77

Is there anything in the Star Wars canon that explains the alarming lack of safety railings on various structures in the Republic? An example from The Empire Strikes Back, a landing pad on Bespin:

Landing pad on Bespin

The ankle level curb might be considered a weak nod toward safety but I would not want to be on that platform if winds were high. Given that Bespin is a city in the clouds, winds would be high a lot of the time.

There are other examples, such as the open catwalks over an abyss in the first Death Star, the balconies on Coruscant, open staircases everywhere, and the catwalks on which Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul fought on Naboo. There are some exceptions, too. The Ewoks believed in safety apparently and used railings on the catwalks between their tree dwellings. On Bespin in the lower level where Vader and Luke fought there is a railing on the gantry stretching over the abyss.

Vader and Luke fight on a gantry with railings

No note is made note of this situation in the movies, but there is much more Star Wars related material than I will ever see or read. Does any of it address the railings issue?

  • 16
    The same reason you don't see swaths of safety equipment and signage in movies that involve scenes from factories. It impedes the view and flow of the scene and is unnecessary for the plot. – Gorchestopher H Oct 18 '12 at 18:37
  • 21
    They're worried that people will be leaning all day. source. – NominSim Oct 18 '12 at 19:34
  • 12
    StarWars has no OSHA and you can not sue for being stupid or clumsy in the SWU. – Chad Oct 18 '12 at 20:39
  • 7
    Bespin, which floats in the air, experiences no wind. For the same reason that hot-air balloonists experience no wind. They move with the wind. – Graham Borland Oct 19 '12 at 9:38
  • 12
    @GrahamBorland, Luke experienced an awful lot of wind when he was hanging below Cloud City. – Kyralessa Jan 19 '13 at 3:40
18

At least one example of this has been addressed in the Inside the Worlds of Star Wars: Episode I factbook. The tall observation tower at the Mos Espa Speedway has a ...

"Low-energy traction system"

... around the perimeter of the viewing platform, specifically in order to prevent people from throwing themselves off.

Given that this is a (relatively) low-tech world compared to the Core Worlds of the Republic/Empire, There's no good reason to assume that these sorts of invisible safety systems aren't in place other times that we see gantries with no railings.

enter image description here


Out of universe, we're advised by the Production Designer for Rogue One, Doug Chiang that the decision not to include handrails was a conscious design choice by George Lucas to show that Health and Safety wasn't a big thing in the Empire. Sorry soldiers, life is cheap and you're disposable.

SWS: This is a very intimidating set, you cannot help but be aware of how precarious we are right now.

Chiang: In terms of no handrails, Right?

SWS: Exactly

Chiang: You know, that’s the funny thing. Its one of those iconic things that George wanted to establish in the Star Wars locale, that there’s no health and safety. It’s this crazy thing where the minute you take away handrails or anything like that, it really kind of puts it in the Star Wars world.

Why Are There No Handrails in Star Wars? How Rogue One Recreated Classic Sets.

  • 2
    I remember reading somewhere there were sometimes railings, for two-meter-high drops. My explanation for that was always that railings were installed in response to complaints from people who fell off these two meters. Those who fell into bottomless pits on the other hand, didn't file any complaint. This goes well with the explanation of the empire not caring. – Medinoc Sep 1 '17 at 20:48
62

You're not the first to notice this issue.

The Star Wars canon is peculiarly silent on this particular subject. So, if you're looking to stick to canon, the correct answer is at best partially known.

However, we can make a few educated guesses, and speculate, based on what we know about the universe and movies:

  • Aesthetics. With the advanced tech in the series, it's possible force-field based, manipulated gravity, (or otherwise not immediately visible) railing like systems would only spring into place when absolutely required. Based on my experience playing in-universe video-games, invisible force-fields tend to be the system of choice. Note: there has been some confirmation of this - see the "Low-energy traction system" reference from Inside the Worlds of Star Wars: Episode I in the accepted answer
  • Lack of (civilian) use. Most of the open spaces we see tend to be on military, emergency, or other special purpose installations; since they are the only ones using the spaces, it may be more cost effective for highly trained personnel to be trained or wear devices protecting them from danger. Certainly Anakin seems to prefer being able to jump off ledges, instead of being held in by a safety device.
  • The empire does not mind losing citizens that fall off ledges when walking. They may even see it as a useful measure for preventing over-population.
  • Comfort, and lowered risks relative to present times. After many generations of life in the clouds, the population has evolved a higher sense of balance and prevailing wind conditions, and find little use for railings and similar safety devices. It's unlikely that simple railings would make much of a difference in high winds, anyways, you'd probably want walls of netting or equivalent. Seeing them would probably be just a psychological benefit to people from our own era.

Breaking the 4th wall

  • The lack of railings and other expected danger signs makes for a suspiciously clutter-free and easy to absorb set.
  • Assembling some of the models used, especially in the first movies, took significant time and effort. Adding railings and other safety signage would likely have significantly increased the amount of work required in building them
  • 26
    +1. "Based on my experience playing in-universe video-games, invisible force-fields tend to be the system of choice." – Gabe Willard Oct 18 '12 at 22:51
  • 2
    The military thing makes sense. For instance, the deck of an aircraft carrier is considered to be a very dangerous place to work. Normal workplace safety rules don't usually apply to the military. – Scott Whitlock Nov 9 '15 at 1:58
  • 1
    +1 The empire does not mind losing citizens that fall off ledges when walking – MissMonicaE Nov 14 '16 at 13:51
23

Your Ewoks example provides a possible explanation. Higher-tech ciivilizations use repulsors (or equivalent force field technologies) to prevent falling to one's death when necessary. I don't recall specific canon examples but that sounds vaguely in line with EU.

  • 1
    I don't remember ever seeing anyone fall to their death in the movies, and in fact we've seen Jedi take falls that should have killed them or at least broken bones. Heck, in Attack of the Clones Mace Windu dealt with falling from a great height while he was on fire. So you may be on to something. – Kyle Jones Oct 18 '12 at 22:04
  • 4
    At least two stormtroopers were shot in the Death Star and fell (Wilhelm) screaming down a chasm in EpIV – HorusKol Oct 18 '12 at 22:42
  • 1
    @HorusKol - the Death Star would have been covered by blueberryfields's reasoning. No need to waste money on safety for some clones. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 19 '12 at 0:20
  • 1
    Were the stormtroopers actually clones by the time of the Rebellion? I thought they were actually recruited (voluntarily or forcefully) "real" people, that is, not clones. – eidylon Oct 19 '12 at 3:21
  • 3
    They likely weren't clones, but the prevailing attitude in the Empire was pretty much We Have Reserves (WARNING: TVTropes link) – Shadur Oct 19 '12 at 5:02
3

Okay, here's my insane head-canon.

There's no OSHA in the Star Wars universe.

However, forward thinking administrators like Lando Calrissian have taken it upon themselves to innovate the hand/guard-rail. As far as I can remember, Bespin is the first place in the original trilogy where there are railings (the open landing pad leads me to believe that at the time of the movie, Lando was still in the process of putting them everywhere, with priority given to narrower walkways like the one Luke and Vader fight on). In the third movie, there are more railings (Jabba's sail barge has them, and there are even some on the second Death Star in the area where the Emperor is... like the one Vader holds onto near the end). Basically my own, mental fan-canon is that Lando Calrissian is basically the innovator of railings and safer workplaces in the Star Wars universe.

  • 2
    Good guy Lando: creates safe work practices. – Möoz Sep 28 '16 at 5:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.