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OSHA News Release
Region 5

Please note: As of January 20, 2021, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies.

Feb. 12, 2015

Painter dies in cell tower fall due to inadequate protective equipment
OSHA finds 2 willful, 1 serious safety violations at Stockton, Illinois, site

STOCKTON, Ill. – A 49-year-old man plunged about nine stories to his death while painting a communication tower near Stockton, Illinois, because his employer, Sherwood Tower Service, did not provide an adequate fall protection system while he worked high above the ground. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the Aug. 10, 2014 fatality, and cited two willful and one serious safety violation.

OSHA has placed Sherwood Tower, which specializes in communication tower painting and maintenance, in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program*. In 2014, 12 people died in the United States at work in the communication towers industry; while 13 were killed in 2013. Many of these deaths involved falls.

Communication Towers Web page images

"Three children are without a father because of a preventable tragedy. No one should have to endure such a painful loss ever. Inspecting and making sure protective equipment is in use and working properly is a common-sense safety procedure that saves lives and prevents injuries," said Jacob Scott, OSHA's area director in North Aurora. "Companies that ask their employees to work above the ground have a responsibility to provide adequate fall protection to workers. OSHA has seen a disturbing trend in preventable deaths and injuries in the telecommunications industry."

In addition to the lack of personal fall protection during tower climbing activities, OSHA inspectors found that the positioning device harness used by the fallen worker should have been replaced because it was heavily painted and showed visible signs of wear, damage and deterioration. The positioning equipment is intended to keep the employee on the tower during stationary work. These failures resulted in the issuance of two willful violations. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Sherwood Tower Service had no safety and health program, resulting in the issuance of a serious violation. 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 $114,800 for the company, based in Terre Haute, Indiana. James Michael Sherwood, who operates as Sherwood Tower Service, has five employees.

To view current citations, visit*

OSHA, the National Association of Tower Erectors and other industry stakeholders are collaborating to ensure that every communication tower employer understands their responsibility to protect workers performing this very dangerous work. OSHA has created a Web page targeting the issues surrounding communication tower work to help employees and employers better understand the risks of tower work and how to prevent injuries and fatalities in this industry.

Sherwood Tower Service has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply; request an informal conference with OSHA's area director in North Aurora, Illinois, 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 agency's North Aurora Area Office at 630-896-8700.

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

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Media Contacts:

Scott Allen, 312-353-6976,
Rhonda Burke, 312-353-6976,

Release Number: 15-206-CHI

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