Many South Carolina residents would find it hard to imagine life without their cellphones, but they rarely pause to consider the dangers faced by construction workers who scale communications towers that sometimes soar several hundred feet into the air. The high fatality rate among these workers prompted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a Request for Information in April 2015, and the reliance on subcontractors by telecommunications providers and the pressure that these workers are often put under to complete their tasks quickly have emerged as leading causes of accidents, injuries and deaths.
The federal safety agency held a workshop on Feb. 11 to discuss ways to improve communications tower safety, and many in attendance said that proper training and oversight was urgently required. They said that the workers employed by subcontractors were rarely certified or insured and had often been given little more than rudimentary training. The culture of the communications industry was also criticized, and several workshop participants said that fears of missing out on future jobs led some subcontractors to take shortcuts or ignore warnings in order to complete their assignments on time.
One workshop participant suggested bringing in independent auditors to inspect work sites for safety violations and ensure that all workers are properly trained. Another said that the safety culture of communications companies should be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny. Adding more tie-off points and platforms to communications towers was also promoted as a way to prevent workers being crowded together.
Most employers are required by state law to carry workers’ compensation insurance, but the claims process can be bewildering to those unfamiliar with it. Attorneys may assist those who have been injured on the job by explaining the procedure and ensuring that they apply for all of the benefits they are entitled to.