Maintaining New Jersey’s Cell Towers is Risky Due to Extreme Heights and Potential Dangers Like Equipment Malfunctions.

New Jersey Cell Tower Accident Lawyers

Our ability to use our phones everywhere is due to the excellent coverage that cell phone providers can give us through the hundreds of thousands of cell towers transmitting signals far and wide. But those towers do not sprout up on their own. They require careful construction and maintenance to keep our networks alive and well. As 96% of the population uses a cell phone, cell tower workers take on a dangerous responsibility, and as cautious as they may be, accidents do happen. 

Evolution of the Cellular Industry

The first mobile phone, debuting some 40 years ago and named the DynaTAC 8000X by Motorola, had a hefty price tag of $4,000. Due to its size and weight of more than two pounds, this was certainly not something for the general public. Nicknamed “The Brick,” its briefcase-sized case was nearly as uncomfortable as the phone, and reception was spotty at best. By 1992, IBM announced the arrival of the first smartphone, but with a small LCD screen and a one-hour battery life, it was still a far stretch from what we have today.

Flash forward to 2024, and cell phones can do just about everything except the dishes. Everyone, even elementary school children, has cell phones. We use cell phones at home to set alarm systems, turn on lights, play music, and stream movies or shows. Our phones allow us to video chat with Aunt Judy and Grandpa Harold simultaneously. In the age of TikTok, Instagram, X, and Snapchat, we share our thoughts, beliefs, triumphs, and defeats with the world (whether they like it or not). We use our phones to record special or scary moments and live stream in real-time with our followers.

There are apps on our phones for banking, working out, telling us how to get to that new pizza place in Hoboken, or if we don’t want to go out, we can order from just about any place and have it delivered to our door. We can buy groceries, movie tickets, medicines, clothes, and anything Amazon can deliver, all with a swipe of the screen. You can use your phone to pay for your lunch if you don’t have your wallet. One might ask,” What did we ever do without our phones?” From the looks of it, we will probably never know where technology is headed.

Fatality Trends at NJ Cell Tower Worksites

Surprisingly, despite the increase in the presence of cell towers, the number of fatalities at cell tower worksites has decreased. In 2013, there were a total of 13 fatalities, and in 2014, there were 12. In 2015, that number dropped by 75%. In 2016, there was a slight increase to 6 deaths at cell tower worksites. Overall, cell tower work sites have become one of the safest places to work in the industry. In 2021, it was reported that based on 36,000 workers, there were 10.8 deaths per 100,000 workers, the lowest rate in the group labeled “dangerous industry” by the OHSA. Other ratings per 100,000 workers include underground machine operators at 29.8 at the low end and logging workers at 88.2 at the high end. The takeaway is that although technology’s need for infrastructure continues to rise, accidents occur less frequently.

Fatal Accident During Monopole Equipment Installation

Unfortunately, accidents still happen. On March 21, 2019, Devon Collins, an employee of Superior Broadband Towers of Marietta, GA, was killed when he was installing equipment on a monopole for At&T.  It is suspected that he suffered an equipment failure or made a tethering mistake. The New Jersey native fell 100 feet from the top of the tower when transitioning from the crane’s basket to the pole.

Diverse Aspects to Consider When Working on Cell Towers

Working on a cell tower is challenging and requires extensive training. It isn’t as though one climbs the tower, connects some wires and turns some screws, and climbs down. Every tower worker has to have special skills, physical strength, and agility. Before climbing, the worker must create a climbing plan that lists the work that will be done, the equipment needed for the climb, the proper permits, an equipment inspection checklist, and the work assignment. It should also have the potential weather issues and other conditions that could affect workers. Not all poles are alike:  different poles can have fewer anchorage points or varying weight load limitations. It is vital that the climber be familiar with the kind of pole they are climbing long before the work is started.

Primary Risks Linked to Cell Towers Accidents in NJ

Inadequate training and lack of preparation for the climb can result in an accident. Missteps are more prevalent when a job is rushed and steps are skipped. A lack of safety gear is also a problem. Companies looking to cut corners may not provide their climbers with good equipment. Equipment that fails or is substandard is dangerous to everyone involved and can cause a perilous fall from great heights. Obligating climbers to work in poor weather conditions is also dangerous.

RF Burn, caused by close exposure to radiofrequency radiation, can cause burns, cataracts, and temporary sterility. The government has placed a limit on the amount of radiation a cell tower can give off, but it is common for providers to ignore this requirement.

The OHSA prohibits free climbing, but some supervisors encourage it to save time and money. Free climbing is when the climber isn’t harnessed and can move up and down the tower more quickly because they don’t have to spend so much time anchoring their tethers. More than half of all tower climber fatalities are because of free climbing.

Malfunctioning equipment can be disastrous for someone who works at great heights. A loose clip, weather harness, or shredded rope can leave a cell worker tumbling to their death.

Dropped objects falling from a hundred feet become dangerous projectiles that can do serious damage. Because objects gain speed as they fall, they are nearly impossible to avoid. Employers must provide workers with hard hats and belts to hold objects to prevent them from falling.

Varied Types of Cell Tower Accident Injuries

Even a partial fall from a cell tower can cause serious injuries. Climbers are sometimes more than 400 feet up, a distance that, if fallen from top to bottom, would undoubtedly cause a wrongful death. Other injuries include broken ribs, pneumothorax, internal bleeding due to a ruptured spleen, lacerated liver, or damaged kidneys. Burns, electrocution, cuts, brain injuries, impaired sight, and other injuries causing a permanent disability, such as spine and neck injuries, are possible in the case of a cell tower accident. These are life-changing injuries that could have a devastating effect on the climber and their family.

OSHA Guidelines for Cell Tower Carrier Employees and Contracting Companies

File a Claim for Cell Tower Accident Injuries in NJ

OSHA regulations protect those who work for a cell tower carrier or a contracting company hired by a carrier. According to the OSHA, cell tower employees have the right to work under safe conditions. They must receive training and updated information about hazards and safety measures. Workers are entitled to information about worker’s rights and OSHA standards and can review the records of workplace injuries and accidents as a learning tool. Employees can lodge a complaint against their employer with OSHA and are entitled to whistleblower protections (free from employer retaliation).

Accountability Challenges when Cell Tower Accidents Occur in New Jersey

Deciding who is responsible for your cell tower accident is not as straightforward as it may seem. If you are an employee, such as Verizon or AT&T, you may need to file your claim against them. However, many cell carriers outsource their jobs to smaller companies to save money on labor and equipment costs. If you are employed by a subcontractor who lends their services to a major company, they could be liable for your accident rather than the more prominent companies.

Contact Cohen & Riechelson to Seek Compensation for Injuries Resulting from Cell Tower Accidents in Hamilton, NJ

The experienced personal injury lawyers of Cohen & Riechelson are ready to explain the regulations and standards established by OSHA to protect injured workers. We will investigate your case and assess fault if your employer’s safety practices lack the measures necessary to keep you out of harm’s way.

We can work with you to investigate your case from every angle, speaking with experts in the field. Our attorneys can determine precisely who is at fault for your accident by gathering evidence for your case. As negotiation professionals, we can get you compensation for your injuries and lost wages. If a trial is necessary, our attorneys are seasoned litigators unafraid to fight for you in court.

If you have been injured in a cell tower accident or know someone who has, call us today at (609) 528-2596 or contact us by filling out our online form. Most of these cases are done on a contingency fee basis, so if we don’t win, you don’t pay. We serve clients in Trenton, Hamilton, Lawrence, Ewing, Princeton, and across Mercer County and New Jersey. Call us today, and we can answer any questions you have.