Safety Focus: UF Videographers Get Permanent Towers

Paul Steinbach Headshot

Count the University of Florida among schools taking steps to avoid the kind of tragedy that struck Notre Dame last fall, when high winds at football practice toppled a hydraulic scissor lift, killing 20-year-old videographer Declan Sullivan.

Florida, too, had become reliant on scissor lifts to record practice, employing as many as four lifts at a time. Only one permanent observation tower remained after various construction projects eliminated two others, according to Scott Carter, senior writer at

In the wake of Sullivan's death, however, Florida officials reevaluated their practice-recording protocols and decided to install six permanent steel towers on the Gators' practice fields. Each 35-foot structure will sit atop a three-foot-thick concrete slab measuring 20 square feet. Amenities will include electrical outlets, permanent roofs and lightning rods.

Scissor lifts, which offer videographers and their equipment no protection from the elements, will still be employed at Florida, but likely only in two locations - on one football practice field and at the university's lacrosse complex.

In March, Notre Dame announced that it was banning the use of scissor lifts when recording football practices. Last month, the Indiana Department of Labor announced that it had reached a settlement agreement with the university related to Sullivan's death. According to the South Bend Tribune, Notre Dame must make a substantial contribution to the Declan Drumm Sullivan Memorial Fund, as well as launch a nationwide education program directed at other universities and educational organizations about the hazards of the outdoor use of scissor lifts, and the importance of training employees who operate such lifts.

No such education was necessary at Florida, where the knot in video director Dave Houts' stomach last fall was motivation enough to champion the use of towers over lifts. "It became apparent to us that this was the best thing to do," Houts told "What happened at Notre Dame is horrible. You just hope that never happens again."

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