Chicago attorney Howard Ankin has voiced his support for the recent actions by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to improve the safety for cellular tower workers. He says tower workers perform one of the country’s most dangerous jobs and that immediate action is needed to prevent further injury or death.
On Feb. 11, OSHA sent letters to 100 of the nation’s largest cell tower employers. The letter stated that the agency has grave concerns about the safety of tower workers. OSHA noted that 2013 saw 13 tower worker deaths, which is more than the previous two years combined. The letter also stated that there had already been four worker deaths in the first five weeks of 2014.
OSHA is reinforcing the point to employers that they are ultimately responsible for worker safety. Specifically, the agency has asked employers to pay more attention to subcontractors that may be working on a tower. Often, tower workers are contracted out and may not be trained on the necessary safety precautions in tower work.
It’s expected that OSHA investigators will also focus more on the entire chain of work, rather than just the company who is onsite. That means that carriers such as Verizon and Sprint may be held responsible for worker safety even though the workers aren’t their employees. In the past, wireless carriers have insisted that they are not responsible for tower safety because they’ve contracted other companies to do the work.
The last time OSHA sent a warning to cell tower employers was 2006, when 18 tower workers died on the job. Fatalities slowed down for several years before rising again in 2013.
Similarly, in Illinois, OSHA cited a company in Lemont due to an unsafe workspace.
Mr. Ankin, of the Chicago law firm The Ankin Law Office, says that fatalities aren’t the only problem. Even if a worker survives a fall, they still may face a devastating injury that could cause them to take time off or even prevent them from returning to work. He supports OSHA’s focus on the issue and hopes the agency and employers will do everything possible to ensure worker safety.