In recent remarks by OSHA Administrator David Michaels at the “DOL-FCC Workshop on Tower Climber Safety and Injury Prevention,” Michaels indicated 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 noted that in 2013 OSHA recorded 13 communication tower-related worker deaths, which was nearly double the number of the previous two years combined. “So far in 2014, there have already been 11 worker deaths at communication tower worksites.”
Employees in this industry need to climb towers throughout the year, including during inclement weather conditions. Some of the potential hazards may include:
- Falls from heights;
- Electrical hazards;
- Hazards associated with hoisting personnel and equipment with base-mounted drum hoists;
- Inclement weather;
- Falling object hazards;
- Equipment failure; and
- Structural collapse of towers.
In response to the 2014 falling fatalities OSHA has 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 is also preparing a Request for Information to engage all stakeholders “in a collaborative effort to prevent more of these senseless tragedies.” Additionally, OSHA has set up a dedicated email address, at OSHACommTower@dol.gov, where individuals may “share your stories, concerns, and best practices.”
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 are up-to-date and current. While accidents may happen no matter how well we work to avoid them, having corporate materials in order, and properly training and overseeing your employees will go a long way in minimizing potential liabilities if and when an accident occurs.