Federal agency examines cell tower work injury, fatality rates

Workers throughout Oklahoma and other states suffer serious falls every year because of inadequate safety procedures and equipment. Victims who are injured at work may be entitled to workers' compensation for their medical expenses and other costs. However, health and safety professionals say they would rather prevent injurious and fatal falls instead of waiting for the next workplace injury accident.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is now working to create collaborative safety initiatives to protect workers who are responsible for maintenance on cellphone towers and other similar structures. The move was inspired by two recent workplace accidents; a worker fell to his death in late January, and just one day later, two workers and a firefighter were killed at a site in West Virginia. OSHA is working with the National Association of Tower Erectors and several other industry groups to improve safety and health for workers who provide maintenance and other services on cell towers.

The initiatives come among increased concerns about the number and type of preventable injuries and workplace deaths that are occurring at the communication towers. Thirteen people were killed in 2013 while working in this industry; that is more than 2011 and 2012 deaths combined. Four workers have died during the first five weeks of 2014.

Officials say that falls and struck-by accidents are the most common mechanisms of injury for workers at communications towers. Structural problems and poor training, along with a lack of proper equipment, have consistently been blamed for the increase in injuries and fatalities. Workers who have been injured while working on an Oklahoma cell tower may be eligible to file workers' compensation claims. An Oklahoma personal injury attorney may be able to help victims learn more about their legal rights and options.

Source: United States Department of Labor, "No more falling workers" Lauren North, Feb. 11, 2014

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