If it seems as if communication and broadcast towers are sprouting up out of neighborhoods, industrial parks, and fields across the county, it’s because they are. Over the past 30 years, the growing demand for broadcast and wireless communications has spurred a dramatic increase in the erection, servicing, and maintenance of communication towers. This means, among other things, that thousands of employees are regularly climbing towers from 100 to 2000 feet, including during inclement weather conditions.
From 2013 to 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recorded a total number of 34 communication tower-related fatalities. To help reduce the risks faced by employees in the communication tower industry, this article will review a few of the most common safety challenges presented by working on communication towers and best practices. For more information on how your jobsite can remain compliant with the relevant OSHA standards, contact one of our Tennessee OSHA attorneys today.
Hazards Associated With Working on Communication Towers
Some of the most common hazards associated with working on communication towers include the following:
- Falls from heights
- Structural collapse of towers
- Hazards associated with lifting personnel and equipment with base-mounted drum hoists
- Electrical hazards
- Equipment failure
- Inclement weather
- Falling equipment hazards
Most fatalities within this line of work can be linked back to falls from heights of anywhere from 80 to 1,000 feet above ground. Most recently, in 2019, an Arkansas tower technician died after falling approximately 80 feet from a self-supporting, 348-foot tall tower being constructed in Mississippi. The company in question ended up incurring one willful and one serious violation due to failure to designate, identify, and train employees responsible for providing rescue in the event that an employee falls and is left suspended. In this circumstance, the employee was exposed to suspension trauma and, unfortunately, became the eighth industry fatality in that year.
There are many different parties involved in the construction of communication towers, such as contractors, subcontractors, carriers, tower owners, tower climbers, ground crew employees, and more, that all have their own unique responsibilities. Best practices for carriers and tower owners, for example, would be making sure that there is standard protocol and an incident reporting system established to ensure that all employees can easily report unsafe conditions on tower worksites. Whereas turf vendors, on the other hand, should be more concerned with ensuring that all of their contractors are properly trained, this training is thoroughly documented, and there is an open flow of communication between the tower owners and contractors. Finally, tower climbers and the ground crew employees are to be vigilant in identifying and reporting unsafe conditions, properly using the appropriate safety equipment, and conducting regular inspections of their equipment. For more information regarding the appropriate recommended practices for working on communication towers, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our OSHA attorneys.