Last month's tragic accident at Notre Dame, where 20-year-old Declan Sullivan died after a scissor lift on which he was filming football practice tipped over in high winds, was not a construction accident.
It is a potent reminder of the dangers of aerial devices, which are commonly used in this industry.
"These are not just tools, these are inherently—if not used correctly—these are dangerous, and the only way you remove that risk is through awareness and training," said Guy Ramsey, longtime aerial work platform expert and publisher of trade magazine Lift and Access.
I caught up with Ramsey while touring a JLG plant in Orville, Ohio, last week. Ramsey estimated that more than 200,000 scissor lifts exist in North America. Though most are used in construction and industrial applications, they are also quite popular for filming sporting events.
Folks at JLG, one of the world's largest producers of AWPs, wouldn't comment on the accident (the scissor lift is believed to be a 40-foot-high Grove Manlift, now out of production), but some of the company people we spoke with said that, on average, AWPs are not designed to be used in winds greater than 30 miles per hour. On that tragic day in South Bend, gusts spiked over 50 mph.
Every AWP is different, though, and the wind rating is located in the operator's manual, which is required by most industry safety codes to be kept in the platform.
What can we learn from the Notre Dame tragedy? "If you were properly trained, you would be aware of the fact that it was too windy," said Ramsey, adding, "I would speculate that [Sullivan] hadn't been trained."
Notre Dame and Indiana state labor officials are separately investigating.
Safety advocates, including the International Powered Access Federation, are calling for more training for all people using AWPs. Ramsey, too, is hosting a free Webinar series on AWP safety, happening this week.
This is not the first time a scissor lift has tipped over. Will it be the last?
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