An Oklahoma-based cell phone tower contractor has been cited following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration into a February 2014 tower collapse in Clarksburg that killed two employees and a volunteer firefighter.
S and S Communications was contracted to perform structural modifications to an existing cellular tower, said a news release from the Division of Labor. The modifications included replacing diagonal bracing and installing leg stiffeners and new guide wires on the structure. The tower collapsed while employees were removing diagonal bracing.
The collapse killed Kyle Kirkpatrick, 32, from Hulbert, Oklahoma, Terry Lee Richard, Jr., 27, Bokoshe, Oklahoma, and Nutter Fort Volunteer Fireman Michael Dale Garrett, 28, Clarksburg, W.Va. One other firefighter was treated for his injuries and later released.
Thirteen workers died in the cellular tower industry in 2013, according to the DOL. In 2014, nine worker deaths have been reported to date. S and S Communication Specialists were cited for violating section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act for directing employees to remove diagonal structural members on communication towers without using temporary braces or supports, and for allowing employees to be tied off to bracing that was not capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds, said the release from the DOL. The company was fined $7,000 for each of the two violations and has 15 business days to comply and meet formally with OSHA or the company can contest the findings before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
"These deaths are a painful reminder of the dangers associated with communication towers, and are at the root of OSHA's directive on communication tower construction activities," said Prentice Cline, OSHA area director for Charleston. "OSHA is concerned about the alarming increase in preventable injuries and fatalities at communication tower work sites. The agency is collaborating with the National Association of Tower Erectors and other industry stakeholders to ensure that every communication tower employer understands how to protect workers performing this high-hazard work."