In September, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued citations to two companies – Midway Tower Service Inc. and Bracken Equipment Holdings LLC – for hazardous conditions after a communications worker died on a worksite in Utica. According to WorkersCompensation.com, “Midway Tower Service Inc. was cited for exposing employees to fall and struck-by hazards, failing to remove or replace damaged attachments between the hook of a crane and the load, and for not capping the ends of rebar. OSHA also cited Bracken Equipment Holdings LLC, a crane rental company, for not removing damaged equipment from service.”
The two companies were fined $20,990 in total.
Tower work is a dangerous industry
Per OSHA, about 14 construction workers die every day on sites across the country. Falls and struck-by accidents are two of the industry’s “Fatal Four,” and contribute to 48.1% of all fatal accidents each year. In 2016, these types of incidents attributed to almost a third of all fatal work injuries in Mississippi.
Tower workers in particular face multiple hazards. A 2012 report by PBS Frontline and ProPublica found that “Between 2003 and 2011, 50 climbers died working on cell sites, more than half of the nearly 100 who were killed on communications towers.” In 2017, eight tower workers were killed; so far in 2018, there have been four fatalities, including the Utica worker.
The industry needs more incentive to change
The construction industry as a whole – not just building sites, but all sites wherein electrical work is being done, or concrete is being poured, or roads are being repaved, or any combination of jobs – needs to change. Right now, there seems to be no incentive for these companies to take the proper precautions when it comes to workplace safety. After all, the average OSHA penalty for a tower incident is $7,691, and out of the 121 cases closed by OSHA between 2003 and 2018, 47 cases resulted in no penalties at all.
At the risk of being cynical, this comes down to cost benefit analysis: if these companies can make more money by taking risks, with only the potential for a small fine, then there is no incentive for them to implement the proper protocols. It is the same type of thinking that leads to millions of recalls each year of defective auto parts, dangerous drugs and faulty medical devices.
What can I do if I am hurt on the job?
If you are injured on a worksite, or in the course of your job duties, you have two options: you can file for workers’ compensation, or you can file a third-party personal injury lawsuit. In some cases, you may even choose to do both – though if you are successful in your lawsuit, you may be forced to pay back some of the money paid out through workers’ compensation. It comes down to what type of injuries you sustained, what kind of long-term care you might need, and what caused your injuries. One of our Mississippi injury lawyers can explain your options to you during a free consultation.
At Merkel & Cocke, P.A., we have been protecting injured Mississippi workers for more than 35 years. We offer knowledgeable, honest advice based on our decades of experience. To schedule your free consultation with a Mississippi workers’ compensation attorney from our firm, please call 662-799-1633 or complete our contact form. We maintain offices in Jackson, Clarksdale and Oxford, and serve clients throughout Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas.