Over the past few decades the demand for more wireless and broadcast communication has significantly increased – and will continue to do so. Because of the increased demand, the need for cell tower construction, maintenance and workers is also on the rise.
Cell tower work has quickly become one of the most dangerous jobs. The number of deaths and injuries support that statement. According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2013, 13 workers were killed on the job. In 2014, 12 workers were killed. This is double the number of deaths in 2011 and six times the number of deaths reported in 2012.
Some may argue that the increase in the number of workers killed is due to the increased demand of cell tower construction and maintenance. Although these numbers do correlate, the deaths associated with cell tower work are preventable if proper cell tower safety guidelines are followed.
Cell tower workers are climbing anywhere between 100-2,000 feet. It may not come as a surprise, but the majority of cell tower related deaths and injuries are due to falls. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its directive in 2014 to help bring down the number of fatalities due to falling while working on communication towers. The directive gives compliance officers guidelines and procedures to check while inspecting cell tower sites. These guidelines must be followed by anyone using a hoist on communication towers.
Workers can get burned on the job from antennas that they think may be powered down, but there is also an invisible danger – radio frequency. Being exposed to high levels of radio frequency energy can cause eye damage, cognitive damage and even burn human tissue. The higher the demand is for wireless technologies, the more exposure to radio frequency there will be – not only for cell tower workers, but for everyone.
When a cell tower is built, many times being economically friendly is the first priority instead of safety. These towers are built with several components that depend on one another. Failure of just one of these could cause it to collapse, seriously injuring or killing anyone around the tower – including both workers and the public.
Cold and wet weather can make working conditions more dangerous for cell tower construction and maintenance – especially when you are working 100-2,000 feet above the ground.
Cell tower safety is a known concern among many. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor wrote a letter to the communication tower industry employers asking them to think about the safety of their workers. There were two main points the letter emphasized.
In 2012, the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP) developed a training program for both new and versed cell tower industry workers to make sure the best safety procedures and practices are in place.
Take these types of requests, requirements, stats and training options seriously and implement them for your employees. A good contract that goes over safety, a training guide and a process for your workers to follow are good things to implement as an employer. Make sure it is enforced and checked upon to ensure the best cell tower safety is in place.