OSHA has issued a directive outlining the proper use of hoist and other fall arrest systems. The directive, released on July 17, 2014, includes detailed information on how to hoist people safely. It covers any work on a communication tower that involves a hoist to lift workers from one elevated workstation to another, and updates a 2002 enforcement policy that had covered only hoisting workers when new towers are erected.
OSHA, on July 31, 2014, expressed concern for “the alarming increase in preventable injuries and fatalities at communication tower work sites.” Nine cell tower workers have been killed thus far this year, four fewer than the 13 workers who died last year. However, the 2013 figure is more than twice the number of such deaths over the previous two years combined.
Release of the directive is the latest in a series of actions taken by OSHA to improve cell tower safety. The agency is collaborating with the National Association of Tower Erectors and other industry stakeholders to ensure every communication tower employer understands how to protect workers performing this high-hazard work.
In addition, OSHA has created a webpage targeting communication tower work safety issues. It also has sent a letter to communication tower employers urging compliance and strict adherence to safety standards and commonsense practices. The outreach was undertaken after OSHA issued a memo in November 2013 to agency compliance officers and regional administrators mandating increased attention, education and data collection on the industry.
The agency said it continues to investigate past incidents and will issue findings as the probes are completed. Communication towers are on the agency's regulatory agenda, and OSHA expects to issue a Request for Information (RFI) later this year. RFIs generally are a first step in the rulemaking process.