£1.6m fine for firm over door crush that injured Harrison Ford on Star Wars set
A film production company has been fined £1.6 million for health and safety breaches after Harrison Ford was crushed by a hydraulic door on the set of the Millennium Falcon spaceship while filming a Star Wars movie.
Foodles Production (UK) Ltd was handed the penalty at Aylesbury Crown Court on Wednesday after the Disney-owned company admitted two breaches of health and safety law following the incident, in which Ford was knocked to the ground and pinned down by the steel door.
The Hollywood superstar was reprising his role as Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire on June 12 2014 when he was hit by the door, which had been designed to mimic the action of a door on the original set.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the power of the rapidly-closing door meant Ford was hit with a force comparable to the weight of a small car and he could have been killed.
Judge Francis Sheridan said the firm's "most serious breach" was its failure to communicate its risk assessment to Ford.
He said: "The greatest failing of all on behalf of the company is a lack of communication, a lack because, if you have a risk assessment and you do not communicate it, what is the point of having one?
"If only they had included Mr Ford in all the discussions, he might have at least been alert to the dangers that he had to avoid."
Earlier, prosecutor Andrew Marshall said Ford had gone through the door on the Millennium Falcon set with another actor and hit a button during a second dress rehearsal.
He started to walk back through the door, believing the set was not live and that it would not close because it had not done so during previous rehearsals.
The 1.2 metre by two metre door was designed to be remotely closed by a special effects operator, who shut it upon a signal from a spotter.
It acted like a "blunt guillotine", coming down "millimetres from his face" as the star passed underneath, pinning him by the pelvis to the ground.
Staff reacted quickly to engage an emergency stop button but as the door took just 1.6 seconds to close fully, they were not quick enough to prevent it coming down with "enormous" force and stopping about eight inches from the ground, Mr Marshall said.
In sentencing, Judge Sheridan said the remote operation of the door by someone who could not see the actor was a "crazy approach" to health and safety.
"Had the wrong button been pressed it would have continued to crush down on Mr Harrison Ford. It's just incredible that so much was left to chance."
He said it was "deplorable" that the door relied upon human intervention to stop it from closing and should have had an automatic emergency cut off installed.
Ford, then 71, needed surgery to screw together the fractured tibia and fibula bones in his left leg and plastic surgery on a "deep laceration" to his left hand.
Mr Marshall said the door was "capable of killing one or possibly two people".
He added: "The risk was foreseeable - it was significant and dangerous."
Reading part of Ford's statement to the court, Mr Marshall said: "The protocol was not followed and the scene was done differently to how it would be if it was to be closed."
The actor talked about the incident during an appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show, saying that in the original film a door would have been closed with a pulley and a stage hand, adding: "But now we had lots of money and technology and so they built a f****** great hydraulic door which closed at light speed."
Ford received a compensation settlement from the firm, which the judge said he was going to assume was "large" as a result of Ford's "very serious" injuries.
Charles Gibson QC, defending, admitted there was a "failure in communication" between the production team and Ford.
But he said that Joonas Suotamo, who was playing the wookie Chewbacca, had said in his statement he had been aware the door was going the close.
He added it was the only incident during the production and the special effects team had decades of experience in film-making between them.
He argued the firm's culpability was in the medium category as there had been a risk assessment and safety plans in place.
"This was an innocent mistake by bona fide professionals," he said.
"Lessons were learned. The good health and safety record of this production continued to the end."
Foodles pleaded guilty at a hearing in July to one count under section two of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which related to a breach of duty in relation to employees, and a second under section three, a breach over people not employed by the company.
Two further charges, under Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and one under Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 were both withdrawn as the facts were incorporated into the two admitted breaches.
Mr Marshall said Foodles Production (UK) Ltd was a large company that had been created for the sole purpose of making The Force Awakens and had not made any profit.
"It's a functioning organ of the body but it's not the body itself - it cannot survive by itself," he said.
As well as the fine, the company was ordered to pay £20,861 in costs.
Speaking after the hearing, the HSE's divisional director Tim Galloway said: "This incident was foreseeable and preventable and could have resulted in more serious injury or even death.
"The power and speed of the door was such that, had Mr Ford or anyone else had been struck on the head by the door as it closed, they might easily have been killed."
Foodles Production (UK) Ltd said in a statement: "The safety of our cast and crew was always a top priority and we deeply regret this unfortunate on-set accident.
"The Court acknowledged both the additional safety protocols that were immediately implemented, and that it was a very safe production in all other respects."