Cell Phone Tower Deaths
Almost every American uses a cell phone, but most of us don’t really think about all the work and risk that goes into providing cell phone service. Cell phone service is provided by the hundreds and thousands of cell phone towers that are constructed and maintained across the country and world. According to a PBS Frontline special investigation, cell phone tower workers are more than 10 times as likely to die on the job as the average construction worker.
On May 16th 2012, cell phone tower worker Jonathan Guilford was working on an AT&T cell tower in Indiana when he fell 200 feet to his death. Between December 5th and April 11, the cell phone industry reported no cell phone tower deaths. However, in April alone there were 5 cell phone tower deaths suffered on April 12, 14, 15, 17, and 23rd and Guilford’s death on May 16th.
These deaths have occurred at an increased rate due to the extreme urgency to expand cell coverage by numerous carriers. At least three of the six recent accidents occurred on AT&T cell phone towers. AT&T recently announced a new $20 billion plan to expand their 3G network which will require numerous additional cell phone towers. This rapid expansion of the network will put many workers at risk of cell phone tower deaths.
Following the recent increase in cell phone tower deaths, carriers such as AT&T are forcing their contractors to beef up safety procedures. They are requiring all construction employees to hold a half-day safety refresher course. They are also urging more frequent random safety checks on cell phone tower employees.
The PBS Frontline investigation entitled ‘Cell Tower Deaths’ claims that the high death rates among cell phone tower workers are caused by demanding project deadlines. They state that these deadlines encourage cell phone tower workers to cut corners and take shortcuts on safety procedures. Some of these shortcuts include not using adequate safety equipment and ‘free climbing’ in which the worker is not connected to the tower.
However, not all workers who have suffered cell phone tower deaths were free climbing at the time of their accidents. Jonathan Guilford was connected to the tower when he suffered his fatal fall. He was rappelling down from the tower when he stopped abruptly which caused him to bounce. When he bounced, his carabineer was disengaged from the tower and he tumbled to his untimely death.
Presently, the major cell phone carriers are attempting to shield themselves from liability in these cell phone tower deaths by implementing numerous layers of subcontracting to implement tower maintenance and construction.
Between 2003 and 2011, there have been more than 50 reported deaths caused by cell phone tower falls. It is sad because most of these falls could have been prevented if stricter safety procedures had been implemented and enforced.
Major cell phone carriers have been largely invisible in relation to the rising number of cell phone tower deaths. The dangerous jobs are typically outsourced to subcontractors which has been an increasingly usual practice in riskier industries including trucking, nuclear waste removal, and coal mining. Looking up major cell phone carriers in the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration’s database of workplace accident investigations will not show any connection between the cell phone tower deaths and the major carriers even though almost all the accidents have occurred on their towers.
The PBS Frontline special investigation airing May 22nd is expected to shed additional light on the connection between cell phone tower deaths and the major cell phone carriers. They trace each of the accidents back to the owners of the towers by reviewing thousands of government documents and talking to climbers, industry executives and labor experts.
Subcontractors cannot be blamed entirely for their tragic cell phone tower deaths. Most of the accidents were related to poorly equipped climbers racing to meet difficult deadlines imposed by the major carriers. Many of the climbers did not receive adequate training prior to doing their work. In many instances, cell phone tower climbers work through the night and in dangerous weather conditions.
According to reports, AT&T towers have experienced more cell phone tower deaths than its three closest competitors combined. We believe that the cell phone carriers should be held accountable for the deaths caused on their watch. Many families have suffered from the tragic consequences of these untimely deaths and have been left alone to deal with them. If your loved one has suffered from a cell phone tower death, please call today to discuss your legal options going forward in a Cell Phone Tower Death Lawsuit.
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