Are Communication Tower Workers Being Put in Harm’s Way?
In 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its rules for the communication tower industry. These rules were meant to halt the excessive number of workplace deaths. Despite this update, communication tower deaths continued into 2016.
Last year in February, a 28-year-old cell tower technician fell to his death while servicing the Tri-State Tower in Iowa. In May of 2016, two tower technicians died in separate incidents on the same day. One fell to his death while servicing a tower in Maryland, and the other died after being electrocuted on a tower in North Carolina. OSHA statistics show 36 workers died while servicing or building these towers between 2011 and 2015.
Why Do Communication Tower Deaths Happen?
According to a workshop hosted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and OSHA, unsafe business practices may be to blame for these deaths. Stakeholders in the industry who attended this workshop vocalized several safety problems:
Companies are hiring unqualified subcontractors. These subcontractors may lack training and certifications needed to safely work on these towers.
Some towers are covered with clutter and other equipment that can make performing maintenance dangerous. In some cases, companies require workers to free-climb these towers instead of using cranes.
Training and certification programs may be of poor quality. These programs are not always consistent and may leave workers unprepared to conduct their job duties.
Workers may receive equipment that is outdated or in poor condition.
Strict deadlines create safety problems. Workers may feel obligated to free climb cell towers because it is faster.
Industry insiders claim these safety issues are fixable. Businesses should provide workers with safe equipment. Training and certification programs should be consistent. Routine audits of the industry could fix problems with tower design and companies hiring unqualified workers.
The families of deceased workers should contact a workers comp attorney to explore legal options for holding negligent companies accountable. In some cases, additional benefits exist outside of the workers’ comp system.