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University, IOSHA reach settlement after state investigation

Observer Staff Report | Friday, July 1, 2011

Eight months after the death of junior Declan Sullivan, Notre Dame reached a settlement today with the Indiana Department of Labor, agreeing to take a number of steps to prevent future accidents and to honor Sullivan’s memory.

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

“Notre Dame has said multiple times publicly that it wants to ensure nothing like Declan’s death occurs again on its watch, and that it wants to honor Declan’s memory,” Department of Labor Commissioner Lori Torres said. “We believe this unique agreement allows Notre Dame to live up to those statements.”

The agreement establishes a nationwide education program directed toward other universities about the hazards of using scissor-lifts outdoors and the importance of employee training in operating these lifts. Notre Dame must launch the program within 180 days of the date of the agreement, according to the press release. 

The University also agreed to make a substantial contribution to the Declan Drumm Sullivan Memorial Fund within 90 days of the date of the settlement. 

University spokesman Dennis Brown said the University will not disclose the amount of the donation.

“Any detail related to contributions by Notre Dame remain a private matter between the Sullivan family and the University,” he said.

The agreement comes after IOSHA found Notre Dame guilty of six violations in March, resulting in $77,500 in fines. The settlement reduces the fines to $42,000, due to the state of Indiana. 

The settlement reduced the “knowing” violation, which held a fine of $55,000, to a “serious” violation. However, the fines of several “serious” violations were increased from the amount originally stated, according to the press release. 

“We felt that the lack of available national standards on wind-related safety procedures made it impossible to put anyone in harm’s way on a ‘knowing’ basis, as was explained in our own investigation report,” Brown said. 

The University will also provide the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) with a list of places where scissor lifts are used at Notre Dame and will complete refresher training for those who operate the equipment. This is to be done within 90 days of the date of the agreement.

The settlement also requires Notre Dame to appoint a liaison between the athletic department and the risk-management division to ensure adequate safety training is provided to all employees.

While Brown said Notre Dame is “pleased” to have reached an agreement, he said the focus should remain on Sullivan and those who loved him. 

“What remains ever-present throughout this process is the reality of the loss experienced by Declan Sullivan’s family and friends, all of whom remain in the thoughts and prayers of the Notre Dame community,” Brown said.