cell tower worker deathsThe high-hazard telecommunications tower industry claimed another victim Nov. 23rd in Wichita, Kansas, further fueling OSHA’s concern about the alarming increase in preventable injuries and fatalities at tower worksites.

“More fatalities occurred in this industry in 2013 than in the previous two years combined,” said the agency in a statement. “This disturbing trend appears to be continuing, with seven worker deaths occurring so far in 2014.”

A 50 foot fall

In the Wichita accident, a 25-year-old worker was performing maintenance when he fell about 50 feet while descending the tower. He is one of 13 workers fatally injured at communication worksites in 2013. The majority of these deaths were a result of falls. OSHA requires employers to provide fall protection equipment, train employees how to use the safety equipment and ensure that they use it properly and consistently.

Pinpoint Towers LLC has been cited for three serious safety violations, with proposed penalties of $21,000.

Lack of fall protection training

The citations allege that Pinpoint Towers failed to ensure fall protection was maintained at all times while traversing the communication tower, and did not conduct a comprehensive job hazard assessment to include fall protection methods prior to employees traversing the tower. Finally, the company failed to provide certification that the hazard assessment had been completed and did not provide adequate fall protection training to workers.

The alarming fatality rate in the industry has OSHA is collaborating with the National Association of Tower Erectors and other industry stakeholders to ensure that every communication tower employer understands their responsibility to protect workers performing this high-hazard work.

OSHA's outreach to industry

OSHA has sent a letter to communication tower employers urging compliance and strict adherence to safety standards and common sense practices. The agency has also created a new Web page targeting the issues surrounding communication tower work.

This outreach follows a November 2013 memo to OSHA's compliance officers and regional administrators* mandating increased attention, education and data collection on the industry.

OSHA says it’s committed to working with the communications industry to prevent these injuries and fatalities, and it will continue outreach and enforcement efforts to make sure communication tower workers are adequately protected. Small- and medium-sized employers can access OSHA on-site consultation programs for free assistance in providing safe workplaces.