Joel Metz, a 28-year-old father of four, became the latest tower technician to die on the job, early in the afternoon of July 2, in a horrific accident.
Metz, who worked for Fortune Wireless, Indianapolis, Indiana, was on a team of four that was replacing a boom at a tower site in Harrison County, Kentucky. The crew had removed one boom and was lifting up another boom, which weighed 1,800 pounds, onto the tower.
“[The new boom] got to within two feet of where it was supposed to be mounted when the crew heard a pop, which was possibly a failure of the rigging, and the boom fell to the ground and a cable decapitated and severed the arm of the man that was positioned below the boom,” Harrison County Sherriff Bruce Hampton told AGL Extra.
Metz’s body was then suspended in his safety harness near the top of the 240-foot tower, which is owned by Verizon Wireless. After roughly three hours, which included several unsuccessful attempts, Verizon Wireless gave Sheriff Hampton clearance to climb the tower and remove the body. The delay left the Sherriff frustrated.
“It was a tough, tough situation, because it was obvious that he was deceased,” Sheriff Hampton said. “We didn’t want to leave the poor guy hanging 240 feet in the air. We had team members in from Indianapolis asking to go up and get him, but I had to wait for Verizon to give me clearance to climb the tower.”
Sheriff Hampton summoned the Northern Kentucky Technical Rescue who brought down the body about five hours after the accident.
Based on a reevaluation of the evidence and other factors in the case, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has reduced the number and severity of its citations and the accompanying fines against Pinpoint Towers for an incident in 2013, which resulted in a tower climber fatality.
In the final report, Pinpoint Services was found to have two “other than serious” citations and was fined $7,000 for each citation. Both of these fines were paid.
Originally, the tower company was fined $21,000 and cited with three serious safety violations after a worker died from a fall from a cell tower in November 2013 in Wichita, Kansas. The company subsequently contested the citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The 25-year-old worker was performing maintenance when he fell 50 feet while descending from the tower.
In February 2014, OSHA and the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) sent a letter to all communications tower employers urging compliance with safety standards after 13 climbers died in 2013. The letter said, “OSHA will consider issuing willful citations, in appropriate cases, for a failure to provide and use fall protection.” The agency also promised to pay attention to contract oversight issues.
OSHA has also created a new Web page targeting the safety issues surrounding communication tower work. It can be found at www.osha.gov/doc/topics/communicationtower/index.html.
Douglas Klein, 25, passed away Nov. 23 after falling 60 feet from a tower in Wichita, Kan. He was working for Pinpoint Towers on a lattice tower owned by SBA Communications, which stands 350 feet tall.
Pinpoint Towers specializes in the installation, repair, and maintenance of telecommunication towers for cellular, radio and broadband.
According to a report from Comtrain, at 5:30 p.m. Klein was coming down the tower and was reportedly tied off to the structure’s safety climb cable when he began his descent. He was severely injured after coming in contact with an ice bridge post and was transported to a local hospital in critical condition. He died after going through surgery.
Services were held in Hackensack, New Jersey. Klein is the 13th tower climber death in 2013.
In a tragic turn of events, a 41-year-old man fell 200 feet to his death July 25, while working on a cell tower in Vienna, Md. It is the seventh tower climber fatality in 2013, one more than the average annual rate from 2003 to 2011.
The accident victim, Michael Frontiero Cortes, 41, of Morovis, Puerto Rico, fell from tower while repairing a satellite dish with a co-worker, according to the Maryland State Police, Easton Barrack. He was critically injured by the fall and had died by the time first responders arrived upon the scene.
Cortes was a tower engineer employed by Konet, which is listed as a Puerto Rican telecommunications consultant with 13 employees and annual revenue of $920,000, according to the Manta small business web site.
The unidentified co-worker said he was assisting Cortes by providing him with tools via a rope and pulley system. The co-worker said, as he was preparing some of the tools, he heard a thud. He turned around and as he looked behind him, saw Cortes lying unresponsive on the ground a few feet away.
While the accident is still under investigation, the body has been released to the next of kin and there no suspicion of foul play. The investigation is mainly focused on the circumstances surrounding Cortes’ and the company’s safety procedures and whether or not he was properly secured to the tower by a safety harness.
Ernest Worthman, AGL magazine editor, assisted in the reporting of this story.