Safety in the Workplace

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The nature of a typical broadcast operation has a variety of potential safety issues well beyond that of a typical office. Transmitter sites can be a safety nightmare if proper procedures are not implemented and followed. High voltages, shoddy electrical work, bypassed interlocks, working from ladders combined with exhausted personnel (because they were called in at 1 a.m.), typically working alone, is a potential accident waiting to happen. Tower climbing presents another potential hazard if not performed properly by trained personnel. Deaths resulting from falls from a tower, while decreasing each year, are still happening. While these are only a few potential hazards that could be found at the station, they constitute two of the four top categories, (falls and electrocutions) of leading occupational fatalities.

Proper tower safety goes beyond simply wearing a harness. Image courtesy of ERI.

Proper tower safety goes beyond simply wearing a harness. Image courtesy of ERI.

Here are some interesting facts, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There were 4,114 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2011, of that, 721 or 17.5 percent were in construction. The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites were falls, followed by electrocution, struck by object, and caught-in/between. These “Fatal Four” were responsible for nearly three out of five (57 percent) construction worker deaths in 2011: Falls (35 percent); electrocutions (9 percent); struck by object (10 percent); and caught-in/between (3 percent).

These statistics seem to follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administrations (OSHA) recent release of the top categories cited for safety in 2012.

The following were the top 10 most frequently cited standards from Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2012:
1. Fall Protection - General Requirements: 7,250 violations
2. Hazard Communication: 4,696 violations
3. Scaffolding: 3,814 violations
4. Respiratory Protection: 2,371 violations
5. Ladders: 2,310 violations
6. Machine Guarding: 2,097 violations
7. Powered Industrial Trucks: 1,993 violations
8. Electrical - Wiring Methods: 1,744 violations
9. Lockout/Tagout: 1,572 violations
10. Electrical - General Requirements: 1,332 violations

Notice six items out of 10 are related to either potential fall hazards or electrocution, with fall protection violations at the top. Since we require and utilize supporting structures for our antenna systems, I am going to focus on climber safety.

Tower safety

In 2012, there was only one reported fatality. It was a 19-year-old tower climber who fell off a 300’ guyed tower in Minnesota. He was working at about the 153’ level. He unhooked himself to move around the tower and apparently slipped. This was clearly preventable as the rules that apply to fall protection prohibit free climbing any structure. OSHA and organizations like the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) and Com Train provide courses to tower workers. As simple as climbing a tower might appear, climbers must understand and operate under a number of regulations and requirements. (See the list at the end of this article.)

- continued on page 2

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