Many workers do dangerous work off-site and in locations distant from their employer’s main place of business. For example, utility and cable repair workers are often out in the field, as are those responsible for cell phone tower maintenance.
When an employee works remotely, it makes it harder for an employer to set and enforce safety rules. Remote workers are more autonomous and may not always follow an employer’s strict guidelines. Further, employers cannot supervise a worker who is out in the field and may be unable to provide adequate training or safety equipment to reduce the risk of injury or death.
Regardless of whether an employer did everything it could or not, employers could still be held liable for workplace injuries or wrongful death when a worker is hurt in the field. Claims arising from work injuries at distant sites can be complicated and an experienced Rock Hill, SC workers’ compensation lawyer should be consulted by the victim for help in making his injury claim.
Safety Concerns Mount for Remote Workers
Concern about the safety of remote workers is peaking amid a string of devastating accidents. According to Safety News Alert, there were six deaths of tower workers in the first 12 weeks of 2014. The deaths occurred while workers conducted maintenance or were out surveying the cell towers.
When compared with the total death toll for the same industry last year, the rate of worker fatalities in 2014 is on pace to nearly double the 2013 deaths. The high number of workers who are losing their lives can be largely explained by “free climbing.” Free climbing means climbing up the cell tower without wearing adequate safety equipment and without taking fall protection measures outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Employers can and should try to prevent employees from doing this by providing protective gear, ensuring employees are properly trained to use it, and mandating that proper safety precautions be taken at all times.
There are several challenges, starting with the issue of training. A Safety News Alert article indicated that scheduling training around the needs of busy employees was the biggest issue of workplace safety professionals. It can be difficult under the best of circumstances to make sure all employees who need to hear a presentation or participate in training are together and this task becomes even harder when some of the workers operate remotely in the field.
Helping employees to recall what they had learned was also a challenge cited by 20.9 percent of surveyed safety experts. In an office, visual posters and reminders can be set up and employees who are engaged in unsafe behavior will hopefully be stopped by their peers or bosses who observe the behavior. On a cell tower remotely, there are no reminders and no one to watch. This helps to explain why the fatality rate in the climbing industry is five times the rate that it is in other industries.
Things can be done to try to encourage safety. Previous studies, for example, indicate that remote workers are frequently more self-motivated, more in-command and more in-control. These workers should be empowered to help manage their own safety and given the tools and information they need to do so.
Poultry Industry Danger Highlighted at Congressional Hearing, April 5, 2014, Anderson Work Injury Lawyer Blog