Is enough being done to protect tower climbers?

There are certain jobs that have a greater degree of inherent danger associated with them. One such job are tower climber positions. Tower climbers are workers who, as part of their job, go up communication towers, like cellphone towers, in order to perform work on them. Workplace safety is of the utmost importance in such higher-danger industries, as work accidents in such industries can have utterly devastating results.

The fatality statistics for tower climbers from last year and the start of this year are a cause for alarm. Thirteen tower climbers died on the job in 2013 and there have been four such deaths in the opening five weeks of 2014. This reverses a brief slowdown that had been occurring when it comes to fatalities in this industry.

Another thing that has been occurring when it comes to communication towers in recent times is that there has been a rush to upgrade such towers to include LTE technology.

The fact that these trends are coinciding with each other gives rise to a serious question: in the push to upgrade towers, are communication tower employers and wireless carriers not putting as big of a focus on workplace safety as they should and thus engendering tower climbers?

The safety of the communication tower industry is something that the federal government has become particularly concerned with. This month, letters stressing the importance of complying with federal safety standards were sent by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to around 100 communication tower employers. OSHA has also been taking efforts to increase its scrutiny of the industry. One wonders what impacts OSHA’s efforts will have.

What are your thoughts on the rise in fatalities among tower climbers? Are enough measures currently being taken to protect such workers? If not, what additional steps should the government and companies be taking?

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “OSHA Warns Companies After Rise in Cell Tower Deaths,” Ryan Knutson and Melanie Trottman, Feb. 11, 2014