Due to “an alarming increase” in deaths and injuries involving communication-tower workers, OSHA has updated a 2002 directive covering inspection of hoist systems used to move workers to and from workstations on communication towers.
The directive outlines the proper use of hoist and other fall-arrest systems and includes detailed information on how to hoist people safely. The updated policy covers any work on a communication tower – including both maintenance and new construction – that involves the use of a hoist to lift workers from one elevated workstation to another.
The 2002 directive only covered the hoisting of workers to workstations during the construction of new towers.
“This directive ensures that communication-tower workers are protected regardless of the type of the work they are doing on communication towers,” OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels said. “Employers and cell-tower owners and operators must make sure workers are properly trained and protected.”
More fatalities occurred in the industry in 2013 than in the previous two years combined, according to OSHA. The trend appears to be continuing, with nine worker deaths occurring in 2014 so far.
The release of the new directive is the latest in a series of actions OSHA has taken to improve cell-tower safety.
The agency noted that it is collaborating with the National Association of Tower Erectors and other industry stakeholders to ensure that every communication tower employer understands how to protect workers performing this high-hazard work.
OSHA sent a letter to communication-tower employers urging compliance and strict adherence to safety standards and common-sense practices, and has created a new Web page targeting the issues surrounding communication-tower work.
The outreach follows a November 2013 memo to OSHA's compliance officers and regional administrators mandating increased attention, education and data collection on the industry.
Communication towers are on the agency’s regulatory agenda, and OSHA said it expects to issue a request for information later this year.