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Spike in cellphone tower deaths catches OSHA's attention

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently sent a letter to employers of cellphone tower climbers to warn them that they must comply with safety regulations. North Carolina residents may be aware that cellphone tower climbing has been called the most dangerous job in the country. Most workplace accidents in the industry involve falls, and the results are often tragic.

While certain types of work are inherently dangerous, employers are required by law to ensure that working conditions are not unnecessarily hazardous -- all known preventable safety risks must be mitigated. OSHA is currently warning not only the contractors that directly employ tower climbers, but also the wireless carriers that order work.

In its letter, OSHA wrote that it is the cell tower industry's "responsibility to prevent workers from being injured or killed while working on communication towers." OSHA has plans to investigate entire chains of contractors at cellphone tower sites; often, when a worker is injured in a contract-based employment situation, the various companies involved all try to shift the responsibility to others. OSHA is now making it clear that the specific companies performing work, cellphone carriers and tower owners, among others, may be held accountable for any safety issues at these worksites.

According to OSHA, 13 people were killed in cell tower-related accidents last year. This is more than in 2012 and 2011 combined. Already this year, at least four workers have been killed.

The surge in cell tower deaths is coming at a time when cellphone carriers are rushing to institute LTE technology in order to upgrade their networks. A similar trend took place when carriers upgraded to 3G technology during the previous decade.

Victims of workplace accidents often do not know where to turn. One's rights can be particularly complicated in situations that involve contract work. It is important for the victims of workplace accidents in North Carolina, as well as their loved ones, to seek legal counsel in order to ensure they obtain any compensation to which they may be entitled.

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

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