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New rules would protect cell tower workers

Federal regulators are considering new safety recommendations for cell tower climbers.

The Labor Department and Federal Communications Commission announced Tuesday they are teaming up to combat a recent rise in workplace deaths.

“The cellphones in our pockets can’t come at the cost of a worker’s life," Labor Secretary Thomas PerezThomas PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE said in a statement. "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. If we don’t do something now, the number of fatalities is going to grow as fast as the industry does.”

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So far this year, the telecommunications industry has seen 11 tower workers die -- a dramatic uptick in workplace deaths from 2012 when only two tower workers lost their lives, the agencies noted.

Federal officials are calling it "one of the most dangerous" jobs.

“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,” said assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels, who runs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

The two agencies announced they are forming a joint working group to develop regulations that would protect cell tower workers.