OSHA has issued a specific warning to the communications tower industry on its safety practices.
The industry has had four fatalities this year and 13 deaths in 2013 at communication tower worksites, OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels noted in a February 10th letter to some 100 members of the National Association of Tower Erectors. This is many more deaths than occurred in the previous two years combined.
“I am writing to remind you that it is your responsibility to prevent workers from being injured or killed while working on communication towers,” Michaels said. Most fatalities have resulted from falls, indicating no fall protection is being offered or employers are not assuring protection is being used properly. In addition, tower workers have been injured and killed by falling objects, equipment failure and the structural collapse of towers, according to Michaels.
He offered suggestions for improvement, including providing proper training, especially regarding fall prevention and monitoring to assure safe work practices are being followed. “OSHA will consider issuing willful citations, in appropriate cases, for a failure to provide and use fall protection,” he warned.
He added that employers should select contractors carefully and provide close oversight. “Simple ‘check the box’ contract language” may not be enough to assure contractors work safely, he stated. Inspectors will pay particular attention to contract oversight issues, including identifying all potentially responsible parties in the contracting chain.
“For the sake of your employees and your business, I strongly urge you to do everything you can to prevent these needless injuries and deaths before anyone else is hurt, and before OSHA issues additional financial penalties,” Michaels said.