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Safety challenges in communication tower work

Some communication tower workers in Pennsylvania may have felt pressured to complete a job when they were fatigued or when insufficient fall protection was available. According to some people in the industry, contracts designed to make workplaces safer are not enough because employers are concerned about finishing a job on time regardless of weather conditions or other impediments.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says that 36 workers died in incidents related to communication tower work between 2011 and 2015. In February, the Federal Communications Commission and OSHA conducted a workshop to discuss safety improvements. One issue identified is that subcontractors may be hired who are unqualified. Some sites may have multiple subcontractors with no single person informed about who is and is not qualified.

Workshop participants identified two areas in which improvements might be made that lead to greater safety. One is arranging for sites to have safety audits. The other is changing the overall culture to one that prioritizes safety. This includes better safety training.

However, there are additional obstacles. Often, towers are designed in such a way as to make it difficult for workers to move about safely. They are overcrowded with equipment and there are too few platforms. One suggestion was that wireless carriers could join to set new safety standards.

On some work sites, pressure from an employer to complete a task in an unsafe way can lead to an on-the-job accident. Afterward, the worker might also be pressured to not file a workers' compensation claim. However, most workers have this right, and employers are not supposed to retaliate against workers who file a claim. A worker who is facing retaliation or feels pressure about filing may want to speak to an attorney to learn what recourse may be available.

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