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Guideline No. 39: Firearms
Safety Guideline for the Film and Television Industry in Ontario

  • Issued: November 1990
  • Revised: October 2016
  • Content last reviewed: October 2016

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.

Introduction

When firearms are involved in a performance, there is a far greater risk of injury than during normal performance activities. As such, this guideline has been prepared by representatives of the industry on the Ontario Film and Television Section 21 Advisory Committee. The Committee strongly advises both employers and workers to follow this guideline.

General

Given the inherent danger of working with weapons/ammunition/powder, alternatives should always be considered and used wherever possible. An employer has a general duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.

In addition to the OHSA and its regulations, this guideline refers to other legislation. It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with all pertinent federal and provincial laws, municipal by-laws and regulations when using, transporting and handling weapons/ammunition/powder. Please note that for the purpose of this guideline, the words “gun” and “weapon” may be considered interchangeable.

  1. Guns are dangerous and should be treated as loaded at all times.
  2. Live ammunition should never be used.
  3. A gun should not be pointed at anyone, including the user, under any circumstances, including those loaded with blank ammunition.
  4. Never indulge in horseplay while in charge of, or responsible for, any weapon. Pursuant to section 28 (2)(c) of the OHSA, no worker shall engage in any prank, contest, feat of strength, unnecessary running or rough and boisterous conduct.
  5. A “No Smoking” rule should apply to any area where ammunition or powder is stored, and signs to this effect should be posted.
  6. All weapons on a set should be in the care and charge of the designated handler (Weapons Handler) who should be:
    1. in possession of the valid license(s) and certification(s) required pursuant to the Firearms Act and as mandated by the Chief Firearms Officer.
    2. familiar with any weapons being used, and their registration and safety requirements;
    3. familiar with the loading and unloading procedures for such weapons; and
    4. familiar with the applicable laws and regulations concerning the use, handling, transportation and storing of any blank ammunition, powder, etc., which may be required.
  7. Practical weapons should not be used where a replica would suffice.
  8. Only a gun that has been manufactured for theatrical use, and built accordingly by qualified personnel, should be used to fire a charge.
  9. No gun that is to be fired should be altered in any way, unless the alteration is in accordance with all applicable legislation and regulations and has been done by a qualified Gunsmith with the approval of the manufacturer.
  10. No gun should be altered except as described in No. 9.
  11. The Handler is to be responsible for:
    1. Checking weapons before and after each use;
    2. Cleaning the weapons daily;
    3. Keeping a daily inventory of weapons in their care; and
    4. Making sure that any legal requirements regarding the storage and use of weapons and ammunition are complied with at all times. The Firearms Act and its related regulations govern the possession, transport, use and storage of firearms in Canada.
  12. Never fire a gun with dirt, sand or any blockage in the barrel. Never put a weapon down in such a way that dirt or sand might cause blockage.

    In the event of a misfire or jam, no one other than the Handler should attempt any remedy. If the Handler is unsure as to what is causing the problem, the weapon should be taken out of use until such time as the cause can be determined. The weapon should not be used again until the Handler informs the Director or Producer that it is safe to do so.

Handling of guns on set

  1. Any gun brought onto the set should be registered with, and placed in the care of, the Handler.
    1. Any gun not immediately required on set should be secured under lock and key by the Handler.
    2. Guns should be removed from Actors or Stunt People between takes wherever possible and kept in a safe place.
  2. The Handler should be allowed time to fulfill the following:
    1. To discuss with the Directors and Assistant Directors how any weapons might be used in a particular scene;
    2. To point out any safety requirements needed; and
    3. To make sure that any Actor or Stunt Person using the weapons is fully aware of the safety rules for the handling and firing of such weapons. Pursuant to section 25 (2)(a) of the OHSA, an employer shall provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker.

      Note: No crew or other “off camera” personnel should be in the vicinity of a gun being fired without the minimum protection of safety goggles and ear plugs. A shatterproof clear plastic shield should be placed between any camera crew and a fired weapon which is directed toward or in the direction of the camera. Pursuant to section 25 (2)(h) of the OHSA, an employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.
  3. It should be the responsibility of only the Handler to load and unload weapons. If this is unreasonable, e.g., in the case of large numbers, then the Handler may designate assistants to assist, under his or her supervision, the handling, loading and unloading of weapons.

    Note: These assistants should be chosen only by the Handler who should have adequate time to familiarize them with the procedures expected of them and the safe handling of the weapons and ammunition in question. Pursuant to section 25 (2)(a) of the OHSA, an employer shall provide information, instruction and supervision to a worker to protect the health or safety of the worker.
  4. Only the appropriate type of blank ammunition should be used. Ammunition made specifically for theatrical use should be obtained in the correct load for the effect required.
    1. In the event that crimped blanks (sometimes referred to as “acorn” blanks because they look like small acorns) are used they should only be commercially manufactured and never reloaded. When crimped blanks are used consideration should be given to the following safety precautions:
      1. shatterproof clear plastic shield;
      2. eye and ear protection; and
      3. sound blankets over camera, operator and focus puller.
    2. Shot gun popper loads or dog training loads should not be used as they may contain wads that become projectiles and may cause injury. Only those blanks specifically designed for use in motion picture production should be used.
    3. Factory loaded ammunition should never be tampered with.
    4. Any safety guidelines or specifications, laid out in handbooks supplied by the manufacturer of a weapon, should be made known to and must be adhered to by all concerned.
  5. The crew and other personnel on set should be appropriately warned prior to any weapons being fired. Pursuant to section 25 (2)(d) of the OHSA, an employer shall acquaint a worker or a person in authority over a worker with any hazard in the work and in the handling, storage, use, disposal and transport of any article, device, equipment or a biological, chemical or physical agent.
  6. This guideline should be attached to or noted in the safety section of the Call Sheet when a script requires weapons to be fired on set.
  7. If a firearm needs to be fired directly at a camera consideration should be given to locking off the camera. A shatterproof clear plastic shield should be placed in front of the focus puller and a blanket over the camera person.
  8. Any of the firearms that eject a spent casing should be tested to determine the angle of discharge of the spent casing. Make sure all unnecessary people are cleared from the area of the discharge. When actors, cameras or crews must be in the area where casings will be traveling, ensure that they are all at a safe distance or shielded from the firearm. Pursuant to section 25 (2)(h) of the OHSA, an employer shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.
  9. Check with local municipalities to see if there is a requirement for an Emergency Task Force Explosive Disposal Unit (ETF) or similar agency to be present. For example, the Toronto Film Commissioner requires film companies to be supervised by officers of the Public Safety Unit – CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives) as part of the permit to have gun fire.

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Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.