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Accounts conflict in Boy Scout accident report
Richmond Times-Dispatch


March 07, 2006

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - An Alaska Boy Scout leader might have chosen the specific spot where a tent was erected beneath electrical lines at the 2005 National Scout Jamboree, a federal report suggests.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration report also states it would have cited the Boy Scouts of America for a workplace-safety violation in the electrocution of four Alaska troop leaders at the jamboree if the adult leaders had been employed by the organization.

"We don't have any jurisdiction over the Boy Scouts because [the troop leaders] were volunteers," said Charles T. Pope, an OSHA spokesman in Norfolk.




The OSHA report, which The Times-Dispatch obtained through a federal Freedom of Information Act request, states that the agency's investigation found "significant issues regarding safety concerns" with the Irving, Texas-based BSA.

Witnesses say the four leaders were electrocuted July 25 when the center pole of a large canopy they were helping a contractor erect touched overhead power lines at the jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill.

Campsites for western Alaska Troops 711 and 712 were marked with stakes and yellow nylon roping on the ground, according to the report. The site for Troop 711 was on a downward slope.

An employee with Tents & Events told OSHA officials that a western Alaska leader was, in the report's words, "extremely specific" that the large tents be placed 20 feet inside from the yellow rope, putting both canopies beneath power lines.

BSA decides the location of the individual campsites in advance of the 10-day quadrennial event, according to the report. BSA officials say the organization provides individual troop leaders with a diagram suggesting how tents can be placed but that individual troop leaders decide where to put tents within their campsites.

"We give the parameters for the site," said Gregg Shields, a BSA spokesman.

The tent company employees set up the first large canopy by themselves. At least one of the employees told investigators that troop leaders constantly asked them questions such as "How much longer?" and "When are you going to get the tent up?" as the contractors erected the second tent on a slope, according to the report.

At least one tent company employee told investigators the troop leaders then insisted on helping. That statement conflicts with a previous account from western Alaska Council director Bill Haines, who has said the two tent-company employees asked the Alaska leaders for help raising the second canopy.

Haines has not returned repeated phone calls seeking comment in the past several months, and efforts to reach him this week were also unsuccessful.

OSHA cited Tents & Events for "serious" workplace-safety violations in January, and the company settled with the agency a month ago and agreed to pay reduced fines of $3,000.

OSHA officials removed names from the narrative report provided to the newspaper, citing a legal exemption that allows them to do so because naming people could discourage witnesses from speaking with investigators.

The report also notes that Army officials require BSA to submit permits if any digging is required, including driving metal tent stakes into the ground, but that no dig permits were requested or submitted for erecting the western Alaskans' tents. More than 400 dig permits were requested and approved before the jamboree, the report said, citing information from the Army.

The BSA noted in its own 2001 post-jamboree evaluation that the organization did not have enough safety personnel present to coordinate and resolve safety issues, according to OSHA. Among the areas of concern mentioned were the coordination of digging permits, oversight of contractor activities and written safety policies and procedures.

"Recommendations were not fully implemented for the 2005 Boy Scout Jamboree, because several of the same conditions still existed," OSHA officials stated in their report.


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