AT&T Leads in Tower Worker Deaths
Saturday, May 26, 2012
(photo: U.S. Air Force)
It is one of the most dangerous jobs in America, with a death rate 10 times that of construction work: tower workers. Nearly 100 of these climbers have died on the job since 2003, more than half of them working on cell phone towers and the rest on television, radio, Internet, microwave, and government communication towers. Those performing work on AT&T towers suffered the most fatalities: 15. Eleven of the 15 AT&T deaths occurred between 2006 and 2008 as the company rushed to handle the traffic generated by the introduction of the iPhone.
But like other telecommunications companies, AT&T has not been penalized for worker-safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following these on-the-job deaths.
That’s because most of the climbers are not employed by the cell phone operators. Instead, they work for subcontractors, which poses a quandary for OSHA enforcers seeking to punish businesses for losing so many employees.
According to an investigation by ProPublica and PBS “Frontline,” OSHA has not penalized any cell carriers for safety violations implicated in subcontractor deaths on cell sites since 2003.
“Generally, we can only cite employers when their employees are at the work site,” Jordan Barab, OSHA’s deputy administrator, told ProPublica. “As you go up the line, it becomes much more difficult to actually hold the companies at the top responsible.”
To Learn More:
Built for a Simpler Era, OSHA Struggles When Tower Climbers Die (by Ryan Knutson, PBS Frontline, and Liz Day, ProPublica)
In Race For Better Cell Service, Men Who Climb Towers Pay With Their Lives (by Ryan Knutson, PBS Frontline, and Liz Day, ProPublica)
After a Tower Climber Falls, Stand Down Called for on AT&T Projects (by Ryan Knutson, PBS Frontline, and Liz Day, ProPublica)
Cell Tower Climbing: Deadliest Job in United States? (by Charlotte Raynor, Yahoo Voices)
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