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OHSB Investigation of Rust Production Company

On Oct. 21, 2021, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot and director Joel Souza was injured on the set of the film Rust in Santa Fe County when a live round was discharged from a revolver used as a prop.

Because this incident occurred at a worksite, the New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health & Safety Bureau (OHSB) opened an investigation into the incident as required by the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Act) and its corresponding regulations. The Act and regulations also require OHSB to issue a citation for violations and complete an inspection report summarizing the findings of the investigation within six months of the incident. This webpage provides public access to the citation and related materials associated with OHSB’s investigation.

Media Inquiries

Please direct media inquiries to NMED Communications Director, Matthew Maez, at matthew.maez@state.nm.us.

OHSB Inquiries

For non-media inquiries, please contact OHSB at nmenv.oshacompliance@state.nm.us.

Enforcement Files

Q&A

What is the Citation? What does it mean?

The Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau (OHSB) produces a citation and records findings at the conclusion of all workplace fatality investigations. The Summary of Investigation describes the Bureau’s inspection process and provides factual findings, including information on workplace conditions that contributed to the cause of the fatality. The Rust enforcement files available above summarizes the investigation’s findings and conclusions regarding the conditions on the production set that contributed to the fatality and to the injury to a second individual.

What does the Citation NOT cover?

The OHSB report does not cover matters outside the jurisdiction provided in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (the Act), such as those associated with criminal investigations conducted by local law enforcement. Any matters investigated by the Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office or other offices are not included in the OHSB enforcement files.

What comes next for the investigation?

On May 10, 2022, Rust filed a Notice of Contest with the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Review Commission. Pursuant to Commission rules, OHSB will initiate an Informal Administrative Review of the case and schedule a meeting with Rust to review the Notice of Contest. Any Rust employee affected by the cited violations, or their representative, may file a Notice of Intervention with the Commission to participate in the review process.

The Commission hears and rules on appeals of Citations issued by OHSB’s enforcement program. The Commission provides notice of hearings to the public on the Environment Department website.

What did the investigation find?

OHSB found that Rust willfully violated the Occupational Health and Safety Act by demonstrating plain indifference to the safety of employees and exposing those employees to the serious hazards associated with firearm use.

Why did OHSB find the violation to be willful?

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.

Which individuals employed by Rust are responsible for the workplace violations?

OHSB has jurisdiction to hold employers accountable for violations of workplace safety requirements. In this case, the employer is Rust Movie Productions, LLC. OHSB does not issue citations to any individuals associated with the employer. Please contact Rust Movie Company, LLC for questions about individual responsibility.

How is OHSB’s investigation different from the criminal investigation?

NMED’s investigation is a civil administrative investigation, not a felony criminal investigation. These investigations are independent of one another, and each investigation is looking at different issues; one does not necessarily affect the outcome of the other. The New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau, a bureau housed within NMED, has the authority to issue a Citation even if criminal charges are not filed.

Accordingly, the OHSB investigation is limited to workplace safety in the Bureau’s jurisdiction under the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Law enforcement agencies, such as sheriff’s departments, investigate criminal acts covered by laws outside the provisions of the Act. 

If I work in the film industry and have concerns about the safety of my set/workplace, what can I do?

All employees have a right to inform their employer of workplace health and safety concerns without fear of retaliation. NMED’s OHSB investigates complaints regarding workplace health and safety.

Any employee or employee representative may file a written complaint with OHSB concerning any alleged violation of a regulation or any hazardous condition in their workplace. Any such complaint shall be specific as to the grounds for the complaint and shall be signed by the employee or employee’s representative. Upon the request of the complainant, OHSB will not publish or release their name or the names of individual employees referred to in the complaint.

If an employee believes their employer has retaliated against them for making health and safety complaints or exercising their rights under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, they can file a whistleblower discrimination complaint with OHSB within 30 days of the retaliation.

All employees also have a right to notify OHSB of workplace health and safety concerns or whistleblower retaliation by email at complaints.osha@state.nm.us, by filing an online complaint at https://www.env.nm.gov/general/report-an-environmental-issue-or-incident/, or by calling the Bureau at 505-476-8700 (or toll-free at 1-877-610-6742).

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Contact us

OHSB Main Phone Number: 505-476-8700

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