‘Rust’ production company fined for fatal on-set shooting

‘Rust’ production company fined for fatal on-set shooting

The production company behind the movie “Rust” was fined the maximum amount allowed under New Mexico law Wednesday for not following safety protocols on set.

Details of an investigation by the New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau determined that managers with Rust Movie Productions, LLC knew that firearm safety procedures were not being followed on set, and that the company “demonstrated plain indifference to employee safety by failing to review work practices and take corrective action.”

The company was cited with a “Willful-Serious” citation and fined $136,793, the highest level of citation and maximum fine allowed in New Mexico.

The report found the production company failed to follow guidelines that require that daily safety meetings take place whenever firearms are being handled, that actors and other employees on set “refrain from pointing a firearm at anyone” without first consulting safety representatives and that live ammunition is “never to be used nor brought onto any studio lot or stage.”

“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,” OHSB Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said. “This is a complete failure of the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe.”

Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot and killed on Oct. 21, 2021 during a rehearsal on the set of the Western film at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe County. Actor and producer Alec Baldwin discharged a replica Colt pistol and 42-year-old Hutchins was struck by a projectile.

Criminal investigations are still being conducted by First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.

The report stated the production company “did not provide staff responsible for ensuring firearms safety with sufficient time to inspect ammunition received to ensure that no live rounds were present,” and detailed other incidents where safety protocols were not followed, including two “misfires” on set on Oct. 16, 2021.

The first misfire happened when a blank round fired as a woman finished loading a .45-caliber revolver that was aimed at the ground. During the second misfire, a stunt double for Alec Baldwin was holding a lever-action rifle when it fired. He told others on set that “it just went off,” according to the report.

The production company “disregarded or otherwise did not follow-up, ask questions, or try to understand what happened when employees notified management about the misfire incidents and not feeling safe on set,” the report stated.

Under federal requirements, Rust Movie Productions, LLC has 15 business days to either pay the penalty and provide OHSB with certification of corrective action, or to contest the citation with the Occupational Health and Safety Review Commission.

Chile Street News stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution, and link to our web site. View our full republishing guideline here.