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Three Deaths After 1,000-Foot Fall in Miami Are Latest of More Than 130 Tower Fatalities

Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Press Contacts: 

Jeanette Smith, jeanettesmith@sfiwj.org, (305) 598-1404; Roger Kerson, roger@nationalcosh.org, (734) 645-0535

“Reckless Actions” by Employers Have Cost Scores of Lives, Say Local and
National Safety Groups

Investigation Underway; Tower King Cited for 5 Previous “Serious” Safety Violations

MIAMI – Local and national safety advocacy groups said today that the tragic deaths of three workers after a fall from a 1,000-foot television tower in Miami on September 27th show the need for rigorous enforcement of safety laws and regulations – especially in the communications tower industry.

Since 2003, more than 130 workers have lost their lives working on communication towers. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says this loss of life is entirely preventable if employers follow the law and proper safety procedures.

“Our prayers are with the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy,” said Jeanette Smith, executive director of South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice, a founding member of the South Florida Council on Occupational Safety and Health (South Florida COSH). “We will remember Brachton Barber, Benito Rodriguez and Marcus Goffena and honor their lives by insisting on the highest safety standards for all workers.”

Tower King, the company that hired Barber, Rodriguez and Goffena to replace a television antennae high above Miami, has been cited on five previous occasions in 2008 and 2011 for “serious” safety violations by OSHA.

OSHA is now investigating last week’s deaths in Miami.

“These fatalities in Miami are the most recent needless deaths in an industry where reckless actions by employers have cost the lives of scores of workers,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH.) “We need answers and a full investigation – including an analysis of steps the employer took – or failed to take – to provide a fall protection system and to assess the structural integrity of the tower and related equipment.”

“We know from experience that in almost all cases, workplace fatalities can be prevented,” said Goldstein-Gelb. “It’s crucial that employers be held accountable for safety program lapses. Workers who die on their job and their families deserve no less – and workers who face similar risks in the future must be protected.”

Since 2003, 132 workers have fallen to their deaths while working on communication towers, according to WirelessEstimator.com, an industry website.

In 2014, following an “alarming increase in worker deaths” due to falls from communication towers OSHA sent a memorandum to employers, stating, “every single one of these tragedies was preventable.” The agency reminded employers of their responsibility under federal safety laws to provide proper training and fall protection systems to anyone working on communications towers.

In 2012, PBS Frontline and ProPublica cooperated on an investigation featuring the high incidence of fatalities on communication towers. Investigators found that major cell phone companies, installing new towers to meet expanding demand for cell service, used “a complex web of subcontracting” to “avoid scrutiny” of deadly, preventable events that have cost workers their lives. 

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National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit NationalCOSH.org

South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice works to improve the wages, benefits, and employment conditions of workers -- especially low-wage workers -- in South Florida.