On Tuesday night, a man working on a cell tower fell to his death in Meridian, Mississippi. The victim fell approximately 150 feet, even though he was wearing his safety harness and equipment that is designed to prevent such a fall, according to The Clarion-Ledger.
The cell tower worker was not alone on the job, as he had two other employees with him when he fell. One co-worker told the Lauderdale County Coroner that he had turned away to work on something and when he turned back, he saw the victim falling. Authorities are currently investigating what caused the fall.
This unfortunate accident shows the horrible reality of the dangers of cell tower work and what safety precautions are needed to prevent falls.
How Dangerous Is Cell Tower Work?
With the growing demand for wireless and broadcast communication services over the past few decades, there has been an increase in communication tower construction and maintenance, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In order to maintain these towers, employees regularly climb towers that range from 100 to 2,000 feet throughout the year, which has unfortunately led to many cell tower accidents over the years.
Approximately 100 tower climbers were killed on the job in the past nine years. In 2013, there were 13 total cell tower-related fatalities — more than the previous two years combined, according to OSHA. Over the years, these accidents have continued to happen, with seven deaths occurring in 2016 alone.
In order to combat this epidemic, OSHA has begun to work with industry stakeholders to identify the causes of these fatalities, and to try to prevent the risks faced by employees in the cell tower industry. OSHA also created a web page that directly focuses on the issues surrounding cell tower work.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Falls?
Falls are among the leading causes of cell tower-related deaths, according to OSHA. The 13 fatalities mentioned above were all the result of workers falling from cell tower platforms.
In order to prevent cell tower accidents, there are a few safety measures that all employers should provide to workers on the job. OSHA recommends the following safety precautions:
All cell tower workers should be trained to safely erect, use, and maintain their ladder safety device. They should also be trained on how to safely use positioning devices when working on an elevated surface, so that a free fall does not occur. It is also important that workers are trained on spotting any hazards that may appear when working, including any unforeseen obstructions.
Inspection of All Equipment
A routine inspection of equipment can play a key factor in keeping a cell tower worker safe on the job. Employees should inspect ladder safety devices and personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) for any damage including torn stitches, broken buckles, and parts that aren’t working properly, according to OSHA.
It is important that workers never use defective equipment even if they think it will be safe to use. It is not worth risking your life on equipment that can fail on you when you least expect it.
Properly Connected Safety Sleeve
The safety sleeve is one of the most vital safety equipment for a cell tower worker. This device when properly connected can keep a worker from dangling or even falling from a cell tower.
Workers should always connect the safety sleeve to the manufacturer's recommended chest or navel D-ring, according to OSHA. Incorrectly connecting the parts can prevent the device from working properly and can make it difficult to move up and down the ladder.
Not Exceeding Load Capacity
Overloading a ladder safety device and its components can cause it to fail, according to OSHA. It is important that workers do not exceed the manufacturer’s load rating for the ladder and that they factor in their own weight, before climbing up a ladder.
What If I Am Injured In a Cell Tower Accident?
As the demand for better and faster cellular service grows, cell tower workers will continue to be put at risk unless employers commit to providing better training, equipment, and work conditions.
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed as a result of a cell tower accident, we may be able to help. To learn attorneys may be able to do for you, please fill out our free case evaluation form today.