Washington — More communication tower workers were killed in 2013 than in the previous two years combined, and four more tower-related deaths have already occurred in 2014. Every one of those deaths was preventable. This disturbing trend appears to be continuing, and actions must be taken to prevent more deaths. That is the message Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels is delivering to the National Association of Tower Erectors. Excerpts of remarks from Dr. Michaels to the professional association via video during their national conference are below:
"We are very concerned about this sharp rise. The fatality rate in this industry is extremely high — and tower workers have a risk of fatal injury perhaps 25 to 30 times higher than the risk for the average American worker. This is clearly unacceptable.
"At OSHA, we are reaching out to educate industry and workers and providing free small businesses consultations. We've also increased our enforcement in this industry.
"We've told our field staff to pay special attention to investigations of communication tower incidents. And while we are on site, our inspectors will collect more complete data about the job and what happened. This information will help OSHA to more fully understand and prevent these tragedies. Our inspectors will also be paying close attention to contracts and sub contracts to determine who is doing tower work and what their qualifications are. And we will be taking a hard look at the safety requirements that flow down through the contracts and how owners and contractors ensure that everyone involved meets those requirements.
"I sincerely hope that, together, we can turn this tide and get the message out that these tragedies should not be written off as the cost of doing business."