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Communication tower workers and safety issues

As more data and cellular towers are being erected in Minnesota and around the U.S., the need to address safety issues for those who work on them is increasing. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Federal Communications Commission are seeking to find ways to keep tower climbers more safe.

According to OSHA, 36 communication tower climbers died while performing their job duties between 2011 and 2015. In an effort to thwart future communication tower-related injuries and deaths, OSHA officials sent stakeholders a Request for Information. OSHA and the FCC then held a workshop on Feb. 11 to talk about the RFI responses and to propose ways to improve the safety of tower workers.

During the workshop, stakeholders in attendance pointed out that lack of qualified workers is a chief safety issue in the industry. Another safety issue concerns multiple subcontractors working at one site and if they are all fully insured, trained and certified. One person suggested that the companies hire independent auditors whose job would be to inspect the work sites and to confirm that the climbers are all qualified for their positions. Another said that there should be more done to enforce work site safety such as technical training and teaching the climbers to be more aware of safety issues and their coworkers' safety. In addition, improving the design of cellphone towers could enhance climber safety. Presently, many cell towers are encumbered with equipment, which causes problems for climbers. Instead, they should be built with more platforms and dedicated tie-off points to keep climbers safe.

A fall from a tower can be a devastating workplace injury, causing the injured victim to miss work for prolonged periods. Workers' compensation benefits can often provide eligible employees with some financial relief along with medical care. Attorneys with experience in this area can explain the types of benefits that may be available and how to apply for them.

Source: Safety and Health, "'You can't subcontract safety'", Kyle Morrison, March 27, 2016

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