Cell tower company cited after fatal tower collapse in West Virginia
Following the collapse of a Clarksburg communication tower in February 2014 that seriously injured two and claimed the lives of two employees and a volunteer firefighter, S and S Communication Specialists Inc. has been cited for two serious workplace safety violations. The citations issued to the Hulbert, Oklahoma-based company follow an OSHA investigation.
S and S Communication Specialists was contracted to perform structural modifications to an existing cellular communication tower. The modifications included replacing diagonal bracing and installing leg stiffeners and new guy wires on the structure. The tower collapsed while the employees were removing diagonal bracing.
A painful reminder
"These deaths are a painful reminder of the dangers associated with communication towers, and are at the root of OSHA's directive on communication tower construction activities," said Prentice Cline, OSHA area director for Charleston. "OSHA is concerned about the alarming increase in preventable injuries and fatalities at communication tower work sites. The agency is collaborating with the National Association of Tower Erectors and other industry stakeholders to ensure that every communication tower employer understands how to protect workers performing this high-hazard work."
Fatalities in the industry are on the rise
Thirteen workers lost their lives in the communication tower industry in 2013, more than the previous two years combined. This year, nine worker deaths have occurred in this industry to date.
OSHA inspectors cited the company for violating section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act for directing employees to remove diagonal structural members on communication towers without using temporary braces or supports, and for allowing employees to be tied off to bracing that was not capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
The company was assessed a $7,000 penalty for each of the two violations, which is the maximum amount allowed by law for a serious violation.