Health and Safety
Officer, Laurence Pettinari at the hazardous
trenches at Kelso, dressed in his staple khakis.
Photo by Wendy McDougall.
day one of the shoot, I noticed a man in camouflage
fatigues who seemed to be everywhere, always
watching, watching. Sometimes he’d come up behind a
member of the crew and gently move them to one side,
out of the shade of a palm tree.
I soon discovered that Laurence Pettinari’s job is
to keep everyone on the cast and crew safe from
everything from falling coconuts to explosives. He
has to anticipate every danger, make a detailed
report of every scene in terms of risk assessment
and then make sure that the worst case scenario
never happens. On Hill 60 explosives, weapons,
trenches, low roofed tunnels, horses, rats, electric
cables, candles, mud and water all present
particular challenges, to name but a few.
Laurence’s early reports out at the homestead where
the scenes involving the Waddell family were shot
warned of the dangers of standing under palms
‘unless they have been de-nutted’. Sounds painful.
‘I’ve seen it happen to people on holidays,’ says
Pettinari, who has been a Health and Safety Officer
for ten years and has learned to interpret even the
most benign details as potential risks.
we were scouting locations for Eucalyptus (the
aborted Australian adaptation of Murray Bail’s
novel) one of the dangers we had to note was the
risk of falling branches in high wind. They are not
called widow makers for nothing.’
‘Luckily, we’ve had no close shaves on this set
apart from one incident with an untrained horse
which panicked when blinkers were put on it. No one
was injured, though the horse gave everyone a bit
of a fright.’
describes the Kelso trench location as ‘tough and
dangerous but at least it was contained. Everyone
had headlamps or personal torches so they could see
where they were going during night shoots.
Explosions are always a worry, no matter how much
testing you do,’ says Laurence, who briefly
considered a career in the military before
discovering that he could enjoy the thrill of combat
without the fatalities, in the film world.
In the studio where the tunnel sequences are being
shot ‘dehydration is an issue as the days get warmer
now’ says Laurence who experienced intense forty
degree-plus heat shooting out in the desert near
Winton in Queensland on the road movie Gone. ‘We had
cool rooms set up and I got everyone tuned in to
drinking miso soup and tea as part of the strategy
for maintaining body temperature. You take a leaf
from other cultures like the Japanese and the
Indians when it comes to extreme conditions.’
A tidy Virgo (his description) Laurence lives on the
Gold Coast. So far, his career highlight was
spending six months in Port Douglas working on The
Thin Red Line (‘Five day weeks- bliss’ he says,
referring to Hill 60’s more arduous six day week
schedule). Another highlight was working on Matrix
2 and 3. ‘Those were huge units with lots of rigging
and flying so very challenging in terms of stunts.
But with 1500 people involved, you just can’t hold
everyone’s hand,’ says Laurence, before lugging a
fire extinguisher on to the set.
When he’s not watching over other people’s safety,
Laurence relaxes riding motorbikes and submitting to
the ‘controlled pain of Japanese style contemporary