OSHA Tightens Cell Tower Industry Safety Following Surge in Cell Tower Accidents

Following a recent surge in preventable cell tower fatalities and injuries, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is warning cellphone tower owners and contractors to comply with safety standards.

As carriers scramble to upgrade networks with LTE technology, promising cellphone users better wireless speeds, we are once again experiencing a rise in cellphone tower accidents. The surge happened previously when carriers upgraded 3G technology and the pattern promises to continue as technology advances, if tower owners and contract companies don’t make employee safety a priority.

The Wall Street Journal Reports:

The warning in a letter to employers followed a rise last year in fatalities among tower climbers, a job once called the most dangerous in America. The agency said it is concerned about the possibility of future incidents, especially when employees of subcontractors are doing the hazardous work, and warned that companies could face penalties if they don’t do enough to prevent falls.

It also said it would look not only at the contractors that do the work, but also at the larger companies and carriers that order it up.

“It is imperative that the cell tower industry take steps immediately to address this pressing issue,” the agency said in the letter, which was dated Monday and sent Tuesday to about 100 communication-tower employers. “It is your responsibility to prevent workers from being injured or killed while working on communication towers.”

In the past, carriers have said that tower work “isn’t their core business and, while they care about safety, they shouldn’t be held responsible when subcontractors violate safety standards.” Contract companies often place the blame on employees, saying those who violate safety standards “are subject to termination.”

However, these preventable tragedies are not always the result of failure to properly use equipment, but also equipment failures, falling objects, structural collapses and a lack of adequate safety training. Thus, while employees must use provided safety equipment, other parties need to start taking responsibility for the lives and safety of these employees. Cell towers need to be designed with maintenance safety as a priority. Contractors need to properly train employees and enforce these safety standards.

OSHA is now starting to crack down on the entire industry, finally making carriers, tower owners and equipment manufacturers accountable:

In a strategic shift, the November letter encouraged compliance officers to pay special attention to the chain of contractors connected to the site, as well as the wireless carriers that ordered the work. Investigators “should make sure to collect information regarding contract oversight issues, and obtain copies of any relevant contract documents,” the letter said. “Try to identify, as far as possible, not only the name of the company performing the tower work, but the tower owner, carrier, and any other relevant parties in the contracting chain.”

The Murray Law Firm works tirelessly to protect victims and families of catastrophic work accidents, such as this, and is encouraged by OSHA’s recent efforts to make the cellphone industry safer for employees. By holding employers, carriers, tower owners and equipment manufacturers accountable, many lives may be spared. We offer our legal expertise to the employees and families, if needed. Anyone seeking further information or legal representation is encouraged to contact us toll free at 888.842.1616.