OSHA fines Atlanta ‘MacGyver’ production over stuntman injury

Originally posted Tuesday, February 19, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

OSHA today announced it had fined the producers of CBS’s Atlanta-produced drama “MacGyver” $9,472 following an accident last summer that seriously injured a stunt coordinator on set.

That modest fine won’t financially impact the production company CBS’s Eye Productions, but OSHA can only fine a company up to $12,675 for a single violation. It can fine perpetrators more only if there are “repeat” or “willful” violations.

According to a Variety article from 2017, broadcast networks spend upwards to $4.5 million per hour-long original drama with $3.5 million the norm. Even if “MacGyver” cost, say, $3 million per episode, that fine would represent less than one third of one percent of a single episode’s budget. 

RELATED: “MacGyver” loses key actor George Eads

The federal agency said the production was fined for “failing to protect employees from hazards while filming a television show.” More specifically, stunt coordinator Justin Sundquist was hurt while performing a stunt from a moving vehicle traveling approximately 18 miles per hour in Chattahoochee Hills. OSHA said he didn’t have adequate head protection during the stunt.

He injured his head after falling out of the vehicle and was placed in a medically-induced coma at the time. There has been no recent update on Sundquist’s medical condition.

“This incident underscores the requirement for employers in the entertainment industry to implement better safety practices to protect actors and stunt persons from serious injuries,” said OSHA Atlanta-West Acting Area Director Keith Hass in a press release. 

CBS was not immediately available for comment.

Adding a layer of intrigue to this matter was the fact Sundquist had settled a lawsuit with CBS in 2017 regarding his claims that the “Hawaii Five-O” set had breakdowns in protocol that led to him getting hit by a speeding car on set in 2016. At the time, he accused the production of “serious violations of minimum industry standard safety protocols.”

Part of the settlement required CBS to hire Sundquist for other work, according to Deadline.com last August.

CBS at the time provided this statement:

“Justin Sundquist is a long-time stunt performer with previous stunt coordinator experience who has been working in this field for almost 2 decades. He was a well-regarded stunt performer on Hawaii Five-0, when he was injured in an unfortunate accident last year [sic, 2016] that resulted in a legal claim. As part of the settlement of that claim, and his positive standing with producers on that show, he was hired to an open stunt coordinator position on MacGyver by a senior producer who had moved to that production from Hawaii Five-0.”

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” in Sequoia experienced the death of a stuntman John Bernecker after he fell off a 20-foot balcony in 2017. 

OSHA fined the show’s production company the maximum single serious citation of $12,675 last year

“MacGyver,”  revival of a late 1980s drama, is in its third season and has been a steady Friday night performer for CBS. Last year, it averaged 8.2 million viewers, based on Nielsen Media Research of live viewing, plus up to seven days of DVR usage. 

It’s the second most popular prime-time show shot in metro Atlanta only behind “The Walking Dead.” 

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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