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Spike in cellphone tower worker deaths alarms OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) utilizes a variety of different mechanisms in order to promote safety in the workplace. It passes numerous safety regulations, conducts inspections and creates reading material that helps workers to understand their right to a safe workplace. In addition, when OSHA feels the need to communicate with employers regarding a particularly urgent safety matter, the agency sometimes sends affected employers letters directly.

Most recently, OSHA felt the need to send letters to both cellphone tower contractors and businesses which employ cellphone tower contractors and their workforces. The reason that OSHA chose to send urgent letters to these employers is rooted in a recent sharp spike in the rate of fatal accidents involving cellphone tower workers.

According to OSHA, tower climbers specifically are suffering increased rates of fatal accidents. Many of these tower climbers are workers employed by subcontractors and they are apparently not always receiving fall prevention training and access to necessary safety equipment.

OSHA told employers explicitly that, “It is imperative that the cell tower industry take steps immediately to address this pressing issue. It is your responsibility to prevent workers from being injured or killed while working on communication towers.”

OSHA has also made it clear that businesses and carriers who order cellphone tower work could be held liable for inadequate safety precautions in addition to direct contractor liability. The agency seems to be taking this particular safety issue very seriously. Hopefully this seriousness of purpose will inspire employers to respond accordingly.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “OSHA Warns Companies After Rise in Cell Tower Deaths,” Ryan Knutson and Melanie Trottman, Feb. 11, 2014

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