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From the Field
By Dave Putnam

On the two-year anniversary of the tragic accident that took place in Los Angeles involving two employees of KABC-TV's news department and a Los Angeles policeman, television newspersons throughout the state are waiting for the Cal OSHA Standards Board to implement the proposed Title 8 Article 40 Safety Orders.

These orders are a direct result of a combined effort put forth by broadcast labor unions representing both behind the scene photographers and technicians along with on-air reporters following the May 22, 2000 accident. KABC-TV reporter Adrienne Alpert suffered severe physical injuries that resulted in partial amputation of a leg and arm along with fingers and toes from the remaining limbs when she attempted to exit a newsvan that had come in contact with a high voltage power line. Photographer/technician Heather MacKenzie had unknowingly parked the vehicle on un-level ground causing the truckÔ??s microwave mast to deploy at an angle. Due to a misjudgment of distances on MacKenzie's part the antenna at the top of the mast made contact with the live powerline and energized the vehicle.

A meeting of the Cal OSHA Standards Board took place in a hearing room at a State of California office building in San Diego last Thursday (May 16). At this meeting, representatives of AFTRA, IBEW, and NABET-CWA and employees of two Los Angeles television stations gave oral testimony urging the board to adopt the orders as soon as possible. Noted industry safety information specialist Mark Bell also spoke before the board and congratulated them on taking a leadership role for their consideration of the proposed rules. All speakers noted that the process so far had been a smooth one as both labor and management are in agreement and have worked together with safety experts from outside broadcasting, television equipment manufacturers and news vehicle integrators to come up with the common sense rules. Management representatives from ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox networks were also present at the meeting but did not speak before the board. These networks own stations in several California television markets.
The standards board also received written testimony from over 100 people not in attendance at the meeting according to an article the Los Angeles Times. Included in this written testimony was a petition urging the board to adopt the rules signed by KABC-TV's ENG employees.
The Times article also noted that the board had received protests from broadcast companies regarding quarterly safety inspections of vehicles and instead suggested that the inspections take place on a annual basis instead.

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