October 15, 2014 - 12:11 pm

The wireless industry is a powerful driver of growth in our economy. New facilities pop up all the time, giving the devices in our pockets and purses better service and faster broadband connections. Our country relies on these connections, but serving America's exploding demand for them shouldn't come at the cost of a worker's life.

Too often though, that's exactly what is happening. In 2013, 13 workers lost their lives in this industry. This year: 11 so far. The tower industry might be small, currently employing 10,000 to 15,000 workers, but it's quickly proving to be one of the most dangerous. And if we don't do something now, the number of fatalities will grow as fast as the industry does.

This is why our agencies joined together yesterday with telecommunications and tower industry leaders to address this heartbreaking problem. We know that we can only solve it if we work together; that we each have a role to play in stopping these senseless tragedies. It's also why we're proud to announce that our partnership on this issue doesn't end today, but will continue in the form of a joint working group the FCC and DOL have decided to form, with industry participation, to develop recommended practices for employers.

We know that no one intends for a tower construction project to take a life. Contracts for tower work are often written to ensure safety from top to bottom, but that message often gets diluted in a decentralized industry that uses so much subcontracting. We have to make sure the protections are making it from the folks on the ground to the person 1,000 feet in the air holding the wrench or wearing the harness.

This new working group represents a huge step forward, as we do everything in our power to make sure no family has to experience the anguish of losing a parent, child or sibling in a workplace fatality. We were also excited to announce today another component of these continued efforts to save worker lives: the new Registered Apprenticeship Program for Tower Technicians. This apprenticeship program will make sure that tower technicians receive the safety training necessary to reduce injury on the job. As the telecom industry booms, it needs workers with the expertise to do the job safely.

The TIRAP program and this morning's event are a case study in the importance of partnership. It's a great example of federal agencies and forward-looking industry leaders breaking down barriers, identifying common goals, creating synergy and building a whole greater than the sum of our parts.

We look forward to this continued partnership and the effect it will have on the lives and livelihoods American workers.

*DOL cross published this blog at: http://social.dol.gov/blog/?p=15486