By James L. Curtis, Kerry M. Mohan, and Craig B. Simonsen

Last October OSHA Administrator David Michaels had, stated that “we at OSHA are very concerned about the rising number of tower worker deaths. The fatality rate in this industry is extraordinarily high – tower workers are killed on the job at a rate more than ten times higher than construction workers.” Emphasis added.

Michaels had previously written a letter to the communication tower industry about the rise in falls from communication towers, stating that “every single one of these tragedies was preventable.” In response to the increasing number of falling fatalities, OSHA had implemented a national outreach campaign using traditional, digital and social media, including a tower safety webpage. OSHA framed the campaign with the slogan, “No More Falling Workers.” OSHA also prepared a Request for Information to engage all stakeholders “in a collaborative effort to prevent more of these senseless tragedies,” which published last week. 80 Fed. Reg. 20185 (April 15, 2015).

In OSHA’s announcement of the RFI, Michaels notes that “in 2014, 12 workers were killed which was double the number of deaths in 2011 and six times the total number in 2012.” In response to the fatality rate, he states that “we understand the importance of this [communication tower] industry, but workers’ lives should not be sacrificed for a better cell phone signal.”

Given this trend employers in the communications tower industry need to be especially cognizant of OSHA’s rampant attention to their business and projects. Special care should be taken to make sure that all of your company safety policies, procedures, and training systems are up-to-date and current. While accidents may happen no matter how well we work to avoid them, having up-to-date written safety programs, and properly training and overseeing your employees, including your contractors and subcontractors, will go a long way in minimizing potential liabilities if and when an accident occurs.

Comments on the RFI, submitted to Docket No. OSHA–2014–0018, are due by June 15, 2015.