Recently, the story of a student videographer at Notre Dame has been national news. The student had been working, filming a football practice when a sudden gust of wind knocked down the scissor lift he had been filming on. He died shortly thereafter from injuries sustained from the fall.
That accident reminded a Colorado State University alumnus of a work-related accident he went through nearly 10 years ago. It was the same situation. The alumnus, who was working for the university as a videographer, had been standing on a scissor lift filming a football practice. A strong wind caused the lift to lean and eventually fall over. The alumnus fell approximately 30 feet and sustained major injuries, including broken ribs and punctured lungs.
Following the accident, the alumnus spent time in the hospital recovering from his injuries. Hearing about the accident at Notre Dame reminded him that accidents like this can happen to anyone. He understands that this type of job can be dangerous, a fact that can be forgotten as time goes on.
The tragedy at Notre Dame brings up some considerations for those who are employed as students by a university. In the event of accidents like these, are student employees entitled to workers' compensation?
Students who are injured on the job will have medical bills and a recovery period where they will be unable to work and support themselves. For students who work to put themselves through college, being injured on the job can prevent them from financing their education for a time. In addition, are there any protections afforded to students injured working for the university regarding their actual course of study? If a student is critically injured, they may not be able to keep up with classes at the same pace that their healthier classmates can. That can have an economic affect on their future if they fall behind in their studies.
While there may be some discussion about whether the lifts themselves are defective or need better warning labels, students are still being injured and killed on-the-job. One thing that came out of these accidents is that universities are now planning to implement safety policies and procedures for any student employee who use hydraulic lifts.
Source: coloradoan.com, "Death of Notre Dame videographer recalls similar CSU accident," 29 October 2010