Two federal government agencies have teamed up with the telecommunications industry to address a surge in fatalities among cell tower workers.

A total of 24 workers have been killed in telecommunications tower-related accidents since January 1, 2013, including 11 deaths so far this year. In comparison, eight workers died during the 2011-2012 period.

The Department of Labor (DOL) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a new working group that will collaborate in developing and implementing recommended safety practices for the telecommunications industry.

A safety workshop led by OSHA was a featured event marking the October 14 announcement. The workshop consisted of two panel discussions made up of representatives from OSHA, the FCC, major carrier AT&T, and the National Association of Tower Erectors. The panels discussed root causes of high fatality and injury rates and proposed solutions. OSHA described its efforts, which have included public outreach, worker training, and enforcement.

"The fatality rate in this industry is extraordinarily high ‒ tower workers are more than 10 times as likely to be killed on the job as construction workers," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "But these deaths are preventable. OSHA has developed a comprehensive initiative to ensure that safer working conditions and best practices are not just recommendations, but the law of the land. We look forward to the help FCC and industry can provide in making this a reality."

Following the workshop, Michaels, FCC Chairman Thomas E. Wheeler, and Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez participated in a signing ceremony for a new Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program. Spearheaded by the telecommunications industry, with advice and assistance from DOL, the Program will provide high-quality skills and safety training for telecommunication tower technicians, OSHA said in a press release.