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OSHA Law Blog

Sports and OSHA Standards, They Go Together, Really

by Nikki Wilson Crary

As sports fans begin their annual football watching, rivalry matches, and tailgating, most forget that sporting teams are often “employers” or associated with an “employer.” Like other employers, Colleges and Universities, School Districts, and Professional Sports Teams must comply with Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”) standards.

These employer obligations recently were spotlighted in a fatal accident of a student/employee filming a football practice using a scissor lift at the University of Notre Dame. The University was cited for violations of Indiana OSHA (IOSHA) safety and health standards. As part of its settlement with IOSHA, the University agreed to pay a $42,000 fine in June and has launched a website publicizing the hazards of aerial lifts.

In response to the accident at Notre Dame, on July 6, 2011, OSHA issued a hazard alert about the dangers of using scissor lifts to film events and functions. OSHA notes several hazards associated with scissor lifts, including using the lifts in inclement weather, electrocution when working near power lines, and positioning lifts on soft or uneven ground.

While OSHA may not come to mind as a governing body associated with the regulation of sports, as shown above, many OSHA standards are directly relevant to sporting organizations and their employees’ safety. In fact, sports organizations may be in violation of OSHA standards with regard to the equipment used in filming practice, maintenance of fields, and the operation of machinery ancillary to the sporting activities themselves.

As the fall sports season begins, all employers, including those associated with sports, must remember that OSHA standards are applicable to their organizations and they should stay cognizant of the rules that apply to their activities on and off the field. Make this season safe and accident free.