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updated: 8/30/2011 5:03 AM

Long Grove student's death triggers Notre Dame safety program

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  • Long Grove native Declan Sullivan was killed last year when the aerial lift he was on at Notre Dame toppled over due to high winds.

      Long Grove native Declan Sullivan was killed last year when the aerial lift he was on at Notre Dame toppled over due to high winds.

  • In an Oct. 27, 2010, file photo provided by the Indiana Department of Labor, a hydraulic lift lies on its side after an accident that killed Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan of Long Grove. Notre Dame, with help from Sullivan's family, has launched an aerial lift safety program.

      In an Oct. 27, 2010, file photo provided by the Indiana Department of Labor, a hydraulic lift lies on its side after an accident that killed Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan of Long Grove. Notre Dame, with help from Sullivan's family, has launched an aerial lift safety program.
    AP FILE Photo/Indiana Department of Labor

  • Investigators work next to the aerial lift that toppled over on Oct. 27, 2010, during a University of Notre Dame football practice, killing 20-year-old Declan Sullivan of Long Grove. Notre Dame, with help from Sullivan's family, has launched an aerial lift safety program.

      Investigators work next to the aerial lift that toppled over on Oct. 27, 2010, during a University of Notre Dame football practice, killing 20-year-old Declan Sullivan of Long Grove. Notre Dame, with help from Sullivan's family, has launched an aerial lift safety program.
    Daily Herald file photo by George leclaire/gleclai

 

Ever since Declan Sullivan died last fall after the aerial lift he was on toppled over in high winds, family of the 20-year-old from Long Grove said it wanted to prevent others from falling victim to the same kind of avoidable accident.

A new national awareness campaign aims to do just that.

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The UpRight! program will serve as a resource for administrators, band directors, videographers like Sullivan and anyone else who oversees the use of aerial lifts for recording and directing purposes.

"There is no bringing Declan back, but we want to make sure nobody else has to go through what he and the family did," Sullivan's uncle, Mike Miley, said Monday. "We support the education campaign and look forward to seeing it continue."

Developed in collaboration with the South Bend, Ind., university and the Indiana Department of Labor, UpRight! offers fact sheets, fliers and the organization's wind limit for aerial lifts, information that can be posted in areas where they are used.

It also outlines lessons on four key areas of safety including the right setup, training, weather information and safety contact. For instance, it emphasizes the importance of obtaining real-time information on current weather conditions, especially wind speed and direction and the possibility of lightning.

Notre Dame officials in April said football staff responsible for advising whether it was safe to practice outside used out-of-date weather information when Sullivan fell to his death on Oct. 27.

The film and marketing major was recording the football team's practice in winds as high as 53 mph, prompting Sullivan to express his concerns for his safety over social media sites.

Investigators with the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration said labels on the scissor lift warned against using it in winds greater than 28 mph. Notre Dame paid a $42,000 fine to the state after investigators found the university committed violations that created an unsafe workplace, including a lack of proper training for Sullivan.

Sullivan's father, Barry Sullivan, introduces a video on the UpRight! website, LiftUpRight.org, urging people to pay attention.

"Almost 30 people die each year in accidents using aerial lifts," Barry Sullivan says. "I cannot bring Declan back, but I can help spread the word on aerial lift safety."

The Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, said the university is committed to working with the Sullivans and Indiana OSHA to share the lessons officials have learned from Declan's death.

"The materials and information provided on the website are a part of our effort in that regard, and while not a substitute for formal training, they're a start for helping others understand key considerations for aerial lift safety," Jenkins said in a statement.

Over the next year, Notre Dame will work to spread the UpRight! safety message along with other supporters, including 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.

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