Arms Race Leads to Increased Deaths Among Cell Tower Workers

According to the Wall Street Journal, cell phone carriers are racing to build advanced cellphone networks, which is leading to a significant increase in the number of deaths among tower workers.  At least 10 cell tower workers have died in falls from communication towers so far this year, and three more were seriously injured. That included four climbers who have fallen from U.S. cell sites so far this month, including one on Saturday.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the accidents, as is standard for work-related deaths.   These deaths and serious personal injuries come as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint are engaged in an arms race to build nationwide high-speed networks, which require a large number of cell phone towers to be constructed across the country.

Cell tower climbers are dying at ten times the rate of construction workers.  The nonprofit news organization ProPublica found that between 2003 and 2011 50 climbers at these sites were killed, and many more were injured.  In 2008, OSHA said tower climbing was “the most dangerous job in America,” ranking it above occupations such as construction, oilfield work, fishing and logging.

Because of the race to build these cell phone towers, crews for independent contractors building them for the phone carriers are regularly working 12- or 16-hour days.  Worker fatigue often creates an increased risk of personal injury and death.

Workers on these crews are asked to climb towers hundreds of feet high to replace surfboard-sized antennas and perform general maintenance.  Some of the companies that are constructing the cell phone towers are offering incentive programs that pay bonuses to their employees for building the towers quickly.  A manager at one contracting company, who pointed out that some jobs pay $12,000 per site, said the bonuses encourage them to work faster.  Often, workers that have incentives to work quickly may also have a disincentive to adhere to safety requirements, as doing so often slows down the workers.  This can in turn lead to an increased risk of death or personal injury among workers.

If you or a loved one have been involved in a cell phone tower or a construction accident, you should visit with a personal injury attorney who can answer your questions and advise you of your legal rights relating to the workplace accident.

About the author: While my office is located in Fort Worth, I am admitted to practice in every state and federal court in Texas, and I am able to handle cell phone tower and construction accident claims and other personal injury cases in Dallas, Fort Worth, Cleburne, Burleson, Denton, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Houston, Waco, Austin, Midland, Odessa, Amarillo, San Antonio, and across Texas.  For a free evaluation of your legal matter, call me at 817.908.9861 or fill out the contact form.