Is Cell Phone Tower Climbing America’s Most Dangerous Job?

Nationwide, American workers perform dangerous and even life-threatening feats to complete their jobs. While many workers will head to the security of an office, others face higher stakes when on the clock.

What is the most dangerous job in America? We already know that construction, industry, farming and fishing are hazardous, but cell phone tower climbing and maintenance is a burgeoning industry that has led to an alarming number of accidental deaths. For workers in this dangerous industry, the risks are high, in part because cell phone carriers and tower owners aren’t taking responsibility for complying with safety protocols.

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According to OSHA reports, there are 10,000 workers in the tower-climbing business, which is now being called the most dangerous job in America. Now federal safety watchdogs are changing the way they investigate and designate responsibility in the event of an accident. Our Asheville workers’ compensation attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of injured workers and helping victims collect benefits. We are abreast of safety issues and concerns that impact America’s workers, including legal developments and regulatory changes. According to reports, OSHA has been spurred by the high number of accidents involving cell phone tower climbing and is working to hold entities accountable.

Media sources and safety advocacy groups reported in 2012 that both cell phone carries as well as tower owners insulate from liability by delegating work to subcontractors. Now OSHA is tracking what companies these subcontractors worked for when they were injured. The agency sent a letter to industry employers and wireless companies criticizing contractual language that does not clearly define and follow safety standards. The agency has mandated that tower owners and carriers take responsibility for worker safety when climbing towers.

Since the beginning of 2013, there have been 19 climber deaths, an accident rate that safety advocates have called unacceptable. Recent moves by OSHA have instructed employees to inspect tower work sites. According to the agency, tower worksites are more difficult to inspect than factories or construction zines because of their height. They requested workers to check sites to ensure that carriers and tower owners are in compliance with safety regulations.

One of the reasons for the spike in deaths is the hurried demand to create, upgrade and expand new cell networks. According to cell industry employees, 2013 was the busiest year of network expansion, which likely resulted in dangerous work sites, failed safety protocols, and ultimately accidental death. When Sprint launched its “Network Vision,” a multibillion-dollar project to revamp its infrastructure, four workers suffered fatal accidents on Sprint sites. In one case a 49-yearold worker fell in August of 2013 on a North Carolina highway.

While carriers maintain that safety is a priority on the job site, workers continue to face risks. In addition to the markedly high number of accidental deaths, scores of other workers have suffered from serious accidents. Media reports indicate that there were 50 deaths on cell sites between 2003 and 2011. These cases involved workers who were poorly trained, did not have proper equipment, and were working under extremely high-pressure deadlines. According to reports, workers have been known to go without safety gear and attachments to save time on a work site.

Though subcontractors have been sanctioned, cell phone carriers are not penalized for these violations. Now OSHA is taking steps to close the gap in the lack of oversight. All entities, including subcontractors, contractors, carriers, and tower owners can be held liable for breach of safety protocols.

If you have been injured at work in Charlotte, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

More Blog Entries:
Employers Seek to Reduce Workers’ Compensation Costs, March 29, 2014, Asheville Worker Compensation Lawyer Blog
Parking Lot Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Claims, April 16, 2014, Charlotte Work Injury Lawyer Blog

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