In both Canada and the US, criminal convictions for workplace safety incidents—even those involving fatalities—are rare. Jail sentences under either the criminal or OHS laws are just as uncommon. But a highly publicized death in Georgia recently resulted in criminal convictions for several individuals and a jail sentence for one of them.
On Feb. 20, 2014, Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant, died on the set of an independent film in rural Georgia. She was helping to prepare a shot that involved placing a bed across the tracks of a railroad line when she was hit by a train. Six other workers were injured in the incident.
As a result, three individuals associated with the production were arrested and charged with various crimes. Those cases were recently resolved.
The film’s director, Randall Miller, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass on March 9, 2015. He was sentenced to two years’ jail, eight years on probation and a $20,000 fine. The court also barred him from directing or participating in the physical production of films for a decade.
Jay Sedrish, an executive producer on the move, also pleaded guilty. He was fined and sentenced to 10 years’ probation.
An assistant director, Jillary Schwartz, opted to go to trial before a judge, who convicted her of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass. She was sentenced to 10 years’ probation.
Jones’ death has led to calls for increased attention to safety on movie and TV sets. A public service announcement advises people to go to the website pledgetosarah.org, which contains set safety information and resources.
To learn about the application of the criminal law to safety incidents in Canada after Bill C-45, attend our webinar on April 8, 2015. OHS attorney Adrian Miedema will review the criminal negligence cases since 2004 and present key lessons for employers. It’ll answer these questions:
- How many Bill C-45 prosecutions have there been so far?
- What is prosecutors’ record in Bill C-45 cases?
- What are the characteristics of successful C-45 prosecutions?
- What penalties and fines have been imposed in those cases?
- When are Bill C-45 charges most likely?
- How have unions and others been advocating for more Bill C-45 charges?
- What steps should employers take to reduce the risk of Bill C-45 charges?