From 2003 to 2011, 50 workers died “working on cell sites” and 100 were “killed on communications towers.” The death toll among climbers is roughly 10 times higher than the rate for average construction workers in the U.S, according to a report released byProPublica.
The peak of on-the-job deaths correlates with the release and popularity of the iPhone between 2006 and 2008. From 2008, deaths have “dropped considerably.” People in the industry are worried there will be another spike in deaths with companies prepping for the next generation of phones built on 4G LTE networks.
Industry insiders say there’s an indisputable need for reform. About 10,000 workers scale sky-high towers to maintain America’s growing network of 280,000+ communication towers feeding our data-hungry population.
The report, released this week, is the result of a joint ProPublica and PBS Frontline investigation into the high number of cell tower worker deaths.
The high pressure on the job is frequently cited as a problem. Workers report saving time by “free climbing” — skipping steps in connecting safety gear to the towers.
The report stated: “We found that in accident after accident, deadly missteps often resulted because climbers were shoddily equipped or received little training before being sent up hundreds of feet. To satisfy demands from carriers or large contractors, tower hands sometimes worked overnight or in dangerous conditions.”
Climbers also report going without equipment replacements or safety checks. It’s not unusual that cell tower workers, who can make $10 to $11 an hour, pay the cost for gear out-of-pocket.
Keep posted with the Cell Tower Deaths Series here.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr, radialmonster
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