Cell phone towers have come in for a lot of flack since the inception of mobile technology. People who live near them have a long list of complaints ranging from a continuous buzzing or humming noise, which is annoying, to an increased risk of cancer, which is dangerous. Lately, however, a new danger has been brought into the spotlight, as a number of cell phone tower workers have plunged to their deaths.
In April, 5 workers died within 12 days, and in May another worker fell to his death. Craig Lekutis is the president of the online newsletter Wireless Estimator, and has 27 years experience in the communications construction industry. He says that these kinds of accidents often occur in spurts, which is strange enough, but that a concentrated run of deaths such as this one is extraordinary. Last year 10 people died from falling off “elevated structures” including water towers and electricity pylons, which makes the fact that 6 people have died from cell phone towers all the more remarkable.
The strange cluster of deaths has been attributed to AT&T’s push to upgrade its network so that it will be able to support the new 3G iPhone that is to be released soon. So far only three of the six people who have died have been identified as AT&T employees. Nevertheless, people are claiming that in its quest for speed, AT&T has thrown safety concerns out of the window.
AT&T denies that there is any connection between the deaths and their tight upgrade deadline. A spokesperson claims that the upgrade only requires workers to adjust the software at the base of each tower and that climbing the tower is unnecessary. Others contend, however, that workers may need to climb the towers to test the upgrade or remove redundant and out-dated equipment.
Regardless of whether the events are related, AT&T has taken steps to try and address the issue. After the death of the first two AT&T employees, they called for a halt to all construction projects and ordered all subcontractors to hold a safety refresher training course. They added that they expected their subcontractors to conduct random safety checks at all construction sites to ensure that the safety measures are being enforced.
AT&T says, “We consider the safety of our contractors and our employees to be our first priority.”