Snowpiercer producers ordered to beef up extreme heat plan after crew members fall ill on B.C. set

·2 min read
From left, Jennifer Connelly, Mike O'Malley and Daveed Diggs star in Snowpiercer, which is currently filming its fourth season in B.C. (TM & Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. - image credit)
From left, Jennifer Connelly, Mike O'Malley and Daveed Diggs star in Snowpiercer, which is currently filming its fourth season in B.C. (TM & Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. - image credit)

After several actors and crew members on the B.C. set of the TV show Snowpiercer needed medical attention during the latest heat wave, a workplace safety inspector has ordered producers to make a number of changes to their plans for dealing with extreme heat.

WorkSafeBC was called to the Pitt Meadows set of the TNT show when multiple workers "fell ill and sought medical aid due to overexposure to heat" on July 28, occupational hygiene officer Jackie Law wrote in her inspection report.

Some of those workers needed to be treated in hospital, according to the B.C. chapter of the Director's Guild of Canada (DGC), one of the unions that represents crew members on the set.

Law found a handful of problems with the production's risk assessment for extreme heat, including not accounting for long-sleeved costumes or radiant heat from filming outside, failing to monitor and record heat and humidity every hour, and not identifying the most vulnerable workers, including those who spend more time in the sun or have more physical jobs.

"The employer must conduct a heat stress assessment to determine the potential for hazardous exposure of workers, using measures and methods that are acceptable to the board. The employer shall address the observed deficiencies," Law wrote in her order.

In an email to CBC, production company Tomorrow Studios confirmed the shoot was wrapped early "out of an abundance of caution" when workers started falling ill in the heat and was suspended again the next day.

"The health and well-being of show cast and crew remain top priority," a spokesperson said.

More extreme heat events 'an unfortunate reality'

Snowpiercer, a post-apocalyptic drama starring Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs, is currently filming its fourth season.

About 276 workers were on location last week at a rural address north of Pitt Meadows when actors, location crew and first aid staff started feeling sick, the WorkSafeBC report says.

According to Environment Canada, the temperature in Pitt Meadows hit a high of 34.2 C on July 28.

A spokesperson for DGC B.C. said the union is also looking into what happened on set.

"It is an unfortunate reality that extreme heat events are becoming increasingly frequent, impacting many workplaces, including film sets," they wrote in an email.

"It is essential that if workers are exposed to conditions which could cause heat stress, that employers create and implement effective exposure control plans to keep workers safe."

Though WorkSafeBC did find problems with the production's heat safety plan, the inspection report notes that there were cooling tents and water stations on set, along with three registered nurses and multiple first aid attendants.

After last week's incident, the production team has brought in new measures, including hourly monitoring of heat and humidity, 15-30 minute breaks every hour and a requirement for staff to wear hats on hot days, the inspection report says.

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