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Fall Protection is not Optional

In November 2013, Douglas Klein, a 25 year old communications worker in Wichita, Kansas fell 50 feet to his death while descending a cell tower after performing routine maintenance. OSHA issued three serious citations and $21,000 in fines to his employer, Pinpoint Towers. This was one of 13 preventable deaths from cell tower falls in 2013. An alarming rise in falls and accidents have prompted action from OSHA to improve fall protection safety for communications tower workers.

Telecommuncation ManActivity involving communication tower construction and maintenance has vastly increased over the last few decades, as have the number of employers and workers involved in building, maintaining or inspecting them. The growth of the telecommunications industry and therefore the increased activity around towers involving climbing, hoisting equipment, repairs in inclement weather and carrying out regular maintenance and inspections highlights the need for increased attention to fall prevention equipment and procedures and adequate worker fall prevention safety training.

The alarming 13 deaths in  2013 and 9 so far in 2014 prompted OSHA to send a warning letter to employers in February and to issue new directives on cell tower fall prevention safety. Along with recommendations to consistently apply and enforce safety measures, particularly in regards to fall protection, the letter said, “OSHA will consider issuing willful citations, in appropriate cases, for a failure to provide and use fall protection.” OSHA is working with the industry to identify the causes of comm tower accidents and continues to strengthen its guidance on comm tower fall safety. They have created a dedicated new OSHA web page highlighting the issues around communications towers safety.

Watch this video of Asst. Secretary Dr. David Michaels addressing the National Assoc. of Tower Erectors (NATE) Conference Feb 25 2014

OSHA’s new fall protection requirements apply to any tower inspection event using a hoist during field hazard inspections and replaces the previous guidelines issued in 2002. Employers must provide fall protection such as guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems for work on existing towers above 6 feet elevation.

Additionally, OSHA fall protection training is required under 29 CFR 1926.503 for workers who may be involved in construction, maintenance or inspection of communications tower equipment. It covers:

  • understanding fall hazards related to comm towers
  • appropriate use and operation of fall protection systems, such as:
    • guardrails
    • personal fall arrest systems
    • safety nets
    • warning lines
    • safety monitoring
    • controlled access zones
  • learning procedures for erection, maintenance, disassembly and inspection of fall protection systems

As an employer, you want to assure you meet all OSHA fall safety standards for both proper fall prevention equipment and worker training and certification. OSHA Pros online safety courses cover requirements for OSHA fall protection training in our OSHA construction safety courses. Make sure your workers and their supervisors are up to date on important fall protection training today.