Search form

OSHA, FCC Closing in on Best Safety Practices for Communications Tower Workers

By Carla J. Gunnin
  • March 8, 2016

Training and education were highlighted as key concerns of participants at a February 11 workshop called by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Federal Communications Commission to discuss proposed guidance for best safety practices for mobile phone and broadcast tower workers and to provide an update on certification and apprentice programs for those employees.

Best safety practices are needed to protect workers, who climb communication towers to perform construction and maintenance activities and face harm in several ways, including from falls, hazards associated with structural collapses, improper rigging and hoisting practices, and “struck-by” incidents. Twenty-five communications tower workers died on the job during 2013-2014.

Certification programs, such as one being developed by the National Wireless Safety Alliance, were reviewed. Other industry organizations and employers also are preparing certification and education standards, and a consensus standard (ANSI A10.48) is under development. Still, being able to compare company qualifications and the knowledge workers bring to the job is difficult, participants said, as reported by Bloomberg BNA. For instance, some companies will indicate workers are certified through a private training program, but, in reality, the certification is nothing more than a worker’s name added to a blank certificate.

Speakers noted that a challenge to maintaining experienced, well-trained workers is the boom-and-bust cycle of the industry. New workers are trained and gain experience, then are forced out of the industry when the work slows down.

Overall, participants supported the guidelines, agreeing that written safety plans and contract requirements alone would not succeed. Participants indicated they would like to see a number of items in the final version of the best practices guidance, including designing towers with built-in safety features, such as working platforms and fall protection connection points. They also recommended a 100 percent tie-off requirement for workers at heights and that stop-work authority be given to an employee until a safety issue is resolved. In addition, tower owners and carriers should be encouraged to set installation schedules that do not endanger workers because of short completion schedules, and a safety culture should exist that includes company managers, foremen, crew leaders, and tower technicians.

At the workshop, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler warned that while a federal campaign to reduce workplace fatalities among communication tower workers had helped lower the death toll to three workers in 2015, from 12 the year before, the telecommunications industry faces increasing hazards as demand for the next generation of transmitters grows. “[W]e are about to see a steep increase in demand,” Wheeler said.

The session was a follow-up to a workshop held in October 2014, which served as the starting point for development of the guidelines. The two agencies will now use input from the latest meeting to finalize the guidance.

Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to answer inquiries regarding this and other workplace developments.

©2016 Jackson Lewis P.C. This Update is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an attorney/client relationship between Jackson Lewis and any readers or recipients. Readers should consult counsel of their own choosing to discuss how these matters relate to their individual circumstances. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the express written consent of Jackson Lewis.

This Update may be considered attorney advertising in some states. Furthermore, prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Jackson Lewis P.C. represents management exclusively in workplace law and related litigation. Our attorneys are available to assist employers in their compliance efforts and to represent employers in matters before state and federal courts and administrative agencies. For more information, please contact the attorney(s) listed or the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you regularly work.

See AllRelated Articles You May Like

February 21, 2018

Maine Recreational Marijuana Law Limits Drug Testing, Disciplinary Consequences Imposed by Employers

February 21, 2018

A provision of Maine’s recreational marijuana law prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions for off-premises marijuana use, as of February 1, 2018. This law effectively prevents Maine employers from testing for marijuana for pre-employment purposes. The law also affects employers who employ employees subject to federal... Read More

February 20, 2018

Ban-the-Box Laws in Spokane, Washington, and Kansas City, Missouri

February 20, 2018

State and local jurisdictions have continued to consider and enact legislation restricting employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal background during the initial stages of the application process. Two of the latest enactments are in Spokane, Washington, and Kansas City, Missouri. Some ban-the-box ordinances are... Read More

January 29, 2018

Fitness Industry Workplace Law Update – Winter 2018

January 29, 2018

Welcome to our premiere issue! Our goal is to keep fitness industry clients and contacts informed about employment and labor law issues that may affect your organizations. We hope you find this newsletter valuable and invite you to share it with interested colleagues and contacts. In this issue, we provide a brief summary of hot... Read More