Following Salim’s DRA ’09 death, OSHA recommends formal training for students

Posted Monday 5:30 p.m. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has formally recommended that the Yale School of Drama provide training to students handling heavy props and materials following the death of a graduate student in an accident at the Yale Repertory Theatre last month.

Pierre-André Salim DRA ’09 was killed Nov. 18 after several dozen sheets of particleboard fell on him as he helped to unload materials from the back of a truck in preparation for the Rep’s production of “Tartuffe.” OSHA officials told the News last month that their preliminary investigation indicated a lack of training and experience among the several students unloading the truck may have contributed to the accident.

Drama School Dean James Bundy did not immediately return a phone message on Monday. But a week after the accident, he issued a statement apologizing “for any factors that could have contributed to this tragedy,” hinting that Yale may be at least partially responsible for the circumstances surrounding Salim’s death.

The recommendation to offer training came in OSHA’s final report about the accident, which had not been released publicly and was obtained by the News under the Freedom of Information Act.

OSHA has no enforcement jurisdiction in the case because Salim was working as a student, not as an employee, when the incident occurred. But the agency proceeded with its investigation in order to pinpoint any safety issues that may have contributed to the accident so they could be avoided in the future, OSHA area director Robert Kowalski told the News last month.

“We don’t lay blame, what we look at is the factors involved … so it doesn’t occur again,” Kowalski said. “That’s one of the reasons why we continued with the investigation — we don’t want to see that happen again.”

The accident occurred when Salim and two other students began to unload 32 sheets of particleboard that were standing upright and were affixed to one wall of the truck, according to the report. The truck was parked with a slight list toward the sidewalk, and when the straps were loosened so the boards could be removed, the 1,100-pound stack of wood fell over and crushed Salim, investigators said.

The accident occurred at 8:51 a.m., and an ambulance was quickly called to the scene, police said. Salim arrived at Yale New Haven at 9:05 a.m., the OSHA report said, and was pronounced dead at 9:26 a.m. A medical examiner ruled that he died of severe head injuries, and that his death was accidental.

The OSHA report said the truck could have been loaded in a different manner so as to reduce the risk of the wood tipping over. It also recommended that the University provide “specific training to students on the safe removal of props for performances.”

“It should be stressed that any heavy loads or awkward loads be brought to the attention of someone who has the authority, knowledge and experience to safely deal with all the unique load variations and hazards that could occur and be present in a loaded trailer,” the report said.

Salim, 26, of Jakarta, Indonesia, was set to receive his master’s degree in technical design and production in 2009. He graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2002 with a degree in computer science and moved to New Haven last year to attend the School of Drama.

Last month, the University announced a scholarship that has been created in his name. The Pierre-André Salim Memorial Scholarship will cover full tuition and living expenses for one entering student each year.

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