‘Rust’ Production Fined Maximum Penalty for ‘Plain Indifference’ to Firearm Safety

New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau says the film must pay nearly $140,000 in fines

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The New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau and Environmental Department is fining the production team behind “Rust” its maximum penalty for what it found in a report to be “plain indifference” regarding firearm safety on the film’s set that led to the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

The AP is reporting that the maximum fine Rust Productions will owe the state amounts to $139,793. The findings came as part of an investigation as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act that was required to be completed within six months of the incident. Full details about the report can be found here.

The report found Rust Productions’ violation of protocols issued in safety bulletins to be willful, and the maximum citation was issued as a result.

“Members of Rust management knew that firearm safety procedures were not being followed on set and acted with plain indifference to employee safety by failing to review work practices, adhere to film industry standards for firearm safety, and take corrective action,” a statement from OSHB said.

“While we appreciate OSHA’s time and effort in its investigation, we disagree with its findings and plan to appeal. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Halyna’s family,” a spokesperson for Rust Movie Productions said in a statement to TheWrap.

An attorney for Alec Baldwin, who held the gun that discharged and killed Hutchins and injured Joel Souza on October 21, also responded to the report and said that it “exonerates” Baldwin in that he believed the gun was a “cold” gun as he has previously stated.

“We are grateful to the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau for investigating this matter. We appreciate that the report exonerates Mr. Baldwin by making clear that he believed the gun held only dummy rounds and that his authority on the production was limited to approving script changes and creative casting. Mr. Baldwin had no authority over the matters that were the subject of the Bureau’s findings of violations, and we are pleased that the New Mexico authorities have clarified these critical issues.  We are confident that the individuals identified in the report will be held accountable for this tragedy,” Luke Nikas, Baldwin’s attorney at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, said in a statement.

Lawyers for Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the film’s armorer, also responded to the findings in New Mexico’s OSHB report and reiterated a statement that Hutchins’ death could have been averted had she been present in the rehearsal space when the incident occurred.

The final report investigated the workplace conditions on the film’s set that contributed to the cause of the death of Hutchins. However, it does not include any criminal investigations. A criminal investigation from the New Mexico Sheriff’s department and district attorney’s office is still ongoing.

“OSHA found that Hannah Gutierrez Reed was not provided adequate time or resources to conduct her job effectively, despite her voiced concerns. Critically, OSHA also determined that production failed to call Hannah in to perform her armorer duties and inspect the firearm right before its use in the impromptu scene with Baldwin,” lawyers Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion said. “As we have stated before, had anyone from Production called Hannah in back into the church before the scene to consult with her, this tragedy would have been prevented. Hannah has also reached out to OSHA recently in an effort to provide her suggestions for changes and improvement of safety standards on sets to avoid a tragic incident in the future.”

OSHB does not issue any citations directly to an individual associated with an employer.

Hutchins was killed on the set of “Rust” in New Mexico on Oct. 21 when a gun held by Baldwin during a rehearsal discharged, firing a live round. Baldwin, who has sought to distance himself from the producers and has denied culpability for Hutchins’ death, has said in interviews and reiterated in legal filings that he was told the gun was “cold” and contained no live rounds. He has also described that he was instructed by Hutchins to “hold the gun higher, to a point where it was directed toward her,” and that “Baldwin then pulled back the hammer, but not far enough to actually cock the gun. When Baldwin let go of the hammer, the gun went off.”