‘Rust' production fined over gun safety failure in Halyna Hutchins death

Civil penalty is highest level of citation and maximum fine under New Mexico state law.

By Jeremy Kay 21 Apr 2022

‘Rust' production fined over gun safety failure in Halyna Hutchins death

The New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau (OHSB) has fined the Rust production $136,793 after it failed to follow firearm safety guidelines on the day cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot.

The OHSB said in its report that Rust Movie Productions LLC management knew that safety procedures were not being followed on set at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe and “demonstrated plain indifference to employee safety by failing to review work practices and take corrective action”.

The report comes after Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun containing live ammunition during a rehearsed move on October 21 2021. Hutchins was rushed to hospital after she was hit and died later that day.

The civil penalty is the highest level of citation and maximum fine under state law in New Mexico.

The report noted that despite film industry guidelines on firearms safety Rust Movie Productions LLC failed to follow them or take effective measures to protect workers. The guidelines contained in the industry wide labour-management safety committee’s safety bulletin #1 require that live ammunition is never brought to any studio or stage; daily safety meetings when firearms are being handled; and that employees do not point a firearm at anybody except after consultation with the props master, armourer or other safety representative such as the first assistant director.

“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,” said environment cabinet secretary James Kenney. “This is a complete failure of the employer to follow recognised national protocols that keep employees safe.”

Following the announcement, the lawyers for Rust armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed issued a statement in which it said the OHSB report vindicated their client.

“After OSHA’s very comprehensive safety investigation involving numerous interviews and review of documents, it has concluded that production willfully failed to follow national gun safety standards, which caused this tragedy,” lawyers Jason Bowles and Todd J. Bullion said.

“OSHA found that Hannah Gutierrez Reed 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 armourer duties and inspect the firearm right before its use in the impromptu scene with Baldwin.

“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.”

Sante Fe County Sheriff’s Office and Santa Fe County District Attorney continued to investigate the matter and no charges had been brought at time of writing.

This article originally appeared on our sister site ScreenDaily.

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