The HBO Series ‘Luck’ & Worker Safety


After three fatalities on the set of a new TV show, the network cancelled the series. In a statement announcing the cancellation, it said, “Safety is always of paramount concern…While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future.”

Does that sound familiar? It’s the kind of statement companies often make in the wake of safety incidents. But in this case, the company wasn’t talking about worker deaths but the deaths of three horses.

I’m talking about the HBO series called “Luck,” which focused on the world of horse racing. After three horses died during filming, HBO abruptly canned it. What does any of this have to do with worker safety?

Given the network’s poor safety track record for its equine stars, you have to wonder about its safety standards for its human stars. Horse racing itself is an inherently dangerous sport for both horse and jockey. Add in camera crews and the risk of injury to the actors must increase. I’m not aware of any actors being injured on the set, but that could simply be a matter of dumb luck (pun intended).

In addition, HBO’s statement seems to reflect the view that while employers do what they can to prevent safety incidents, some will always happen and that’s just a fact of life.

I also have to wonder if the death of three human workers on the set would have gotten the same reaction, both from the public and from the network. As an animal lover, I get the outrage that people and groups like PETA felt when these innocent animals perished unnecessarily.

But if three workers had died in separate incidents over the course of a few months, would there have been cries for the cancellation of the series then? Somehow I doubt it.

I also doubt that the network would’ve shut down production in the aftermath of worker fatalities. Many I’m just a pessimist, but when was the last time that you heard about an employer closing a facility after a tragic safety incident?

Of course, HBO’s decision to cancel “Luck” was made easier by its low ratings and mixed reviews. And of course, the network has other series that are successful. So losing this series wasn’t a huge blow to its bottom line.

What, if anything, do you think the reaction to the horses’ deaths and cancellation of the series “Luck” say about worker safety?