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IOSHA finds six Notre Dame violations

Megan Doyle | Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration (IOSHA) found Notre Dame guilty of six violations after a four-and-a-half month investigation into the October death of junior Declan Sullivan, the Indiana Department of Labor announced March 15.

Sullivan, 20, died Oct. 27 after the scissor lift from which he was filming football practice fell. He was a student videographer for the football team.

The citations resulted in fines totaling $77,500. The violations included a “knowing” violation, meaning IOSHA found the University knowingly exposed its employees to unsafe conditions. The Indiana Department of Labor reported the University was fined $55,000 for this violation.

IOSHA also issued five “serious” violations with fines totaling $22,500. These violations included failure to properly train student employees in how to operate a scissor lift.

“We found that Notre Dame did not establish and maintain conditions of work that were reasonably safe for its employees, that were free from recognized hazards that caused or were likely to cause serious injury,” Indiana Department of Labor commissioner Lori Torres said in a March 15 press conference. “In addition, by directing an untrained, student videographer to use the scissor lift during a period of time when the National Weather Service had issued an active wind advisory … the University knowingly exposed its employees to unsafe conditions.”

The University must pay the fines or appeal IOSHA’s findings by April 7, according to Indiana Department of Labor requirements.

Notre Dame respects the investigation results and will examine the report, University President Fr. John Jenkins said in a March 15 statement.

“We will study the details very carefully and take the actions necessary to protect the ongoing safety of our students and staff,” Jenkins said. “None of these findings can do anything to replace the loss of a young man with boundless energy and creativity. As I said last fall, we failed to keep him safe, and for that we remain profoundly sorry.”

The University’s internal investigation is ongoing, Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves, who is leading the investigation, said in a March 15 statement.

“The IOSHA findings are very helpful as we begin to conclude our own comprehensive investigation,” Affleck-Graves said. “We expect that our report will include information gathered through the IOSHA investigation as we focus on all factors that contributed to the accident, including the series of decisions made on that day. We have committed to making a report of our investigation public and will do so once it is complete and we have finalized our review with IOSHA, which we expect will be in four to six weeks.”

Notre Dame will discontinue the use of scissor lifts to film football practices, the University announced March 8 as it began installation of a remote video system at the LaBar Practice Complex.

“I said in the days after Declan’s death that we would do everything in our power to make changes to ensure that such an accident does not happen again — here or elsewhere,” Jenkins said in a press release at the time. “This system is at the forefront in a completely new and innovative way.”

University spokesman Dennis Brown said Monday that the system is now operational. Spring football practice begins Wednesday at 8 a.m.

Irish football coach Brian Kelly said Sullivan is still remembered in the football program.

“Declan was a wonderful member of our football family and is missed to this day. We all continue to both grieve and keep his family and friends in our thoughts and prayers,” Kelly said. “I’m sure the University will use the findings from the state to enhance the investigation into this tragedy.”

The investigation of Sullivan’s death also prompted IOSHA to launch a statewide educational initiative to promote safe equipment use at Indiana schools.

The office sent a letter to the NCAA and the Indiana High School Athletic Association asking schools to review their use of scissor lifts, Torres said.

Jenkins said Notre Dame hopes to be involved in IOSHA’s educational initiative.

“We are also very interested in the IOSHA educational effort and have every intention of being a part of that to share what we learn,” he said.

Sullivan’s parents issued a statement following IOSHA’s March 15 announcements and press conference. They thanked the University for continued support and individuals who have donated to the Declan Drumm Sullivan Memorial Fund the family established. The Sullivan family continues to work with Notre Dame to find a way to memorialize Sullivan’s life.

“This report is an important step in preventing future accidents, but its findings do not change the fact that Declan is not with us,” the statement stated. “We are grateful for the respect shown us over the past several months by everyone connected with Notre Dame. The University has maintained an open line of communication throughout this period and has provided timely answers to our questions.”

Douglas Farmer contributed to this report.

 

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The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

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IOSHA finds six Notre Dame violations

Douglas Farmer | Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A four-and-a-half month investigation by the Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration (IOSHA) found Notre Dame guilty of six violations stemming from the October death of junior Declan Sullivan, the Indiana Department of Labor announced Tuesday.

Sullivan died Oct. 27 after the scissor-lift from which he was filming football practice fell. He was a student videographer for the football team.

The citations resulted in fines totaling $77,500, according to the IOSHA safety report. The six violations include one “knowing” violation with a $55,000 fine and five “serious” violations with fines summing $22,500.

“We found that Notre Dame did not establish and maintain conditions of work that were reasonably safe for its employees, that were free from recognized hazards that caused or were likely to cause serious injury,” Indiana Department of Labor commissioner Lori Torres said in a press conference Tuesday morning. “In addition, by directing an untrained, student videographer to use the scissor lift during a period of time when the National Weather Service had issued an active wind advisory … the University knowingly exposed its employees to unsafe conditions.”

IOSHA’s safety report said Notre Dame did not properly train Sullivan to use the scissor lift. The scissor lift had not been inspected annually, monthly or weekly for more than a year, and it had not been serviced as its preventive maintenance schedule required. The scissor lift also had neither all of its warning labels nor its operator’s manual.

IOSHA did not attempt to name specific individuals in the report, deputy commissioner Jeffry Carter said.

“When IOSHA does an investigation, we see an employer as one party, so we don’t necessarily look at it from within the managing structure,” he said. “We might interview and ascertain that certain people had a hand in that, but we see the employer as a whole, because we are charged with [making sure] the employer maintains a safe workplace overall. Our investigation doesn’t look at individuals as much as it does the employer.”

Torres said Notre Dame assisted in the investigation process.

“Notre Dame was cooperative in our investigation,” she said. “They provided us access to every person, every document, every piece of investigation we requested.

“Notre Dame has taken action to ensure such an accident will never happen again, by eliminating the use of the scissor lifts for filming, and replacing them with remote control cameras positioned on a semi-permanent structure.”

Notre Dame has 15 business days – until April 7 – to respond to the safety report either by accepting the findings and paying the fines, appealing or requesting an informal meeting to discuss disputes.

University spokesman Dennis Brown said Notre Dame would release a written statement in response this afternoon.

The investigation has also resulted in an educational initiative to help Indiana schools avoid similar accidents, Torres said.

“Our role as a regulatory agency … we got this and did this investigation and it became clear to us in many places … scissor lifts are huge,” Torrres said. “Our role is to keep the employees safe in Indiana, so we are going to extend that … We also have a branch of education outreach, training. So we are going to get that group involved.”

Torres said a letter has been sent to the NCAA as well as the Indiana High School Athletic Association detailing some of the lessons learned in this investigation.