Union leaders said Friday that they've filed a complaint with the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health about the death of a custodian at the University of California at Berkeley on April 7.

Leaders of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents 22,000 service and patient care technical workers at the 10 UC campuses, said 45-year-old Damon Frick fell from a 20-foot lift at the International House on campus on April 7 and died days later from the injuries he sustained.

In its complaint, the union alleges that UC Berkeley violated the California Health and Safety Act and failed to comply with its own health and safety policies.

AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger, who is a fellow service worker at UC Berkeley, said in a statement that the accident that caused Frick's death "was an entirely preventable tragedy and UC must be held accountable."

Lybarger said, "We have been sounding alarms for years about the hazardous working conditions and skyrocketing injury rates faced by UC service workers, those who do the most physically demanding labor at UC."

The union says the university's incident report says Frick was "working from a lift platform to clean window sills approximately 20 feet above the ground in Chevron Auditorium" when the lift, which is more than 30 years old, became unstable and tipped over.


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According to the union, there was no spotter present when Frick was on the lift.

The union said that while Frick's supervisor required him to perform the dangerous lift work, it wasn't part of his original job description.

It alleged that the university has since failed to produce any records demonstrating that the lift equipment Frick was operating had been properly maintained, or whether Frick had received any hands-on training related to its proper use.

AFSCME Local 3299 said it has also filed a formal grievance with the university, demanding that it cease and desist from assigning workers "abnormally hazardous tasks" and conduct a campus wide review of all hazardous duties performed by AFSCME-represented workers to ensure that employees are properly trained and informed of their health and safety rights. The grievance also seeks to ensure that all equipment has been properly maintained.

The union said Frick's family is pursuing a wrongful death claim against the university.

UC Berkeley officials weren't immediately available for comment on the union's Cal/OSHA complaint.



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