Wichita, KS (WorkersCompensation.com) - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Optica Network Technologies, which operates as Pinpoint Towers LLC, with three serious safety violations after a worker was fatally injured during a fall from a communications tower on Nov. 23 at work site in Wichita.
The 25-year-old worker was performing maintenance when he fell about 50 feet while descending the tower. He is one of 13 workers fatally injured at communication worksites in 2013. The majority of these deaths were a result of falls. OSHA requires employers to provide fall protection equipment, train employees how to use the safety equipment and ensure that they use it properly and consistently.
"All employers, and especially those in high-hazard industries such as communication tower construction and maintenance, must properly train their workers on the need to maintain fall protection at all times," said Michael Moon, OSHA's acting area director in Wichita. "Employers and cell tower owners and operators must do everything possible to stop these senseless, preventable tragedies."
The serious citations allege that Pinpoint Towers failed to ensure fall protection was maintained at all times while traversing the communication tower, and did not conduct a comprehensive job hazard assessment to include fall protection methods prior to employees traversing the tower. Finally, the company failed to provide certification that the hazard assessment had been completed and did not provide adequate fall protection training to workers.
A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
OSHA has proposed penalties of $21,000. The company has no previous history with OSHA.
OSHA is concerned about the alarming increase in preventable injuries and fatalities at communication tower worksites. As a result, OSHA is collaborating with the National Association of Tower Erectors and other industry stakeholders to ensure that every communication tower employer understands their responsibility to protect workers performing this high-hazard work.
More fatalities occurred in this industry in 2013 than in the previous two years combined. This disturbing trend appears to be continuing, with seven worker deaths occurring so far in 2014. In an effort to prevent these tragic incidents, OSHA has sent a letter to communication tower employers urging compliance and strict adherence to safety standards and common sense practices. OSHA has also created a new Web page targeting the issues surrounding communication tower work.
OSHA is committed to working with the communications industry to prevent these injuries and fatalities, and it will continue outreach and enforcement efforts to make sure communication tower workers are adequately protected. Small- and medium-sized employers can access OSHA on-site consultation programs for free assistance in providing safe workplaces.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Wichita or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.