Covid-19 Update from Iain Fourie at The Public Safety Company

We caught up with Iain Fourie of The Public Safety Company via Zoom as he assisted with an event at the Kyalami Racetrack last week. Iain has been a very busy man, assisting lots of the largest telenovellas and two large international co-productions with their COVID safety protocols and placing up to 22 COVID safety compliance officers on set daily. It’s no wonder his friends call him the COVID “King of the soaps”!
“We were already looking at COVID compliance procedures prior to hard Lockdown, but used that time to catch up with both science and industry implementation understanding so by the time we came out of Lockdown, we had a month of our own pre-production to develop Standard Operating Protocols and had made four edits already to our SOP by the time the SASFED COVID guidelines came out in early May,” says Iain.
The SASFED guidelines are still considered a reliable resource for producers as they are endorsed by government, align with international best practice and have been proved to be effective: “On our first big production shutdown we spent a lot on COVID tests, but that was because our understanding was very new. Most recently, with our most extensive case we only lost a day of work and had to drop two scenes. We can now ring fence a COVID problem and get rid of it really quickly. Officially- we’ve lost 3.5 of the last 712 working days! ”
Although mostly working in Johannesburg and KZN, The Public Safety Company have a long-standing reciprocal relationship with Taurus Medical and Justin Witbooi in Cape Town. Iain and his team also align themselves with international experts, consulting weekly with a compliance expert in Los Angeles on all the Amazon productions and safety officer in London who is doing work with the BBC. “If we are winging it, we are winging it as a flock!” says Iain.

The compliance officer’s role is critical: “Our compliance officers have a medical background which means that when dealing with confidential information we are covered by the health professions act’s ethical guidelines and clinical trainings allows us to make quick judgement calls on the fly. We makes us unique in Johannesburg is that we can see across multiple productions and implement the lessons we have learned. We are now also finding that insurers are asking for confirmation that safety protocols are being followed”.

Currently, one of the biggest risks observed on set in South Africa is a general attitude of COVID fatigue. Producers are also taking big strain to pick up the costs of COVID compliance officers and materials, especially with inconsistencies in understanding what is needed. “We have had two producers query SABC’s guideline of what they will allow for COVID costs and it isn’t even enough to cover a compliance officer, nevermind the hygiene materials. This is an area we can guide producers with as they plan their budgets”  
The Public Safety Company have developed a free online COVID safety awareness on production course that will be launched in January that is based on international guidelines. The 30 minute course will be accompanied by an attendance certificate and meets employers’ legal obligation that people be trained to meet compliance requirements. “This is our contribution to fighting resistance that we are seeing in the industry. Even if you are a disbeliever, if you think COVID is a conspiracy, this actually becomes a business continuity issue. The risk to your business is a real – you are at risk of losing your income, you could be sitting at home unemployed like so many of my mates in the events industry”.  
Any last thoughts before Iain goes for a spin around Kyalami? “It really is as simple as washing your hands, wearing your mask and keeping your distance. If you travel over the end of year holidays, especially to hotspots then be aware and keep an eye on general attitudes. Sentiments around COVID move in groups: if your cast and crew are at ease then everyone will be at ease”.
To discuss your COVID protocols, even if you are still at budgeting stage, please reach out to Iain and his team on