This is the second time I have blogged about the dangers cell phone tower climbers face. The media is catching on to my concern. PBS’s “Frontline” just published an article last week titled, “In Race For Better Cell Service, Men Who Climb Towers Pay With Their Lives”. It then aired a film version of the article.
As Frontline points out, the statistics are grim. Between 2003 and 2011, 50 cell phone tower climbers died on the job, almost all by falling to their death. AT&T has the worst record of all, with nearly three times more deaths than its nearest “competitor”.
Why are these workers dying? Frontline 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” and that, “to satisfy demands from carriers or large contractors, tower hands sometimes worked overnight or in dangerous conditions”. All the cell phone carriers are racing to roll out ever better and faster cell phone networks to deliver ever faster and more voluminous music, games and videos online. To get the jobs done fast, and cheap, safety rules are routinely violated.
In an apparent attempt to insulate themselves from bad press and high workers’ compensation costs, cell phone carriers outsource this dangerous cell tower work to subcontractors. And in almost any state but New York, this makes sense. The worker who falls, or his or her surviving family members, will generally be relegated to workers’ compensation from the subcontractor’s insurer. The cell phone carriers themselves generally won’t pay for, or be implicated, in the deaths and injuries.
But in New York, this scheme to escape responsibility is not going to work. That’s because New York has a unique statute, Labor Law 240, which gives special protection to workers who fall from heights. Under Labor Law 240, if a cell phone tower climber falls from a cell tower, he or she can claim workers’ compensation from the subcontractor-employer, BUT USUALLY CAN ALSO SUE THE OWNER OF THE CELL TOWER (which is usually the cell phone carrier) for a lot more compensation, including pain and suffering compensation.
I sure hope injured New York cell phone tower climbers, and their families, find out about New York’s Labor Law 240. One thing you can be sure of; their employers and the cell phone companies won’t tell them. And that’s why I am!
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