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Preventing Cell Tower Deaths

Every year, cell towers pose a serious threat for workers who install new lines, fix connections and perform other technical maintenance work. For the technicians who have to scale tower heights, a fall from a cell tower can be dangerous and even deadly. Because cell tower climbs are not performed every day, it can be difficult for technicians to keep their skills and awareness sharp for the task, putting them in greater danger of distraction, equipment misuse or various other problems that could lead to falls.

In the past three years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has reported 26 deaths due to fatal falls from cell towers, and the data indicates that these falls are becoming more and more frequent. According to Dr. David Michaels, the OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor, “the fatality rate in this industry is extraordinarily high – tower workers are more than 10 times as likely to be killed on the job as construction workers.”

To eliminate what Dr. Michaels has called “preventable” deaths from cell tower falls, OSHA has been working with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration to develop an effective apprenticeship program for telecommunications tower technicians called the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP).

What is TIRAP?

The goal of TIRAP is to institute safety features across the board that will rely on education and quality training programs to fully prepare employees. As Dr. Michaels described, “OSHA has developed a comprehensive initiative to ensure that safer working conditions and best practices are not just recommendations, but the law of the land.”

Telecommunications Tower Apprentices will be able to learn the job and complete the various levels of safety training under supervision from other team members and in controlled environments. The apprentice will perform basic construction tasks such as tower system installation, routine maintenance, and inspection of towers that have already been erected. 

In order to pass Level 1 of the safety training program, an apprentice will need to complete proper training in the following areas:

  • OSHA 10 (Telecom) authorization for climbers
  • CPR, BBP, basic first aid
  • Jobsite safety analysis
  • Personal protection equipment use
  • Technical training – basic rigging, handling of materials, rope/knot knowledge, operation of tools, trucks, trailers, and introduction to tower structures

Once an entry-level apprentice has mastered these skills, he or she will be allowed to advance further into the program. As cell phones have become the most ubiquitous form of communication, it is imperative that companies have the most up-to-date safety features.

In an event to commemorate the apprenticeship program, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E Perez highlighted this importance: “The cell phones in our pockets can’t come at the cost of a worker’s life. The cell tower industry might be small, with 10,000 to 15,000 workers, but it’s quickly proving to be one of the most dangerous.”

TIRAP’s creators aim to have all employees trained in the same way with the same requirements to maintain safety and training standards. Worker’s compensation lawyers in Denver say that the expectation is to reduce the potential for injuries and fatal falls.

At Levine Law, personal injury attorney Jordan Levine represents clients who have suffered on-the-job injuries, including families of technicians who have died from fatal cell tower falls. To discuss your case, contact him today. 

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