'Walking Dead' Production Company Fined for "Serious" Citation Over Stuntman's Death
OSHA issued the maximum fine allowable, citing the company's "failure to provide adequate protection from fall hazards," following its investigation into John Bernecker's death.
Following the death of 33-year-old Walking Dead stuntman John Bernecker in July 2017, OSHA has imposed the maximum fine allowable in the citation's category against the show's production company, Stalwart Films LLC. The stuntman fell more than 20 feet on the Georgia set of the show July 12.
OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, issued a "serious" citation "for the company’s failure to provide adequate protection from fall hazards" following its investigation into Bernecker's death. The fine for the citation is $12,675.
According to its website, the majority of OSHA citations are listed as "serious," as opposed to "willfull" or "repeat" violations, which are considered more serious.
“This tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for the entertainment industry,” said OSHA Atlanta regional administrator Kurt Petermeyer in a statement. “The entire industry needs to commit to safety practices for actors and stunt people involved in this type of work.”
The company now has 15 business days to comply or contest the findings.
In response to the fine, Stalwart Films LLC released the following statement, obtained by THR: "This was a tragic and terrible accident. We take the safety of our employees extremely seriously on all of our sets and comply with — and frequently exceed — industry safety standards. We disagree with the issuance of this citation and are considering our response.”
In addition to OSHA's investigation, SAG-AFTRA announced at the time it was looking into the matter as well.
According to a sheriff's report issue following the incident, it took almost a half-hour for the medevac to reach Bernecker. The report also stated that prior to his fall, Bernecker had told an actor that he had done “a few” high fall stunts before, but “never this high up” and, per the report, he seemed nervous beforehand.
Bernecker was supposed to fall off of a balcony and onto the collection of pads, boxes and PortaPit pads below, but he missed them by inches. Production on The Walking Dead was halted following his death, but resumed days later on July 17.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, arts, entertainment and recreation is the 12th most dangerous industry in Georgia, with 5.3 nonfatal injuries and illnesses for every 100 workers in 2015, the most recent year with data available. The California rate was 4.6 per hundred.
Jan. 5, 3:57 p.m. Updated to clarify the different types of citations; added Stalwart Films LLC statement.