New OSHA rules protect tower workers from falling

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is issuing new safety requirements to protect communication tower employees following what the agency calls an "alarming increase" in "preventable" injuries and deaths.

"Employers and cell tower owners and operators must make sure workers are properly trained and protected," Assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels said in a statement. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Workplace deaths at communication towers are on the rise, according to OSHA. This year, nine workers have already died, while more deaths occurred in 2013 than in the previous two years combined, the agency said. 

Communication tower workers use hoist systems to prevent themselves from falling while they are moving around, but many employees do not know how to use the systems properly, OSHA said. 

The new rules explain how to safely hoist workers. They have not been updated since 2002, the agency said.

The previous rules, which were last updated in 2002, applied only to workers who used hoist systems while constructing new towers, but the new standards will broaden the rules to include maintenance workers who fix problems on old towers, as well.

OSHA sent a letter to communication tower companies notifying them of the changes.

"The agency 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 said.