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Safety and Common Sense

NEWS STORY
11/07/2013

Motorsport is dangerous. And there aren't many more dangerous places during a motor race than pit lane.

As someone who has worked in broadcast television, been in pit lane, and been to Formula 1 races (although never the 3 together), I feel I can add some insight and opinion to the matters on pit lane at the German Grand Prix.

A few things bother me. The first is the singling out of the 'victim.' Removing camera operators and other media from pit lane is not going to stop wheels coming off cars, or make the environment safer for the mechanics and team personnel who remain there, many of them still crouched down with obstructed views as traffic approaches.

There has also been the insinuation by some that it was caused by the other FOM cameraman abandoning his camera causing the wheel to bounce up and change direction. To try and apportion any blame to someone who reacted correctly within a split second (immediately jumping up to get out of the way) smacks of yellow journalism worthy of phone tapping tabloid hacks.

What bothers me most is Christian Horner's response. The casual corporate dolphin-speak "let's put helmets on them" comment shows that he is out of touch with reality. Slapping a helmet on the FOM cameraman would have protected him as much as a bullet proof vest would protect you from a hungry lion. If putting a helmet on camera operators is a good idea, then certainly team principals sitting at the pit box qualify as well.

In America there has been a push for 'safety' amongst some of the bigger sports production companies and networks. There are now mandatory safety classes you must compete online before (in theory) you are hired by said company. Is this a bum covering exercise or have big corporations/networks suddenly developed a conscience in regards to the Health and Safety of their part time/freelance employees?

To be fair there have been a couple instances that have led to injuries or worse. But being brutally honest, one involved an astounding lack of common sense in trying to protect a piece of equipment. This led to directly to some mandatory safety classes, but the specific failing has never been addressed.

You cannot legislate common sense, and instead of trying to instill and address situational awareness and personal responsibility, it's either "He took the safety course, he should have known better we're not responsible" or "right then, up on the wall."

There has always been a cardinal rule working at any race track; "Never turn your back to race traffic." We saw why in Germany.

I would hope banning all media personnel from pit lane during all sessions is a temporary measure while other solutions are being mulled over. A limited number of World Feed camera operators and photographers belong on pit lane during sessions.

Broadcast technicians have just as much drive and pride as any other profession, and those operating at such a high level as F1 will not be very happy their unfettered access has been suspended, their job made more difficult with the end product, the race broadcast, suffering.

The simplest, smartest and most effective rule would be to require pit lane camera operators to always face traffic while shooting. No more shots of the back of the car as it roars away but still close enough to capture pit crews working their sub 3 second magic.

Yes, pit lane is dangerous. But let the limited number of personnel in pit lane face the danger. Literally.

As always, hate mail can be sent to...

Thomson Philips
thomson.philips@pitpass.com

Alternatively, Tweet your hate mail to Follow @ThomsonPhilips

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