Brian Kelly (ND Football Coach) I hope your nightmares keep you up at night

This is just peachy, ND Student Dies in Scissor-lift accident

The skinny: a junior at Notre Dame is filming football practice for the team on a 50-ft scissor lift…in 50 mph winds. Lift topples over onto the street and a nearby fence, kid dies. Why was the team even practicing in that weather is beyond me. And I suppose it is a bit unfair to blame Coach Kelly for it, but somebody must be culpable. How about this, here are some tweets from the kid:

An hour later he was dead. Yes, I understand he should have told them to stuff it, but it was his job and surely somebody else ion authority should have told him to not go up there. Who was ultimately responsible? It is hard not to think Brian Kelly is. The football program is his concern, filming the practice is his concern. What happens out there is his concern.

OSHA is investigating and I suspect the family will be doing a bit of “investigating” of their own.

Yeah, it’s real hard not to put some blame on BK for this tragedy. College footbal teams frequently practice indoors in windy conditions for this very reason…the safety of their film crews. The kid obviously recognized the danger and probably should have said something, but it’s a college kid we’re talking about. ND will pay for this one.

Did the coach really order the kid up the lift? Was the kid hesitant but Kelly told him “get your ass up there?” The article didn’t say.
I think the kid (college kid / adult) unfortunately was a victim of his own actions. If he felt it was unsafe to go up there he should have refused or told the coach “yeah, not today, too windy.”
A coach probably is probably more focused on the players and what they’re doing rather than supervising every single person around him much less a lone cameraman. He wasn’t up on the lift. How does he know how stable the thing was?
Maybe if he saw it swaying he could have told the kid “Jesus christ, what the hell are you doing up there, you wanna kill yourself, get your ass down here!”

Well it was the kids job, I assume, given his tweets, so it is up to the employer to make sure the work environment is not hazardous beyond expectation. I don’t really know, but Kelly was likely the administrator in chahrge and ultimately responsible for maintaining a safe work environment. I admit as to who is ultimately culpable is speculation, but it isn’t on the employee, IMO.

I think the onus is on the coach to affirmatively prevent those under his supervision and/or control from doing things that are too risky. Kelly failed to do that, so he deserves some of the blame for this incident.

Who was his direct supervisor? Was it someone who was on Brian Kelly’s staff or was it someone from the athletic department (meaning someone from the athletic department not on Kelly’s staff.) Who hired this kid? Who would have the power to fire him? Who would it be that would be chewing him out if he didn’t show up for work?

I genuinely have no idea, but given how large a major university’s athletic department is I don’t know that by default the head coach of a specific team is the supervisor for student camera workers. They might be, but it’s also possible they report to an entity outside of the football org chart.

It’s not like BK is a scissor lift expert, hell you need a license to run a forklift in a dam warehouse. I think this will just come down to a ruling that from now on everyone who uses a scissor lift on a college campus needs some sort of OSHA training and has set wind maximums for safe operation.

If he is requiring employees under his direction to use it then he should know the limitations. Supervisors need to know the safety tolerances of the equipment their employees are going to use. Youa re probably right, he probably didn’t know, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have known.

Yeah just like every executive is trained in all of the equipment their employees use. Oh wait, you’re an idiot.

I’m not saying there is no possibly way that BK is liable for the employee killed but come on. The school, the athletic department, and OSHA should provide indepth training for someone who is going to be in that position and the person trained in the use of the equipment should be the one and only person who makes the decision on whether it is safe to use.

It might not be Kelly, but certainly multiple people ought to be fired in addition to ND forking over a chunk of cash.

It seems very bizarre to me the football coach would be the person to whom the kid reported or would be anywhere in the chain of command for the use of a scissor lift.

Someone’s head should roll but it seems exceedingly unlikely to me that Kelly would be responsible for this. Workplace safety and lifting devices aren’t in his job description and wouldn’t belong to the football program.

A statement from Notre Dame’s athletic director here implies the coaches have the decision-making responsibility, but it’s not very clear.

Most jurisdictions already require training for operation of “aerial work platforms”. Got a certificate somewhere. And not operating in high winds was mentioned in the training - I don’t recall any specific maximums, but the danger would vary by lift type and extension anyways. Rule of thumb: if the way the basket waves is terrifying, retract the damn lift.

Hm, actually that article gave some information that I found interesting.

Gene Smith, a longtime athletic director at Ohio State was quoted as saying that often times the athletic department’s video director and the team’s head coach will make decisions about filming jointly. The article goes on to say that the student served under Notre Dame’s video director, Tim Collins.

The only thing I don’t know after reading that article is how Notre Dame comes to its decisions on video taping and weather conditions. If it is akin to how Ohio State does it, then it’s a collaborative thing between the video director and the head coach. I suppose it is possible that Brian Kelly has sole authority and out ranks the video director, even on issues of safety. I don’t know, if that is the case then Brian Kelly is very culpable on a personal level.

However, if the video director has the authority to basically put his foot down and say, “Listen, I get that you want to practice outside, and as football coach that’s your prerogative. However, these weather conditions are unsafe for our video staff, so if you practice outside we will not be able to record aerial videos for you during this practice” then I think Tim Collins is the person most directly responsible for all this.

Knowing nothing about any of this, I’m going to guess that Collins can probably pull rank on issues like this. I know that the head football coach draws a lot more water than the video director in the athletic department, but at the end of the day I strongly suspect the reason Gene Smith said these decisions are often made by both the video director and the head coach is precisely because the video director can’t make the decision as to where the football team practices just as the head coach can’t decide on his own whether or not it is safe for the video team to use the scissor lifts. I honestly doubt Brian Kelly is informed about the safety implications of the scissor lift and I also doubt it is in his job description that he needs to be informed. Probably because it is the responsibility of the video director.

If it is Kelly’s responsibility and he does have overrule authority and can make video staff do whatever he says and he did so, then he’s extremely culpable. I would also say this proves as a good reason to make sure athletic department’s video directors have final say on these things, and not coaches.

My gut suspicion is that’s already how it is and Tim Collins was either lax in watching out for his staff or didn’t properly understand how dangerous things were.

I am a certified lift operator, both for scissor lifts and boom lifts. I have well over 4000 hours spent in lifts, including more than 1000 hours operating 120’ boom lifts, both on flat concrete and on open, rough terrain. So forgive me this conceit, but I feel like I know what I’m talking about here, and to me, there is some pertinent information missing from the story linked in the OP, to wit:

Was this kid alone in the lift?
If so, did he have any training in the inspection and safe operation of the equipment?
If not alone, did the other person have said training? From the linked story, it seems he was alone in the lift. Certainly I would have expected to hear that more than one person was injured if more than one person was in the lift.

What type of ground was this lift parked on, and was it level? Were the leveling jacks in use?


What type of lift was this (manufacturer and model)? I don’t know of any scissor lifts that go over 40 feet high that aren’t at least 6’ wide by 8’ long, with a ballast weight of roughly 15,000 to 18,000 pounds. Something like this lift from Genie or this lift from JLG, for instance.

From the picture in the article, I’m going to guess that this was the JLG 4394RT, a 15,000 pound lift with a maximum height of 43’. The yellowish-orange color is their trademark, just like Genie’s is blue. I’ve used this lift many times. The RT stands for “rough terrain”, and this lift is made to be driven on open ground on construction sites. When parked, the RT series lifts have leveling jacks that must be used to ensure stability before raising the platform. My guess is that no one set them in this case.

I have seen lifts go over, more than once, and in each instance it was not the equipment at fault, it was the operator. Too many people get in them and use them with little or no training, and often even those with training have inadequate knowledge about the machinery to do a proper inspection before use. In fact, the vast majority of people the vaster majority of the time, never do an inspection before using a lift.

The outdoor lifts like this one, with air tires, are unsafe at over half their maximum height without the leveling jacks in place. The further up you go when out of plumb, the more you put yourself at risk of toppling over, especially if one side or one wheel is above or below the others. It is essential to be level.

I’m sorry for this kid, who prolly had no idea what he was getting into, and almost certainly had no training on the proper inspection and use of this equipment.

Do those machines actually go ahead and let you go up when you’re not level? I work with indoor lifts all the time, and they failsafe at around 1° off on a poured concrete floor. Frustrating sometimes.

Further on Martin’s comments about the chain of responsibility: I was discussing this today with my dad, who used to supervise football videoing at Iowa State. One practice the videographer was up on top of the scoreboard when a massive lightning storm came through. He got his gear and himself down in a hurry and surprise, he got bitched out by some assistant coach.

My dad had to straighten it out with the athletic department. He said “My guys are professionals. They don’t take stupid risks. We know how important it is to have video, but if any one of my guys decides it is not safe to be up there and comes down, I will back him up.” There were no more problems after that.

The RT lifts are a bit more forgiving, but I’d be surprised if you haven’t personally been in a scissor lift that allowed you to go up even tho the outriggers failed to properly and fully deploy. It happens all the time due to warps, dips or bumps in the floor, or when using them on carpet with a thick underpad. The piezo speaker will be beeping, but the lift will continue to operate.

The same thing if a lift is on a grade (slope), if the head or rear of the lift is higher up. Go drive up a ramp and then try and lift the platform: it will raise until the level sensor detects too much mass too high, shifting the mercury enough to cause shutdown.

With air tires, you run the risk of improper inflation, which means when you walk to one side of the lift, you are pressing down on one side and raising the other up. Coupled with high wind, the exertion of force (hauling weight up or trying to push something, for instance) can tip a lift fairly quickly. Side-to-side is dangerous; off the front or rear is less so, but is still dangerous.

There’s also the disturbing trend that a lot of people get annoyed at the little piezo beeping at them all the time, so they’ll pull the connector. This is a finable offense, and just plain stupid, but it happens all. the. time. That’s why I said: there’s some questions I’d like the answers to before I start condemning anyone over this.

I use lifts nearly every day that I work, sometimes spending as much as 16 hours at a clip in one, and while I know how to operate one safely, I would say that most, as in nearly all, of the other people I see using a lift a) never do a pre-use inspection b) have never opened an owner’s manual for one, let alone for the one they’re about to use and c) will use them in an improper and unsafe manner without so much as thinking about the dangers involved because it’s expedient (read: faster or easier than doing the job correctly).

In a day, how many times do you see someone stand on the mid or top rail to reach something? It happens all the time, even when all they would have to do is hit the lever and raise the whole fucking platform to the proper working height. I send people home for this, and my new policy is that I send not only the person who committed the infraction home, but anyone else who was in the lift with them.

Wow. Really. Dude, I live in freakin’ Texas, and none of that shit would get by.

Folks gotta buckle in, they have spotters, and don’t work 16 hour shifts!

Any lift or reach not beeping up or down or in reverse scares the hell out of me and is taken out of service until repaired.

He would have probably been fired for doing that. And most such jobs are part of a work/study program at the college, so he would be at risk of losing his scholarship and having to quit college (or pay a whole lot more). That would likely have had a major effect on his thinking about refusing.