Prior to the 1980s, communication and broadcast tower erection, servicing and maintenance was a very small and highly specialized industry. Over the past 30 years, the growing demand for wireless and broadcast communications has spurred a dramatic increase in communication tower construction and maintenance.
In order to erect or maintain communication towers, employees regularly climb towers, using fixed ladders, support structures or step bolts, from 100 feet to heights in excess of 1000 or 2000 feet. Employees climb towers throughout the year, including during inclement weather conditions.
Some of the more frequently encountered hazards include:
- Falls from great heights
- Electrical hazards
- Hazards associated with hoisting personnel and equipment with base-mounted drum hoists
- Inclement weather
- Falling object hazards
- Equipment failure
- Structural collapse of towers
In 2013, OSHA recorded a total number of 13 communication tower-related fatalities. In 2014, there were 12 fatalities at communication tower worksites. As of November 2015, there have been a total of 3 fatalities. OSHA is working with industry stakeholders to identify the causes of these injuries and fatalities, and to reduce the risks faced by employees in the communication tower industry.
- US Labor Department and Federal Communications Commission announce working group to prevent fatalities in telecommunications industry. OSHA News Release, (October 14, 2014).
- OSHA issues new directive to keep communication tower workers safe. OSHA News Release, (July 24, 2014).
- Inspection Procedures for Accessing Communication Towers by Hoist. OSHA Directive CPL 02-01-056, (July 17, 2014).
- No more falling workers. OSHA focuses on protecting cell tower employees after increase in worksite fatalities. OSHA News Release, (February 11, 2014).
- OSHA letter to communication tower industry employers. (February 10, 2014).
- Protecting the Safety and Health of Communication Tower Workers (PDF). Letter to Regional Administrators, (November 8, 2013).
Construction Industry (29 CFR 1926)
- 1926 Subpart M - Fall protection [related topic page]
- 1926 Subpart E - Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment [related topic page]
General Industry (29 CFR 1910)
- 1910 Subpart R - Special Industries
- 1910 Subpart I - Personal Protective Equipment [related topic page]
- Communication Tower Safety: Request for Information. (April 15, 2015).
- Fall from a Telecommunications Tower: FATAL Facts (PDF). OSHA Fatal Facts.
- Preventing Falls in Construction. OSHA's Fall Prevention Campaign.
- Fall protection. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page.
- Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP) (PDF). FCC and DOL announce wireless apprenticeship program. The Wireless Infrastructure Association is orchestrating the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP). DOL/FCC Fact Sheet.
The following communications tower incidents have been investigated by OSHA. Most of them were reported to OSHA, or OSHA learned about them from news reports, etc. There have been tower incidents that OSHA did not investigate because they were not reported to OSHA as required.
- November 22, 2013, Optica Network Technologies, Wichita, Kansas. A 25-year-old worker performing cell tower maintenance was killed when he fell 50 feet.
- August 17, 2013, Custom Tower, LLC, Louise, Mississippi. A worker installing microwave dishes on a cell tower was killed when he fell 125 feet. The worker, who was not using a double lanyard, fell after disconnecting his positioning lanyard to reposition himself.
- August 12, 2013, Transmit PM LLC, Coats, NC. A worker performing installation services for Sprint under the direction of Alcatel-Lucent died from a fall.
- July 8, 2013, Monarch Towers, Mountrail County, ND. Two workers were adding structural supports to a 300 foot tower. One worker fell and struck the other, causing them both to die from a 250 foot fall.
- May 28, 2013, Byrd Telecom, Georgetown, MS. Workers were raising a new antenna to the top of a tower to make the tower taller. While installing a hoisting device to raise the boom a cable broke, causing two men to fall to their deaths.
- April 3, 2013, Excell Communications, Birmingham, AL. No fatality, injury - Worker survived a 140 foot fall.
- April 5, 2013, S25 Towerserv, LLC, Franklin, PA. Two employees were hoisting new equipment on a tower, one employee was at approximately 190 feet, the other at 140 feet. The equipment being hoisted came loose striking the lower employee causing him to fall.
- March 19, 2013, Eduardo Corona, Laredo, TX. While installing the last 10-foot section of a 90 foot tower, the bottom section collapsed, causing one employee to fall to the ground and die.
- January 4, 2013, Ws Consulting & Construction, Mount Vernon, Washington. Employee fell 80 feet and died, had fall protection gear on, but the fall protection anchorage point failed.
- August 11, 2011, Hayden Tower Service, Inc., Brookfield, MO. A worker dismantling a cellular tower fell 80 feet and later died in the hospital.
- August 3, 2011, Sink Tower Erection Co., Hollister, NC. A worker was making modifications to 300 foot cellular tower when he fell 50 feet and was killed.
- June 27, 2012, Midwest Steeplejacks, Inc., Lisbon, ND. Employee was on a 300-foot telecommunication tower wearing an ExoFit XP Tower Climbing Harness equipped with a positioning device and twin lanyards, using only one tie-off point. Employee unhooked his positioning device to reposition himself, and fell approximately 153 feet and died.
- October 12. 2011, Ultimate Tower Service, Inc., Newton, MA. An employee was killed from fall while installing a new ladder on a 1000 foot tower.
- Investigation of the March 25, 2014 Failure of Gin Pole Rigging, and Collapse of Cellular Towers at Blaine, KS (PDF). (August 2014).
- Investigation of the February 1, 2014 Collapse of a Telecommunication Tower at the Summit Park Community in Clarksburg, WV (PDF). (July 2014).
- Investigation of the May 28, 2013 failure of gin pole rigging at a cell tower in Georgetown, MS (PDF). (October 2013).
- Investigation of the September 4, 2003 Collapse of the 1000-foot High TV Antenna Tower in Huntsville, AL (PDF). (January 2004).
- Investigation of the September 24, 2002 Collapse of the 1965-foot High KDUH-TV Antenna Tower in Hemingford, NE (PDF). (March 2003).
- Investigation of the October 23, 1997 Collapse of the 1889-foot High TV Antenna Tower in Raymond, MS (PDF). (April 1998).
- Investigation of the October 12, 1996 Collapse of a 1500-Feet High Antenna Tower in Cedar Hill, TX (PDF). (March 1997).
- FACE Reports
- Cell Tower Technician Dies after Antenna Array Falls and Decapitates Him (PDF). Kentucky Incident Number: 14KY032, (August 17, 2015)
- Tower Technician Killed When Guyed Tower Collapsed. NIOSH, New York Case Report: 09NY095, (December 2009).
- 55-Year-Old Communications Tower Worker Killed After Falling 60 Feet. NIOSH, New Jersey Case Report: 08NJ052, (March 10, 2010).
- Three Tower Painters Die After Falling 1,200 Feet When Riding the Hoist Line. NIOSH, In-house FACE Report 2000-07.
- Tower Construction Worker Dies Following 40-Foot Fall From Cellular Tower. NIOSH, MO FACE Investigation 99MO138, (May 22, 2001).
- Tower Painter Dies and a Second Painter Injured After Falling 900 Feet While inside a Man Basket. NIOSH, FACE 9821.
- Tower Construction Worker Dies Following 200 Foot Fall From Radio Tower. NIOSH, MO FACE Investigation: 98MO102, (May 13, 1999).
- Hispanic Tower Erector Falls to Death from Television Tower. NIOSH, Nebraska Case Report: 03NE019, (January 4, 2005).
- Preventing Injuries and Deaths from Falls during Construction and Maintenance of Telecommunication Towers (PDF). NIOSH Alert Publication Number 2001–156,(July 2001)
Share your story with us
If you want to share information with OSHA about communication tower safety such as a best practice, good contract language, or a safer work method, please send your email to email@example.com.
For immediate response, please call 1-800-321-OSHA(6742).
Fatalities in 2015
- Communication Tower Safety: Request for Information. Federal Registers, (April 15, 2015).
- OSHA seeks comment on better protections for communication tower workers. OSHA News Release, (April 14, 2015).
US DOL - FCC joint Event on communication tower safety and apprenticeship.
Several articles were compiled on the joint FCC and OSHA effort to protect cell tower workers including the following:
- New rules would protect cell tower workers. The Hill, (October 14, 2014).
- FCC, Labor team to save tower workers' lives. Broadcasting & Cable, (October 14, 2014).
- Department of Labor, FCC announce wireless apprenticeship program. RCR Wireless News, (October 14, 2014).