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Increase in tower worker deaths prompts OSHA crackdown

Pennsylvania workers may have heard that the increase in the number of deaths among communication tower workers in 2013 prompted an address from the assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to the National Association of Tower Erectors. The agency is cracking down on its enforcement in the communication tower industry and aims to educate companies and employees on health and safety.

In 2011, six communication tower workers died on the job. This figure decreased to only two deaths in 2012, but it more than doubled to 13 in 2013. So far in 2014, four employees have lost their lives while working on communication towers. The assistant secretary of labor for OSHA says that tower workers are 30 times more likely to suffer a fatal workplace injury than the average employee. He is concerned about the sharp increase in tower worker fatalities and believes that it is unacceptable.

To improve the situation, the assistant secretary of labor says that OSHA aims to educate companies and employees. It also plans to provide free consultations for small businesses and has increased its enforcement in the industry. Field staff are paying special attention during communication tower accident investigations and collecting more complete data about the accidents. Inspectors will also pay more attention to which contractors and subcontractors are doing tower work and their qualifications. OSHA's goal is to ensure that everyone meets its safety requirements and that companies do not consider communication tower accidents as a cost of the job.

In Pennsylvania, workers' compensation laws require all employers to provide insurance to their employees. This means that tower workers who are injured on the job could receive workers' compensation coverage for medical expenses and lost income. The survivors of deceased tower workers may also be entitled to death benefits.

Source: OSHA, "Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels urges action to protect communication tower workers", February 25, 2014

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