May 15, 2015 - 5:15 pm
By Roger Sherman | Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
Michael Janson | Associate Chief, Competition and Infrastructure Policy Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Over the past two weeks, millions of workers across the country have participated in a National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction.  This voluntary annual event, coordinated by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is an opportunity to take time out of busy work schedules for training to ensure the safety of those that work at heights and to prevent hazardous falls. 

In this year’s Safety Stand-Down, companies involved in tower climbing work across the country, from Texas to South Dakota, Michigan to Maine, New Jersey to New York and Pennsylvania to Florida, used the Safety Stand-Down as an opportunity to have dedicated training on safety.  We applaud the companies that participated and we encourage the entire tower climbing industry to refocus on safety given what is at stake. 

To put this in perspective, let’s take a look at the numbers.  According to OSHA, there were 12 fatalities in 2014 involving work on communications towers, following 14 fatalities in 2013.  Although the trend line in fatalities is currently declining, one fatality is one fatality too many. 

For our part, the FCC has been working with a variety of parties to improve tower climber safety.  Last October, the FCC and OSHA jointly hosted a widely attended workshop at FCC Headquarters focused on tower climber safety, and announced the formation of a working group to encourage best practice adoption throughout the industry.  Our working group is continuing to work with stakeholders on publicizing practices that improve safety.

The Safety Stand-Down was an ideal time to redouble efforts to address the preventable breakdowns in safety systems that result in fatalities and injuries.  To this end, we expect and encourage the industry to implement policies that identify and address specific risks, both ongoing and job-specific.  Working together with climbers and regulators, the industry can make progress on this critical issue so that our ongoing deployment of newer and faster wireless networks can be as safe as it is robust.