OSH Matters

Growing interest in Occupational Safety and Health

Accident Free Analyses OSH Issues in the Movie “Law Abiding Citizen (2009)”

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Accident Free chose the movie, Law Abiding Citizen (2009) because we felt it best showcased the different types of hazards, ranging from Physical to Ergonomic. It is a 2009 American crime-drama thriller film which was nominated for a Saturn Award as the best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film of the year. Just by looking at the cover photo you may notice familiar faces. Main characters in the movie, Clyde Shelton and Nick Rice are played by Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx respectively.

This movie in a nutshell is about a man, Clyde Shelton, whose family was brutally murdered but justice was not served to him because the state executed the wrong man. He then made it his mission to defeat the entire justice system, killing everyone who was involved in the case. Nick Rice, the prosecutor, had to stop him but Shelton, a criminal mastermind, was way ahead of him. From the onset, it was evident that Shelton was at a high risk because of the activities he was involved in and also because he was working alone with no accomplice.

The five main types of hazards will be examined in this blog along with pictures to better illustrate how these hazards pose several risks to the characters in the movie.



  • Let’s start with the Physical Hazards. From the very first scene of the movie, the main character can be seen soldering a device without wearing any protective gear for his hand or face. All solder fumes can cause occupational asthma and other health problems (leaded and lead-free) if used for long periods at a time. The best solder wire contains something called Rosin that helps the solder flow when hot. This causes asthma if you are over exposed and is irreversible. Therefore, this posed a great health threat to Mr. Clyde as lead can give rise to serious chronic health effects.  Exposure will primarily be through accidental ingestion from your skin, so gloves should be worn if directly handling solders (University of Cambridge).

Clyde is soldering the device without protective hand gear


Clyde soldering the device without proper face gear


Clyde’s little daughter in the same room while he’s soldering the device


Furthermore, in that same scene his little daughter was there in the room with him and she was equally at risk of respiratory illness since she may be inhaling the solder fumes as her father worked. My recommendation is that he wears personal protective equipment such as gloves and mask when soldering to prevent inhalation and ingestion of toxic fumes that can cause detrimental physical harm. Also, he can move to an isolated area when engaging in such hazardous activities so that others would not be harmed.

(See link for more details:- http://safety.eng.cam.ac.uk/procedures/Soldering/soldering-safety)

The tunnel scene also invoked respiratory hazards as well as light hazards. In this scene both Rise and his partner were walking through the tunnel which was dug by Shelton. There is no ventilation underground therefore oxygen levels will be very low. The men weren’t wearing any oxygen masks for protection against the lack of oxygen, and because of this, they were at a high risk. More importantly, Shelton worked in that tunnel for long periods by himself without any oxygen mask. He is considered an, “at risk group” since he is working alone. If he were to collapse because of lack of oxygen, there wouldn’t be any one to call for help. My recommendation therefore is that fresh air be supplied to all underground work areas in sufficient amounts to prevent any dangerous or harmful accumulation of dusts, fumes, mists, vapors, or gases. If natural ventilation does not provide the necessary air quality through sufficient air volume and airflow, the characters should have been provided with mechanical ventilation to ensure that working underground has at least 200 cubic feet (5.7m3) of fresh air per minute. I also recommend that the characters wear oxygen masks while working underground.

(Please see link for more details:- https://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/otm_iii/otm_iii_3.html)


Torch lights used in the tunnel – Light hazard

In addition to the lack of oxygen, the tunnel was also dark with no natural light. Therefore, this can be considered a light hazard. Yes, it can be argued that the men had torch lights and there were lights in the tunnel, but those lights were very dim and not appropriate. The men are at risk because they can come into contact with insects in the tunnel and would not be able to safeguard themselves because they won’t see the insect. I recommend that more persons accompany the men in the tunnel with the most amount of light possible which will mitigate the risks posed on them.


  • Our next area of concern dealt with Rupert Ames who underwent an extremely painful execution via lethal injection. This falls under Chemical Hazards. According to the Death Penalty Information Centre, a three drug protocol is to be utilized when performing this type of execution. This protocol uses a sedative, followed by pancuronium bromide for paralysis and potassium chloride to stop the heart. This method is supposed to be painless. However, this was not the case and can therefore be considered a chemical hazard. Mr. Ames’ agonizing death was a direct result of failure to meet OSH regulations. The chemicals were untested and incorrectly labelled. There were also no certified medical doctors present at the execution, which may have contributed to the Mr. Ames’ horrific death, as the persons administering the drugs would have been inexperienced.

    Mr Ames’ painful execution

    In light of this, some measures that can be taken to counteract this problem is to double check and test equipment before performing the execution. Additionally, persons can store the chemicals in a securely locked room and restrict access to any unauthorized personnel. Furthermore, these chemicals should be properly labelled and have accompanying chemical safety data sheets.

    (Please see link for more:- http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/lethal-injection?did=1686&scid=64)





Clyde undergoing depression

  • Under the third hazard, Psychological Hazards, we see that Clyde Shelton is assaulted, stabbed and literally watched his life fall apart as two criminals invade his home, rape his wife, and kill both her and his daughter. There are obvious psychological hazards brought out by these events. Depression has many symptoms and effects and if left untreated, it can cause serious consequences for the individual and persons around them. Men who have untreated clinical depression may exhibit anger, frustration, and violent behaviour. Clyde became extremely violent and vengeful as we see throughout the movie his attempts to kill everyone involved in his case. He is also the perfect example of what can happen if one does not get the proper treatment. Treatment for depression includes the taking of antidepressants, going to therapy or a combination of both. He could have found the right treatment to help him cope with his stress.

(Please see link for more details:- http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/untreated-depression-effects#1)


Sarah witnessing Ames’ death


Another aspect of psychological hazards is seen in the execution scene of Rupert Ames. In this scene, Rupert is strapped to a bed behind a glass window while the audience watches his execution. Some people may find it hard to cope with this type of stress. Witnesses can be traumatized from this which in turn leaves them with severe health problems. Sarah was asked to leave the execution room but one can clearly see how stressed she was by the accident in which she could have even been emotionally scarred. Stress can affect your health, cause anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder leaving one with headaches, insomnia or a lack of productivity at work. Some actions that could have been taken to manage her stress is to have prepared her before she witnessed the execution for all the possible outcomes involved in it.

After viewing such a scene, Sarah went back to work immediately. The more appropriate measure may have been for her to take time off and get plenty of sleep. She should have also been given the option of going to counselling to help manage or even prevent her from suffering the effects of stress.

(Please see link for more details:- https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987?pg=2)


  • Biological hazards are what we focused on next. In the scene where the police discovered the body of Darby chopped into several pieces, a biological hazard can be pointed out. Notice that the people investigating and taking pictures of the body are protected by face masks. The reason for this is because Darby’s body was decomposing as it was left there for days before they found it. Therefore, several different toxins would have been in the atmosphere. However, the police officer and the two lawyers were not wearing any masks to protect themselves from these various toxins being emitted from the dead body. In addition, we noticed the way the police officer behind the lawyer covered his mouth due to the scent and toxins in the air. There are major health risks from just being around dead bodies such as chronic infectious diseases which those killed may have been suffering from and which are spread by direct contact, including hepatitis B and hepatitis C, HIV, enteric intestinal pathogens, tuberculosis, cholera and others. These risks may have been avoided if they had just simply requested masks before they entered the crime scene.

Lack of protective face masks for the other persons in the room




Prosecutor locked in uncomfortable holding containerERGONOMIC HAZARDS

  • The fifth and final hazard we examined was Ergonomic Hazards. In the movie there was a scene where Clyde Shelton locked Prosecutor Bill Reynolds in a coffin style container underground with limited oxygen. The little oxygen present was provided through oxygen tanks. Ergonomic Hazards are evident in this situation as Mr. Reynolds is incapacitated in this container in a seated position with no way of moving his limbs or body position. He is in this position for a number of hours which would certainly result in severe cramping and stress to his muscles and joints. Low temperatures are also evident which is a physical hazard. However, even though it was not the intent of Mr. Shelton to ensure Mr. Reynolds’ comfort in this situation, a larger container would have allowed Mr. Reynolds more room to stretch his limbs and move about more and a temperature regulator could have been provided for the cold climate.

(Please see link for more details:- http://safety.uchicago.edu/tools/faqs/ergonomics.shtml/)


Small, confined room


We also saw ergonomic hazards in the scene where Mr. Shelton offered Mr. Rice a deal for him to be acquitted of all his charges. If the deal he wanted was not fulfilled, he had the intention to kill everyone in the justice system by 6:00 that evening because he considered them to be corrupted. When Mr Rice was unable to deliver Mr. Shelton’s request, he gathered everyone in a confined room for hours. The room was small and had obstructions that forced its inhabitants into uncomfortable positions.


Exhausting seating arrangements


During that period, as seen in the photo, persons were exhausted sitting in one location for a long period of time because of the lack of space for individuals to move freely. This is an example of an ergonomic hazard. Mr. Rice could have provided a bigger room with proper floor space for persons to move as to prevent poor posture and fatigue.


After an extensive assessment of this movie, “Law Abiding Citizen (2009)”, there were many situations we picked up on that could have been handled better and maybe even avoided. This blog opens our eyes wider to many activities around us that we can be more careful when engaging in from our very homes to our schools, workplaces etc. It’s always the right time to be safe and healthy!

Always remember – “Precaution is better than cure”. ~Edward Coke

We recommend that you check out this movie yourselves and see if you can spot hazards that we may not have picked up on!

Sincerely: Accident Free


(Credits: Our featured image and opening image was taken from Google images and all other images attached were physically captured from the actual movie.)



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