Cell tower company cited by OSHA for safety hazards following fatality in
Clarksburg, West Virginia, tower collapse in February 2014
New US Department of Labor OSHA directive seeks to protect communication tower workers
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Following the collapse of a Clarksburg communication tower in February 2014 that seriously injured two and claimed the lives of two employees and a volunteer firefighter, S and S Communication Specialists Inc. has been cited for two serious workplace safety violations. The citations issued to the Hulbert, Oklahoma-based company follow an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
S and S Communication Specialists was contracted to perform structural modifications to an existing cellular communication tower. The modifications included replacing diagonal bracing and installing leg stiffeners and new guy wires on the structure. The tower collapsed while the employees were removing diagonal bracing.
"These deaths are a painful reminder of the dangers associated with communication towers, and are at the root of OSHA's directive on communication tower construction activities," said Prentice Cline, OSHA area director for Charleston. "OSHA is concerned about the alarming increase in preventable injuries and fatalities at communication tower work sites. The agency is collaborating with the National Association of Tower Erectors and other industry stakeholders to ensure that every communication tower employer understands how to protect workers performing this high-hazard work."
Thirteen workers lost their lives in the communication tower industry in 2013, more than the previous two years combined. This year, nine worker deaths have occurred in this industry to date.
OSHA inspectors cited the company for violating section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act for directing employees to remove diagonal structural members on communication towers without using temporary braces or supports, and for allowing employees to be tied off to bracing that was not capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds. 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.
The company was assessed a $7,000 penalty for each of the two violations, which is the maximum amount allowed by law for a serious violation, and has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the Charleston Area Office at 304-347-5937.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
# # #
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The department's Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).