Student Death Reveals Varied University Safety Policies

In the two days since a Notre Dame student was killed while videotaping football practice atop a scissor lift, it has become clear that safety procedures for such mechanical lifts vary widely from campus to campus. The mechanical lifts are used by numerous football programs nationwide, across divisions, to both videotape  practices and, in the case of smaller stadium facilities, broadcast games. In the wake of the tragedy, a number of universities, including the University of Wyoming and the University of North Carolina, will look at adopting specific policies for those lifts, while other schools, including Virginia Tech, will have its students certified to use the machines.

In speaking to video operations personnel at multiple universities, the Associated Press found that there is no universal campus safety policy. Texas Tech football spokesman Blayne Beal said students on the Lubbock campus don’t use the so-called scissor lifts at all when winds reach 40 mph and they are allowed to go up only 20 feet when wind speeds reach 20 mph. Each person on the lift has a hand-held wind monitor.

“That gives us real-time data and they can make the instant decision to come down,” Beal said.

Erick Harper, director of football operations for the University of Arizona, told the AP that his video staff must be certified to run and visually inspect the scissor lifts rented by the school. He said the certifications are done by the rental company.

“They have the authority to lower [the] lift as needed if they feel uncomfortable because many times the degree of wind 30-40 feet high can be different from on the ground,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Our guys are harnessed in and [told] … if for some reason the camera stand lock breaks, just let the camera fall.”

Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver said full-time videography staff are certified to use the scissor lifts, and the eight student workers will be by next Tuesday because of the Notre Dame accident.

According to the New York Times, the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which classified the death as a workplace fatality, arrived on the Notre Dame campus on Thursday to begin its own investigation. Spokesman Marc Lotter said it was too early to say when the agency, which has the authority to levy fines, might release its findings.

Click here to read the full Associated Press story.