The widespread use of wireless communication services has reulted in the construction of at least 75,000 telecommunication towers each year in the United States.
The growing demand for these towers has also increased the number of workers in this industry and as a result the number of worker fatalities.
The National Institue for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has issued an alert to workers involved in construction and maintenance of telecommunications towers regarding the risk of fatal falls.
A NIOSH review of fatal ocupational injury data identified 118 deaths associated with work on telecommunication towers from 1992 through 1998.
These deaths included 93 falls, 18 telecommunication tower collapses and four electrocutions.
The NIOSH alert describes seven deaths resulting from falls during construction and maintenance of telecommunication towers.
NIOSH also suggest the following recommendations to employers and workers for preventing similar incidents:
- Comply with OSHA Directive 2-1.29 Interim Inspection Procedures During Communication Tower Construction Activities.
- Ensure that hoisting equipment used to lift workers is designed to prevent uncontrolled descent and is properly rated for the intended use.
- Ensure that hoist operators are properly trained.
- Ensure that workers use 100 percent fall protection when working on towers at heights above 25 feet.
- Provide workers with OSHA-required personal protective equipment and training
- Provide workers with a 100 percent fall protection system compatible with tower components and the tasks to be performed.
- Ensure that gin poles are installed and used according to the specifications of the manufacturer or a registerd professional engineer.
- Ensure that tower erectors are adequately trained in proper climbing techniques, including sustaineing three-point contact.
- Ensure that workers inspect their equipment daily to identify any damage or deficiencies.
- Provide workers with an adequate work-positioning device system. Connectors on positioning systems must be compatible with the tower components to which they are attached.
- Supplement worker training on safe work practices with discussions of FACE case reports to help assure that workers fully appreciate the serious hazards involved with their tasks and the need for strict safe work practices.
- Know and comply with child labor laws that prohibit hazardous work by workers under age 18. An example of hazardous work is any task involving power-driven hoisting apparatus.
- Use 100 percent fall protection when working on towers at heights above 25 feet.
- Participate in all training programs offered by your employer.
- Follow safe work practices identified by worker training programs.
- Use OSHA-required personal protective equipment and make sure you are trained in its proper use.
- Inspect equipment daily and report any damage or deficiencies to your supervisor immediately.
The complete alert, "Preventing Injuries and Deaths from Falls During Construction and Maintenance of Telecommunication Towers," can be found on the NIOSH Web site at www.cdc.gov/niosh/2001156.html.
by Virginia Foran