DOL/FCC Workshop Explores Best Practices for Tower Climbers' Safety

"Now we are about to see a steep increase in demand, and we must continue, we must even improve on the record of the last year. The industry that provides world-class wireless must provide world-class safety for its employees and contractors, period," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Feb. 11.

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Federal Communications Commission, joined by stakeholders' representatives, convened for a workshop Feb. 11 to discuss how to continue reducing deaths and injuries among workers who climb communications towers. They officials included Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, who said "only" three deaths were recorded among U.S. tower climbers during 2015 -- significantly better than in prior years, and a credit to efforts by the wireless industry to address the problem, but not good enough, he said.

There were 13 deaths in 2013 and a dozen more in 2014 in the industry, he said.

"The 2016 construction season, as you all know, is about to begin," he said, and there is increased demand, as well as limited spectrum that will result in installation of more antennas on towers. "Now we are about to see a steep increase in demand, and we must continue, we must even improve on the record of the last year. The industry that provides world-class wireless must provide world-class safety for its employees and contractors, period," Wheeler added.

OSHA and DOL's Employment and Training Administration hosted the workshop on tower climber safety and the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP). A video of the event is available here.

Panel discussions focused on guidance on best practices for improving tower climber safety, comments received in response to OSHA's Request for Information on Communication Tower Safety, and implementation of the TIRAP program. Besides Wheeler, participants included Roger Sherman, chief of FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, and DOL Chief of Staff Matthew Colangelo.

Others included Don Doty from the National Association of Tower Erectors; Kevin Schmidt from the National Wireless Safety Alliance; OSHA Regulatory Analyst Jessica Douma; and representatives from tower companies and wireless companies.

OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels and FCC's Sherman wrote a Feb. 11 post on DOL's blog about continuing efforts to prevent tower climbers from falling.

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