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From the Field
By Dave Putnam

On the morning of May 22, 2000 KABC-TV reporter Adrienne Alpert was
critically injured while covering a news story in Los Angeles. She was
working with photographer Heather MacKenzie, who was in the process of
raising the mast on their news van in order to establish a microwave signal
back to the station, to feed video for the story they were working on.
MacKenzie misjudged the overhead clearance distance to nearby power lines by
not fully realizing that their van was parked on un-level ground causing the
mast to go up at an angle. The antenna attached to the top of the mast
contacted a live high voltage transmission line and energized the vehicle.
Alpert attempted to exit the vehicle while the antenna and mast were still in
contact with the power line and suffered severe internal and external
electrical burns. These injuries resulted in partial amputation of a leg and
arm along with loss of fingers on her remaining hand.


We are rapidly approaching the two-year anniversary of the tragic accident involving two of my fellow employees here at KABC-TV. While no one working for KABC-TV or the other stations in town at the time can forget that terrible day, we must all press ahead and remember that when life hands you lemons like it handed Adrienne Alpert and Heather MacKenzie on May 22nd, 2000, you've got to think about making some lemonade.

I would like to remind everyone of the upcoming public meeting of the Cal OSHA Standards Board. The meeting will take place in San Diego at the Auditorium of the California State Building, 1350 Front St. on Thursday May 16 at 11:00 am. The Cal OSHA Standards Board will consider adopting a set of regulations that will help protect employees of newsgathering operations throughout the state from serious injuries and death at this meeting. This will be the final hearing to let your voice be heard on this important matter. The proposed rulescame about through a joint effort of AFTRA, IATSE, IBEW and NABET-CWA locals who represent television news employees in the LA market following the KABC-TV accident. The leadership of these Unions came up with proposals for rules to help protect and promote a culture of safety consciousness. These minimum standards will put in place rules for training for employees and equipping vehicles that we use on a daily basis to do our jobs.

As you may recall, Cal OSHA first held a hearing in early 2001 to consider these recommendations made by the coalition of unions and the advisory committee to the board heard testimony from station management, equipment manufactures, vehicle builder/integrators, safety specialists and broadcast employees during meetings last summer. This might seem to many like a very ponderous process in order to get a few rules put in place, but those in the know claim that this has been very much on the fast track compared to rulemaking for other industries. For a summary of these proposed rules go to: RULES --- and look them over.

Even if you can't attend the meeting in San Diego, I encourage everyone working throughout the state to take a moment or two and write a letter to the attention of the chairman of the standards board and let the board know that you support the immediate adoption of these basic safeguards. You can snail mail your letter to the following address:

Jere W. Ingram, Chairman

California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board

2520 Venture Oaks Way Suite 350

Sacramento, CA 95833


e-mail it to:

Click on this link -- for a sample letter to help you write a letter to the board to tell them about your support.

Once the rules are adopted, they will help prevent the type of accidents that have taken several lives and injured many others in the business. Hopefully other states will follow this lead and adopt similar common sense rules. We don't need to see any more injuries or deaths among our co-workers.

About the Author
Dave Putnam has been an employee of KABC-TV since 1981. He wears many hats
there including SNG, ENG, studio/field maintenance, transmission engineer and
sometimes he has been known to edit news spots when there is nobody else
available. He was a recipient of a National Emmy for ABC-TV's technical team
coverage of the 1989 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada, a local Emmy
and Los Angeles Press Club Award for his part in KABC-TV's coverage of the
'92 riot in Los Angeles. He has covered the '89 Loma Prieta, '92 Landers and
'94 Northridge earthquakes, the criminal and civil trials of O.J. Simpson and
numerous other news stories during his 21 years at KABC-TV. Before moving to
Los Angeles, he worked for the ABC-TV affiliate KATU in Portland, OR and
while there he covered the eruption and aftermath of the Mt St. Helens
volcano. Dave is a member of the NABET-CWA Local 57 E-Board in Burbank, CA