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Communication tower workers face on-the-job dangers

Communication tower workers in New Jersey and across the U.S. face danger every day. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 36 tower workers died on the job between 2011 and 2015 and more must be done to ensure worker safety.

In February, OSHA and the Federal Communications Commission conducted a workshop to provide guidance on worker safety and brainstorm on ways to prevent injuries. A major issue that came up was that subcontracted employees are often not qualified to climb communication towers. Further, when work sites have several subcontractors, it is difficult to keep track of who is has been properly trained, certified and insured and who has not. Suggestions to remedy the issue included putting stronger safety requirements in contracts and regularly auditing sites and communications companies to encourage proper safety and discourage dangerous shortcuts.

Tower designs were also identified as a safety problem. Workers say that some towers are too crowded with equipment to be safely navigated. Other towers lack enough platforms and dedicated tie-off points. A possible solution could be to mandate the use of cranes or lifts to access tower points that are too dangerous for workers to climb to. The overall takeaway from the workshop was that everyone in the contracting chain, from workers to subcontractors to general contractors, needs to take responsibility for safety.

New Jersey communication tower workers who are injured on the job may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits that can include medical care and partial wage replacement. A lawyer with experience in this area might be of assistance in preparing the required claim and in ensuring that it is filed within the required time period.

Source: Safety and Health, "'You can't subcontract safety'," Kyle Morrison, March 27, 2016

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