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College Sports, Education

State of Indiana Agency Fined Notre Dame for Violations Connected with Student’s Death

Sports Illustrated reported the Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration (IOSHA), in a March 15, 2011, report, concluded the University of Notre Dame did not maintain safe working conditions and failed to heed National Weather Service warnings when a student videographer died after a hydraulic lift he was on toppled in over 50-mph winds. IOSHA fined the institution $77,500 for six safety violations. Declan Sullivan, the 20-year-old Notre Dame student who was filming football team practice on a windy day, “had expressed displeasure about practice being held outside” according to the state report. Sports Illustrated reported Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins “said the school would study the IOSHA report and take necessary actions to protect students and staff” and that the “school announced last week it was replacing the lifts with remote-controlled cameras”. According to a statement, Rev. Jenkins remarked, “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 Sports Illustrated article noted the “so-called scissor lifts rented by the university were not supposed to be used in winds above 28 mph, but the weather service had issued a warning saying winds of 25 mph to 35 mph were expected with gusts of up to 45 mph”. The article also stated Notre Dame “has until April 7 to accept the findings and pay the fines, contest the safety orders or meet with the agency”. The school is conducting an internal investigation. As a result of this case (and based on our experiences representing NCAA member institutions), colleges and universities should:

•Incorporate work place safety issues in upcoming athletics department operational reviews or assessments.
•Develop policies and procedures for the proper use of hydraulic lifts (which are used during football practices, marching band practices and theatrical productions).

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About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.

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