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Alarming rise in accidents among cellphone tower workers

Connecticut residents are increasingly dependent upon cellphones and other high-tech wireless communication devices, but they often forget about all the physical infrastructures that go into making these things work. In order to meet the growing demand for these devices, companies need to erect more and more communications towers, and this requires employees to perform dangerous work.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there were 13 reported fatalities in the communication tower industry last year, more than had occurred in the previous two years combined. In the first five weeks of 2014, OSHA reported another four worker deaths in the industry.

It is possible that accidents like these may be the result of employers failing to provide proper safety equipment and failing to consistently instruct workers on how to use the equipment they have. In at least one case, OSHA cited one tower employer for willful violations of safety rules after a worker died in a 125-foot fall.

OSHA has begun working with employers in the industry to make sure that they understand safety requirements to protect their workers. The agency sent a letter to all tower employers last fall and has created a new website to help them understand their requirements.

When employees are hurt in a ladder fall or other accident at work, workers' compensation benefits can help them cope with medical expenses and lost wages. Workers do not have to prove employer negligence in order to collect benefits. However, state and federal laws protect workers who do report safety violations at work and who cooperate with OSHA investigations.

It's important for Connecticut workers to understand the safety requirements in place at their workplace. It's also important for them to understand their rights. A Connecticut attorney with experience in workers' compensation law may be able to help injured workers in these areas recover the compensation they are entitled to.

Source: OSHA.gov, "No more falling workers," Feb. 11, 2014

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