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Lift Safety Campaign Targets Schools

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

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Colleges, high schools and other institutional users of aerial lifts have new safety resources available to help them avoid the kind of accident that killed a University of Notre Dame videographer last fall.

Per its agreement June 16 with Indiana’s state safety agency, Notre Dame has developed a program and web site,, which offers a video introduction to aerial lift safety considerations, as well as video segments on four key safety areas:

• Right Setup

• Right Training

• Right Weather Information

• Right Safety Contact

Website users may also download and print fact sheets and fliers, including one that displays an organization’s adopted wind limit, to post in areas where aerial lifts will be used. The site also includes information on where to purchase an anemometer or wind gauge, which allows for real-time weather information.


“This website was created in the aftermath of the tragic accident that took the life of University of Notre Dame student videographer Declan Sullivan in October 2010,” notes the site, by way of both introduction and disclaimer. “Its aim is to help high schools, colleges and university administrators understand key considerations for aerial lift safety.

 Declan Sullivan

 Declan Drumm Sullivan Memorial Fund

Declan Sullivan was 20 years old when he was killed in an aerial lift accident at the University of Notre Dame.

“It is not meant to be used as a form of training for aerial lift usage. The best source of information on how to operate an aerial lift is always the model’s owner manual. That manual, coupled with ANSI standards, must be consulted before operating any lift.”

Notre Dame developed the site materials in consultation with standards developed by the International Standards Organization, the American National Standards Institute, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and in consultation with risk management personnel and lift operation experts. Indiana OSHA oversaw the project.

Student Death

The site also includes a link for donations to the Declan Drumm Sullivan Memorial Fund. Sullivan, 20, was a junior when he was killed while filming a football practice from atop a 39-foot-high mobile lift that blew over in 51 mph winds.

Notre Dame paid $42,000 to Indiana OSHA for five serious safety violations in Sullivan’s death. The school also agreed to make a “substantial,” but undisclosed, contribution to the Sullivan Fund.

IOSHA found that Sullivan and other students had been working, untrained, in winds that exceeded lift manufacturers’ specifications and warnings. In addition, Sullivan’s lift lacked warning labels and a manual and had not been inspected in more than a year, although it was operating properly, IOSHA said.

Sullivan’s supervisor “admitted that he had initially instructed untrained employees to elevate on scissor lifts,” despite knowing the wind conditions, IOSHA reported. Sullivan himself had Tweeted his fears about working that day in the wind.

“The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrated that the university made a decision to utilize its scissor lifts in known adverse weather conditions,” said Indiana Department of Labor Commissioner Lori Torres.

30 Deaths, No Protocols

Tens of thousands of schools nationwide use lifts for sporting events, performances and other functions, but few have protocols in place for their use, Notre Dame said. “This demonstrated a clear need for a national awareness campaign” on lift safety, the university said.
“We appreciate Notre Dame’s efforts and timeliness to heighten awareness of important aerial lift safety considerations,” said the Indiana Department of Labor’s Deputy Commissioner Jeff Carter. “Nearly 30 people lose their lives to aerial lift accidents each year in the United States, so any additional resource that improves operational safety is significant.”

Barry Sullivan, Declan’s father, called the new site “a positive step in preventing aerial lift accidents in the future. Our hope is that schools that use these lifts will pay attention to the information presented on the website and make sure to institute a robust lift safety program.”

The National Federation of State High School Associations, the Collegiate Sports Video Association, the University Risk Management and Insurance Association, the Campus Safety Health and Environmental Management Association and the National Association of the Collegiate Directors of Athletics will work over the next year to spread the safety message to their members.


Tagged categories: Access; Accidents; Fatalities; Health and safety; lift; Work platform; Worker training

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