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"Free climbing" practice to be banned for lineworkers

South Carolina residents may be interested to learn about new safety rules for electric utility workers recently announced by OSHA. Beginning in July, electrical lineworkers will no longer be allowed to 'free climb" -- that is, ascend towers without harnesses -- on transmission towers. With the new ban on free climbing, employers will now have to provide climbers with a harness or send them up to do work in bucket trucks.

Across the country, there are approximately 110,000 workers who install and repair power lines, transmission towers and phone poles. According to OSHA, 74 of these line workers die every year while doing their jobs. Fatal work injuries include things like falls and electrocution. OSHA has estimated that implementation of the new safety standards will save 20 lives per year.

Although the ban on free climbing officially began in July, OSHA will not actually be citing employers for non-compliance with the new safety standards until April 2015. When free climbing was a normal practice, line workers would regularly climb up towers to heights of 180 feet with no safety harnesses. The workers would climb what are referred to as 'step bolts" until they reached the top, where they would secure a safety belt.

A work-related injury that leads to a temporary or permanent disability could cause an economic hardship that is difficult to recover from. To seek compensation for lost wages and medical expenses, many injured workers choose to file a workers' compensation claim. If the prospect of filing paperwork and gathering evidence sounds overwhelming, an attorney may be able to help an individual to complete his or her workers' compensation claim and seek the maximum amount of benefits.

Source: KUOW, "Feds Ban Free Climbing By Electric Utility Workers", John Ryan, July 23, 2014

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