Monday, April 6, 2009

OSHA Recommends Fining Buffalo News $31,500 for Reporter's Death at Football Stadium

Filing this under Big Government Gone Wild:

OSHA has recommended that The Buffalo News be fined $31,500 in connection to a sports reporter's death after he fell from a stairwell at a high school football stadium while covering a game. Since when does a newspaper own and maintain a stadium?

“Reporters were exposed to the hazards of falls and head injuries whenever they used the press box,” said Arthur J. Dube, regional director of OSHA’s Buffalo office, told The Buffalo News. “The newspaper was aware of these conditions. [It] should have prevented the reporters from using the stairs and the press box until they were corrected. That’s my opinion.”

The stairway is pictured at left.

Michael Beebe's story continues:
Margaret M. Sullivan, editor of The News, said she found OSHA’s recommendations “illogical.”

“The News’ role is to cover events, not to fix staircases,” Sullivan said. “Reporters go into all kinds of situations and environments, including countries at war. That’s the very definition of the job.”

Lawrence R. Bayerl, director of human resources and general counsel for The News, said he is studying options for appeal.

John Moriello, president of the New York State Sportswriters Association, was even more critical of OSHA.

“The idea that OSHA can even think of assigning blame to the newspaper is nothing less than stunning,” said Moriello, a former reporter for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle who now reports for Fox Sports.

“The school district — and the school district alone — bears responsibility for the terrible tragedy that cost Tom Borrelli his life,” Moriello said. “The accident took place on school property, at a facility that they should have been maintaining and upgrading on a regular basis.”


rknil said...

This was a tragic event.

But the newspaper is incorrect when it claims it was totally ignorant of the problem and could have done nothing. A newspaper has plenty of options at its disposal. The editorial bully pulpit is one. Behind the scenes, it could have expressed its concerns with the school. If those steps fell short, then a drastic maneuver would have been avoiding the press box altogether, which is what OSHA seems to be recommending after the fact.

I'd have a lot easier time thinking the newspaper should not pay a fine if it would just admit that it should have made some attempt to have the problem corrected. As it is, I see nothing egregious about fining the newspaper.

And, as journalists tell us time and time again, if someone is really innocent, then wouldn't that person/entity simply sue to prove the innocence? (They seem to have turned the concept if innocent until proven guilty inside out.) That would mean the newspaper can simply sue the school and collect the damages.

Don't mean to trivialize the writer's death, but The Buffalo News already has succeeded in doing that.

OSHAPro said...

The OSH Act of 1970 holds the employer responsible for his employees safety. So this case involving the reporter is no different than if a construction worker is sent to work at a construction site. Why do newspapers / reporters think they can be held to a lesser standard? Go to for detailed training and information about OSHA safety standards.

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