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Communication tower upgrades lead to more fatal fall accidents

Regardless of the size of a company, or the industry under which it is categorized, all Missouri workers are susceptible to the emotional, mental and financial ramifications of a workplace accident. As a result of the advancing technology in mobile equipment, more upgrades are required for communication towers, and this seems to be the cause of an increased number of fall accidents concerning communication tower workers. The 13 fatalities that occurred in that industry during 2013 exceeds the total number of deaths of communication tower workers in 2011 and 2012 combined. Though final figures for 2014 weren't available, 11 deaths had apparently been reported up until the time the news article was prepared.

Working at heights is hazardous and could be fatal, regardless of the height above ground. A 20 foot fall could be just as devastating as a 2,000 foot fall. With the growing demand for upgrades and maintenance on communication towers, the probability of falls and subsequent injuries or death increases. Employers are required to provide the correct equipment for each task and train workers in the proper use of all the equipment. Supervisors and company owners are expected to monitor all workers to ensure the use of fall protection is understood.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported that all 13 deaths of communication tower workers in 2013 were avoidable. In an effort to prevent such accidents, OSHA published a new directive that became effective in July 2014. It underscores the responsibility of employers to recognize workplace hazards and take the appropriate action to avoid injuries or deaths of workers on communication towers. In the directive, OSHA paid particular attention to safety training, protective equipment and proper communication between workers on the tower and those on the hoists.

Missouri workers working on communication towers may be aware that they will be entitled to workers' compensation benefits if they are injured in a fall accident. Such accidents often result in catastrophic injuries that may leave the victim partially or totally disabled. The workers' compensation insurance fund typically provides compensation for medical expenses and lost wages and may include disability benefits where applicable. Families who have lost loved ones in such accidents will be entitled to pursue claims for death benefits that generally cover end-of-life expenses along with some financial aid for the surviving spouse and any dependents. Many injured workers and grieving families utilize the services of experienced workers' compensation attorneys to assist them with complicated claims.

Source: ohsonline.com, "Does More Work Mean More Risk for Communication Tower Workers?", Craig Firl, Jan. 1, 2015

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