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Tower climbers at risk of suffering fatal workplace injuries

Servicing broadcasting towers and working at heights of up to 1,500 feet have cost the lives of 34 tower climbers since 2013 -- according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Not only is this a highly specialized job, but it is also dangerous, and workplace injuries can easily be fatal. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of people doing this job nationwide, including in Oklahoma, is 14,000.

One climber explained that although there are elevators inside the broadcast towers, they only go up to certain levels. If a camera at the top of the tower must be repaired, or a spring has to be replaced, it is the job of a tower climber to climb the rest of the way up the outside of the tower. If the elevator only goes up to 750 feet, the special equipment, skills and experience of the climber must take him the rest of the way.

Although drones are being introduced to help with the maintenance of places such as broadcast towers, they cannot yet do the repairs. However, the use of drones can significantly reduce the number of times tower climbers have to spend in life-threatening circumstances. All those climbs to those dangerous heights to assess and identify problems only to come back again to do repairs are no longer necessary. Drones can now do the surveillance and produce images of faulty or malfunctioning equipment, allowing the climber only to go up to do the repairs.

Although tower climbers in Oklahoma may find comfort knowing that their jobs will not soon be replaced by machines -- or drones -- they will continue to be at risk of suffering fatal workplace injuries. In the event of such a tragedy, the surviving family members will be entitled to survivor's benefits through the workers' compensation insurance system for the state. Along with funds to pay for end-of-life arrangements, the program also provides financial assistance that is based upon the deceased worker's wage level to help with daily living expenses for a predetermined time.

Source: wfaa.com, "Dangerous job: Tower climbers", Sebastian Robertson, Aug. 4, 2017

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