Most of us only notice when it doesn’t work – when it drops calls or can’t connect. We know that we have “bad reception,” but where does that signal come from? The information is actually carried by radio waves that are relayed by a network of cell towers – towers built and maintained by brave workers.
Convenient Calling = Risk for Workers
In the past 10 years there has been an explosion of cell carriers racing to erect and service America’s expanding cellular infrastructure. There are now more than 280,000 cell sites nationwide, up from 5,000 in 1990.
Over the last few decades, hundreds of climbers have been killed on the job and countless more have been injured.
Causes & Types of Telephone Tower Injury
Communication towers range in height and, while some may be in excess of 1000 feet, the average is around 100 to 300 feet tall. As one would expect, the majority of tower climbers killed on cell tower worksites have died in falls. Other causes of work injuries include being electrocuted, being hit with falling objects, equipment failure, structural collapse, bad weather (rain, lightning, wind, snow) and hazards associated with using base-mounted drum hoists.
The rapid expansion of cellular networks is at least partly to blame for the increase in cell phone tower worker deaths. As carriers urgently seek to expand coverage, workers may take shortcuts on safety procedures to meet demanding project deadlines. A recent report determined that many incidents occurred because workers did not get enough rest, did not have sufficient training or weren’t provided with adequate safety gear. The push to complete a job in a timely manner can lead to long hours and can affect decision making abilities.
New Safety Standards
Due to the rate of cell tower worker deaths, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) increased its focus on tower safety and recommended that all communication tower employers strictly follow safety standards and common sense practices. Specifically, OSHA encouraged employers to provide the correct gear, provide the proper training, require safety refresher courses, conduct random safety checks, never allow the use of defective equipment, make sure load ratings are observed, consider weather conditions, ensure all workers are in complete fall-arrest gear when working more than four feet off the ground and never allow free climbing.
Cell Tower Worker Injuries in Kentucky
Just last year, a man working on a cell phone tower in Harrison County was killed while taking down an old boom and bringing up a new one. The cable carrying the new 1,800-pound boom broke, decapitating the worker and leaving his body suspended 240 feet in the air for hours while rescue crews tried to figure out how to get it down. The tragic accident was witnessed by the victim’s traumatized co-workers, a four-member crew working for an independent company contracted out by Verizon.
The shift toward subcontracting has been most noticeable in high-risk industries such as oil and gas, trucking, nuclear waste removal and home-building. Studies have shown that subcontract workers face greater risks than traditional employees. In addition to outsourcing tower work, some cell phone companies channel jobs through middlemen. Known as “turf vendors,” these large construction management firms oversee groups of tower projects and subcontract out the climbing work to smaller companies. As jobs are passed down from one company to the next, it can be difficult to know who is actually in control of the work.
Legal Representation for Workers
Establishing who is legally responsible for a cell phone tower worker’s injuries or death can be very complex and may involve multiple parties. Because each case is different, it is always advisable to seek the counsel of a competent lawyer who has experience with workplace injuries and wrongful death.
If you are a cell tower worker who has been hurt on the job or if you have lost a loved one to an unsafe workplace, the KY tower injury attorneys at the Johnson Law Firm invite you to discuss your situation with us. Protect your rights by calling 606-433-0682 or using our online form. The initial consultation is free. From our offices in Pikeville, we have helped people throughout Eastern Kentucky and beyond for more than 15 years.