A fatal accident occurred in Cynthiana, Kentucky on Wednesday, July 2, when a man was decapitated while working on a cell tower. The man, in his 20s, was working 240 feet above ground on a Verizon Wireless cell phone tower when a heavy antenna fell and fatally hit him. Harrison County Sheriff Bruce Hampton says the man was still hanging from his safety harness five hours later as a crew from northern Kentucky was beginning to lower his body down. The victim was one of two workers on the tower when the accident occurred at approximately 2:20 p.m. Hampton reports that the two other men were on the ground when it happened, sparing further injuries. Although the work was being performed on a Verizon cell tower, the workers were contracted by an unidentified company.
Information provided by PBS Frontline:
According to Frontline,the U.S. Labor Department is urging mobile phone providers to redouble their focus on safety at cell tower sites across the nation due to “an alarming increase in worker deaths” last year. 13 workers died at communication tower worksites in 2013, which is more than the previous two years combined, according to the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Additionally, four more workers were killed while working on cell towers in the first five weeks of 2014, continuing what the labor department has called a “disturbing trend.” David Micheals, assistant secretary of labor at OSHA, states, “Tower worker deaths cannot be the price we pay for increased wireless communication”. In less than a decade, the number of US smartphone subscribers has increased from 3.5 million in 2005 to 156 million in 2013, despite the steep price for better and faster cell service. However, a 2012 investigation by FRONTLINE and ProPublica discovered that nearly 100 climbing workers were killed between 2003 and 2011 on radio, TV and cell towers, which is about 10 times the average for construction workers. Remarkably, fifty of those deaths were at cell sites.
The increased demand for cell service is causing a scary increase in dangerous work conditions, which needs to be addressed immediately. The investigation, Cell Tower Deaths, found that climbers were often lacking the proper safety gear and were sent hundreds of feet into the air with little training. Additionally, climbers sometimes worked overnight or in hazardous weather conditions in order to meet the urgent demands from cellular communication carriers. The findings from OSHA state that a “high proportion” of deaths were caused by “a lack of fall protection,” and workers are injured or killed by falling objects, equipment failure, and collapsing towers. The Labor Department has even gone so far as to state, “Every single one of these tragedies was preventable.”