Health Issues with Excessive Takes and Handheld Recording

The ICG Safety Committee has been reviewing the current research available regarding the potential long-term detrimental health issues (Musculoskeletal Disorders “MSDs”) resulting from using handheld cameras for excessively long takes. These cameras are loaded with many heavy accessories as well as Radio Frequency [“RF”] transmitters operating at close range, and are being used for lengths of time that may create serious long-term health consequences. We feel that productions and other guilds and crew members need to be brought up to speed so they understand the potential health risks involved in extended use of handheld cameras and rigs and can plan in a way that mitigates them.

As more and more Unscripted TV is brought under the IATSE’s jurisdiction, we wanted to make you aware that the Safety Committee will be communicating with productions and other locals regarding the detrimental health effects of recording excessively long takes with heavy handheld cameras, and the prolonged exposure to RF at close ranges.  CSATF has already issued an Awareness Sheet on Extended or Successive Takes, recommending actions to protect the safety and health of crews. Local 600 has issued an FAQ about the use of Radio Frequency devices, which offers suggestions for their safe use. We are also aware that this problem is similarly prevalent in some forms of dramatic and documentary filmmaking when extensive handheld coverage is being used, and we are looking for ways to remedy these issues on all forms of production.

Be on the lookout for a survey where you can assist us by documenting health issues related to this practice, as well as two new trainings that will be made available to our members. The IATSE Training Trust Fund has developed an Ergonomics Training module for use by all IATSE Locals to train their members on the importance of being educated about working with heavy loads. Our Training and Education Committee is also developing a course on the safe use of RF in our work. Please make every effort to take advantage of these resources. We are also considering making Specialized Strength Training available to Operators to help avoid injuries on the job.

The Safety Committee plans to recommend a set of “best practices” governing the use of handheld cameras, and engage the Producer community in a dialogue about their safe use, including staffing and rotation options and more frequent breaks.  We are currently seeking subject matter experts to clearly articulate and demonstrate the specific health ramifications of this practice.  Please keep us in the loop about how you and production are handling these situations on your jobs. Use the Safety App to report conditions, or call a business rep or member of the Safety Committee. We have been collecting confidential testimonials and data regarding these practices. Your feedback and participation in updating and developing educational materials, best practices and safe ways to do this work in the digital environment is essential.

 - The Members of the Local 600 Safety Committee

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