Indiana OSHA Cites Notre Dame $77,500 following Death of Student Employee

March 21, 2011
On March 15, the Indiana Department of Labor cited the University of Notre Dame with the most serious safety violation allowable under Indiana law for the fatal injury of 20-year-old student employee Declan Sullivan.

Sullivan was killed while he was videotaping a Notre Dame football practice from a scissor lift that was toppled in high winds on Oct. 27, 2010.

“We’ve issued a knowing citation, which indicates the most serious safety violation,” said Department of Labor Commissioner Lori Torres. “The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrated that the university made a decision to utilize its scissor lifts in known adverse weather conditions.”

The agency also cited Notre Dame with five other serious safety violations, including failure to properly train the student employees in how to operate a scissor lift. In all, fines amounting to $77,500 were levied against the university.

Torres said the agency will launch a statewide education and outreach initiative directed toward universities, colleges and high schools.

“Scissor and other lifts are used by many athletic and band programs nationwide to videotape practices and broadcast events. We want to ensure that they are only being used by trained operators in safe conditions,” she said.

The Indiana Department of Labor issued a letter to a number of associations around the state to urge high schools, colleges and universities to review their use of scissor lifts in athletic and band events.

The university has 15 business days, by Indiana law, to pay the fines and correct the violations cited in the investigation report or to contest them to the Indiana Board of Safety Review.

Notre Dame Responds

In a statement, Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., acknowledged Indiana OSHA’s “thorough and professional manner” in conducting the investigation.

“We have worked collaboratively with them over the past 4 months and have had a chance today to take a preliminary look at their findings,” Jenkins said March 15. “We will study the details very carefully and take the actions necessary to protect the ongoing safety of our students and staff. We also are very interested in the IOSHA educational effort and have every intention of being a part of that to share what we learn.

“None of these findings can do anything to replace the loss of a young man with boundless energy and creativity,” Jenkins added. “As I said last fall, we failed to keep him safe, and for that we remain profoundly sorry.”

John Affleck-Graves, executive vice president and leader of the Notre Dame investigation of the accident, said Indiana OSHA’s findings would be helpful as the university conducts its own investigation. He stressed that the university will make its own report of the investigation public once it is completed in the coming weeks.

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