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Tower Painter's Death Draws $115K Fine

Monday, February 16, 2015

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A communication tower company faces $114,800 in penalties after a painter fell to his death—a fatality that could have been prevented if the company had provided adequate fall protection, federal investigators say.

The 49-year-old victim fell about nine stories Aug. 10, 2014, while painting a communication tower near Stockton, IL, for Sherwood Tower Service.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's investigation resulted in two willful and one serious safety violation for the Terre Haute, IN-based company, which specializes in communication tower painting and maintenance.

'Severe Violator' Placement

OSHA has also placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which concentrates resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference to their OSH Act obligations by willful, repeated or failure-to-abate violations.


According to OSHA, 12 people died in the U.S. in the communication towers industry in 2014, and 13 died in 2013. Many of the deaths involved falls.

"Three children are without a father because of a preventable tragedy," said Jacob Scott, OSHA's area director in North Aurora.

"No one should have to endure such a painful loss ever. Inspecting and making sure protective equipment is in use and working properly is a common-sense safety procedure that saves lives and prevents injuries."

The company did not respond Friday (Feb. 13) to a request for comment.

3 Violations

One willful violation was issued for lack of fall protection, exposing painters to falls of up to 90 feet. The other willful violation involved the positioning device harness used by the fallen worker; the gear should have been replaced because it was heavily painted and showed signs of wear, damage and deterioration, OSHA said.

Sherwood Tower Service

Sherwood Tower Service, which specializes in communication tower painting and maintenance, has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violators Enforcement Program.

Willful violations are the highest level of OSHA infraction—those committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

The serious violation was issued because the company had no safety and health program. Serious violations reflect "substantial probability" of death or serious injury from a hazard the employer knew or should have known about.

The company has 15 business days from receiving the citations to comply, request an informal conference, or contest the findings.

'Disturbing Trend'

"Companies that ask their employees to work above the ground have a responsibility to provide adequate fall protection to workers. OSHA has seen a disturbing trend in preventable deaths and injuries in the telecommunications industry," Scott said.

OSHA reports a recent "disturbing trend in preventable deaths and injuries" in the telecommunications industry.

According to OSHA, 12 U.S. workers were killed in the communication towers industry in 2014, and 13 died in 2013. By contrast, six and two workers were killed in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Many of the deaths involved falls.

The agency notes that workers may climb more than 1,000 feet on the towers in all types of weather. In October, the Labor Department and the Federal Communications Commission joined forces on an initiative to prevent fatalities in the telecommunications industry.

OSHA has created a web page targeting issues on the Communication Towers industry to help workers and employers better understand the in risks and prevent injuries and fatalities.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Fall protection; Fatalities; Health & Safety; North America; OSHA; Painters; Tower

Comment from Billy Russell, (2/16/2015, 8:16 PM)

Prayers for the family of our fallen Brother, 100% tie off is not hard to do , working at elevated heights takes a special Breed of man we are smarter than this , sad very sad .

Comment from Robert Bullard, (2/21/2015, 6:31 PM)

Yes, Billy. As a consulting engineer, I step across the line on confronting contractors and workers on job site safety. When it comes to job site safety, I am uncompromising: If you are building my work product, no corners shall be cut on safety. If a contractor says it is none of my damn business, all hell breaks loose on the job site. He gets one warning: If you do not get your act together I am taking photos and sending them to OSHA. Usually they go to the client and try to get me to back off. I have never ever been fired by an owner due to my job site safety advocacy. Construction is hard and it is dangerous. There are zero excuses.

Comment from Billy Russell, (2/24/2015, 10:00 AM)

Robert, How was this project allowed to proceed with The serious violation was issued because the company had no safety and health program. Serious violations reflect "substantial probability" of death or serious injury from a hazard the employer knew or should have known about. This should have been discovered in prejob meeting no excuse for that , One of my Brothers lost their life because of it , I stand on Protecting workers on my Projects NO EXCEPTIONS , I will be my Brothers Keeper always..

Comment from M. Halliwell, (2/24/2015, 11:53 AM)

Billy, I doubt this was one of Robert's jobs. I think we've seen it time and time again that there are far too many employers out there cutting corners to make a buck. The company I work for screens those contractors it will health and safety program, no work. Poor safety record, no work. Not working them off and get someone who will work safe. As the double-meaning add our local regulator has used says: "Safety is no accident." I fully intend to be safe by design, not by that we don't have accidents like this one.

Comment from Billy Russell, (2/25/2015, 3:39 PM)

Well said and I agree with you M.Halliwell, Robert I did not mean to imply this was your project please forgive the misinterpretation , I was thinking you did towers , and would know more than I do about the pre-job process or rather lack of in this case .......

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