In 2000, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said between 1992 and 1997, nearly 100 workers died from falls and other injuries related to tower construction. Sixteen tower-construction workers died on the job in 2003, according to an OSHA official.Nine tower-related deaths have occurred in the North Carolina in recent years. And despite objections from the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE), the state has issued potentially precedent-setting telecom tower standard which includes a fall-protection provision.
NIOSH estimated at that time the risk for fatal injuries among telecom tower workers ranges from 49 to 468 injury-related deaths per 100,000 employees, compared with about five deaths per 100,000 employees in all other U.S. industries. The reason for the wide spread in the estimate, according to NIOSH, is difficulty in identifying the number of employees involved in building and maintaining telecom towers.
NATE objected to the 100-percent fall-protection requirement, arguing that it was too onerous on small businesses subcontracted by large tower companies and mobile-phone carriers.
Another problem for NATE was the number of employees with rescue training that needed to be on site. The state had originally argued that two employees with rescue training needed to be onsite because many of the towers are located in remote locales-where there is a lack of equipment and expertise to deal with tower emergencies in a timely manner. The state compromised with a requirement that one employee with traning was needed as long as another was trained within 6 month. NATE wanted a year to add another trained employee.
Federal OSHA is reported to be also looking at the possibility of issuing a similar standard.