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OSHA to Cell Tower Companies: We’re Watching

Letter notes recent deaths, reminds employers about safety

iStockphoto/AKAVCI The radio/TV and cellphone industries are distinct entities but their interests overlap when it comes to towers, which they often share or rent to one another.

OSHA is reminding the cell tower industry: “It is your responsibility to prevent workers from being injured or killed while working on communication towers.”

That’s part of an open letter by David Michaels, assistant secretary for occupational safety and health, dated Feb. 10.

He writes that the industry has recently experienced an “alarming” increase in worker deaths, with 13 last year, more than the prior two years combined, and four more already this year.

“Every single one of these tragedies was preventable,” Michaels wrote.

He notes an increase in tower projects lately due to cellular infrastructure upgrades; and he said the work of subcontractors is of particular concern.

“It is imperative that the cell tower industry take steps immediately to address this pressing issue: no worker should risk death for a paycheck.”

Many of the incidents were due to a lack of fall protection, he wrote. Other risks have included falling objects, equipment failure and structural collapse.

The letter outlined steps to safeguard employees including proper training and monitoring, fall protection and contract oversight. “During inspections, OSHA will be paying particular attention to contract oversight issues, and will obtain contracts in order to identify not only the company performing work on the tower, but the tower owner, carrier and other responsible parties in the contracting chain.”

Read the letter.

OSHA’s web page on protecting workers in communications industry.