How to meet health and safety guidelines when filming with dangerous props or replica weaponry

Well. First things first is to find out what the laws are regarding your weapon or prop. Gun laws are different to weapon laws. Same goes for pyrotechnics. You also have to have a risk assessment done. This is a legal requirement by law and also for insurance purposes.

Main thing is to have a secure place to put anything that’s dangerous. Most film studios will have a cupboard specifically for this reason. On location or places that don’t have this facility is a little trickier. A secure lock box is useful to have, depending on what it is a car boot (locked) may suffice in a pinch though not preferred but that entirely depends on what you’re storing.

Any guns or weapons need to have an armourer on hand or someone properly authorised to use them with the correct training and knowledge. This is a legal requirement. You also have to let the police in the area know you will be firing shots. This is so you don’t get armed response units swarming your set and won’t get done for breaching the peace amongst other things. Any guns should not be left unattended. They should be taken from anyone not trained to use them straight away after a take to minimise accidents.

Always, ALWAYS have someone properly trained on set to monitor the use of the weapons at any time. Always have a first aider to hand just in case. And anyone handling these props/weapons needs training to know what to do with them and what not to do. If they can’t handle a basic safety talk then they shouldn’t be anywhere near anything remotely dangerous.

If anyone starts messing around, then kick them off set immediately and don’t let them back. No second chances when it comes to weapons. It’s not only them they might hurt but the rest of the cast and crew.

I seriously can’t stress that enough.

Any bladed weaponry has to be blunted. Doesn’t matter what or how small it is. It has to be blunt. Even if it’s plastic it should be locked away because it might not necessarily look plastic from a distance and someone messing around could easily cause a lot of trouble, especially if you’re filming in a busy, public place. This also applies to plastic guns. And should also be locked away straight after a take. The only time a weapon can be sharp is if there is a specific scene requiring a cutting action but the tip has to be blunted still. The can look realistic and still be blunt.

Costumes should be made so they are loose enough for movement and don’t catch. Anything that breaks need to be taken off set immediately and not used again. Any weapons need to be properly made and balanced correctly and should be checked after every take for defects. In a fight scene the weapons should be made of the same material. Steel against steel. Aluminium against aluminium etc.

Projectile weaponry like arrows need to have an area locked off so people don’t wander in and get speared. Cameras should be operated by remote control if possible or arrangements made by someone properly trained to make sure they stay safe.

Smoke bombs aren’t necessarily dangerous in themselves but they can be if someone sets them off in traffic or something, even if it’s an accident. So those should be kept safe too.

Anything to do with pyrotechnics has to have a properly trained pyro-technician dealing with it. Pyro- technics can go wrong in many spectacularly horrible ways. There’s not just the risk of injury but fire, explosions, fire, more fire. You get the point.

Make sure all safety measures are followed such as protection for your ears if firing loud guns. If your ears are ringing, that means your hearing is permanently damaged.

Your risk assessment will tell you of any additional measures that may need to be take such as plastic screens for the crew.

Safety first! You won’t be getting any filming done if someone injures themselves. You may even get shut down if it is a severe injury. It really isn’t worth the risk. Anyone who is not needed on set for that scene should not be on set.

Also, if anything goes missing, that’s on you. Anything that happens after is on you. That could mean you end up in prison doing twenty years.

So.

Keep your gear in a safe secure place when not in use. Having a few trusted people on hand is helpful for making sure nothing goes walkies.

It might seem silly and overcautious but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

It’s mostly common sense but some people are sadly lacking that. At the end of the day you’re the one responsible so you’ll be taking the rap for whatever they do.

As long as you have a properly trained person overseeing the use of weapons, training whoever needs training and safety procedures are followed properly, you will have no problems.