics of filming,’ the filing reads.

Rust Movie Productions says it enforced all safety protocols on set.

‘The first was not a misfire at all and did not involve a firearm – it was a harmless noise from a special effects ‘popper.’ The other two involved discharges of blank rounds. Contrary to NMED’s statements, none of the ‘misfires’ violated firearm safety protocols on the set and appropriate corrective actions were taken, including safety briefings of cast and crew.’

Baldwin’s lawyers say they are ‘grateful’ to the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau, saying the report ‘exonerates’ the actor

Alec Baldwin said Wednesday that a report released by New Mexico safety regulators slamming Rust producers as responsible for the accidental shooting death of a staffer on the film’s set last year, has seen him ‘exonerated’ – despite serving on the unfinished film’s production team himself. Pictured is the Wednesday statement from the actor

Following the April report, Baldwin’s lawyers say they are ‘grateful’ to the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau, saying the report ‘exonerates’ the actor.

A statement from Baldwin’s lawyers, posted by the actor on Twitter, said: ‘We are grateful to the New Mexico occupational health and safety bureau for investigating this matter.

It comes as the Hollywood actor continues to fight a number of lawsuits stemming from the incident.

Cases are being brought by script supervisor Mamie Mitchell, head of lighting Serge Svetnoy and Hutchins’ family.

As well as Baldwin, two of the lawsuits name nearly two dozen defendants associated with the film, including Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who was in charge of weapons on the set.

The Bonanza Creek Ranch, where the film ‘Rust’ was being filmed, appears in Santa Fe on Oct. 23, 2021. On Wednesday, New Mexico workplace safety regulators issued the maximum possible fine against a film production company for firearms safety failures on the set of ‘Rust’ where a cinematographer was fatally shot in October 2021 by actor and producer Alec Baldwin

Lawyers for Gutierrez Reed said the report also showed that the armourer was ‘not provided adequate time or resources to conduct her job effectively, despite her voiced concerns’.

‘Critically, OSHA also determined that production failed to call Hannah in to perform her armorer duties and inspect the firearm right before its use in the impromptu scene with Baldwin,’ they said in a statement.

‘As we have stated before, had anyone from production called Hannah back into the church before the scene to consult with her, this tragedy would have been prevented.

‘Hannah has also reached out to OSHA recently in an effort to provide her suggestions for changes and improvement of safety standards on sets to avoid a tragic incident in the future.’

Environment cabinet secretary James Kenney said: ‘Our investigation found that this tragic incident never would have happened if Rust Movie Productions, LLC had followed national film industry standards for firearm safety.

‘This is a complete failure of the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe.

‘Employees should speak up about unsafe workplace conditions or report them anonymously to us.’

Robert Genoway, chief of the New Mexico environment department’s occupational health and safety bureau, said: ‘As a reminder, it is illegal for any employer to retaliate against any employee who alleges a workplace safety violation.’

The bureau said the investigation involved 1,560 hours of staff time, 14 interviews and review of 566 documents.

In the wake of the shooting, production on Rust was halted indefinitely while authorities investigated.

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