• In Wichita, Kansas, a 25-year-old worker performing cell tower maintenance was killed when he fell 50 feet.
  • In Louise, Mississippi, a worker installing microwave dishes on a cell tower was killed when he fell 125 feet. The worker, who was not using a double lanyard, fell after disconnecting his positioning lanyard to re-position himself.
  • In Coats, NC, a worker performing installation services for Sprint died from a fall.

These incidents are vivid illustrations of why falls are the top cause of fatalities in the communication tower industry, which has grown dramatically over the past 30 years.

2,000 feet in the air

In order to erect or maintain communication towers, employees regularly climb towers, using fixed ladders, support structures or step bolts, from 100 feet to heights in excess of 1000 or 2000 feet. There’s no time off for inclement weather, either; workers climb towers throughout the year, sometimes in high winds and ice storms.

With the demand for wireless and broadcast communications continuing to increase, employment related to servicing and maintaining towers will also expand.

Falls not the only hazard

While falls from great heights are a primary hazard for these workers, they are not the only cause of workplace incidents. Others are: electrical hazards; hazards associated with hoisting personnel and equipment with base-mounted drum hoists; inclement weather, as noted above; falling object hazards; equipment failure and structural collapse of towers.

According to most recent data available from OSHA, the industry’s fatality rate was decreasing until an uptick in 2016, which saw six fatalities. There were three in 2015, 12 in 2014 and 13 in 2013.

An especially deadly year

The following are some of the 2013 communications tower incidents that were investigated by OSHA. They include one where a worker survived a 140’ fall, and another where one died despite having fall protection on:


Preventing Injuries and Deaths from Falls during Construction and Maintenance of Telecommunication Towers (PDF). NIOSH Alert Publication Number 2001–156,(July 2001)

Communication Tower Best Practices [PDF] - OSHA/FCC Joint Publication. A guide to establish accepted practices for performing communication towers work safely. (June 2017).

Preventing Falls in Construction. OSHA's Fall Prevention Campaign.