“Rust” production company fined $136,000 for alleged safety failures

Rust Movie Productions LLC was fined over $136,000 by New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau on Wednesday, months after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot by Alec Baldwin on the set. In a scathing report, safety officials said the production company showed “plain indifference to the recognized hazards associated with the use of firearms on set that resulted in a fatality, severe injury, and unsafe working conditions.”

“Our investigation found that this tragic incident never would have happened if Rust Movie Productions, LLC had followed national film industry standards for firearm safety,” Environment Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a statement announcing the fine. “This is a complete failure of the employer to follow recognized national protocols that keep employees safe.”

The bureau said the “Willful-Serious” citation and $136,793 fine is the maximum permitted under New Mexico law.

Hutchins was fatally shot and director Joel Souza was wounded when a gun being used for a scene by Baldwin, who was co-producing and starring in the film, discharged on October 21, 2021. Baldwin has said he didn’t pull the trigger, claiming the gun fired when he pulled the hammer back and released it.

The bureau noted that the report only evaluates the safety of workplace conditions, and does not cover any potential criminal investigations. No one has been criminally charged in the shooting.

Rust Movie Productions LLC told CBS News in a statement that it plans to appeal the decision.

“While we appreciate OSHA’s time and effort in its investigation, we disagree with its findings and plan to appeal,” the statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with Halyna’s family.”

A summary of the investigation attributed many of the safety issues to the fact that the set’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was also tasked with working as a props assistant. The summary said that when her superior chided her for not spending enough time working on props, she responded, “there are working guns on set every day and those are ultimately going to be a priority because when they are not that’s when dangerous mistakes can happen.”

Two days later, the summary said, there were two misfires on set. In one instance, someone inadvertently fired a blank round at the ground; in the other, Alec Baldwin’s stunt double inadvertently fired a round. The summary said that neither of those incidents was properly reported, and that corrective action was not taken to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

The next day, Gutierrez-Reed notified her supervisor that she was on her last of eight allotted days to work as an armorer, the summary said, and her supervisor responded that there would be “no more trading (sic) days.” When she asked for clarification, the supervisor responded, “Like training Alec and such.”

In a biting summary of the findings, the report said Rust Movie Productions “disregarded or otherwise did not follow-up, ask questions, or try to understand what happened when employees notified management about the misfire incidents and not feeling safe on set.”

“The Safety Coordinator was present on set and took no direct action to address safety concerns,” the report added. “Management was provided multiple opportunities to take corrective actions and chose not to do so.”

The report did not specifically address one of the most serious questions remaining about the incident — how a live round, which was supposed to be prohibited on set, got into the gun. But it did note that the gun Baldwin used was loaded long before the scene was filmed, breaking safety protocol.

Attorneys for Gutierrez-Reed backed the report’s findings, adding, “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.”

Kenney, the cabinet secretary, said his office did not receive any safety complaints from cast or crew before the shooting, according to The Associated Press.

“This tragedy, this loss of life, it could have been prevented, and we want people to say something,” he said.