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Important Changes for Telecommunication Industry in Washington

Good news for workers in the telecom industry: Washington State has taken strides to be a leader in protecting cell tower climbers, with the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) announcing strong, new health and safety regulations. Development has been underway for a few years and has now reached its final phase, going into effect on January 1, 2018.

The old telecom rules and regulations, formed nearly 45 years ago, have become obsolete and no longer offer adequate employee protection. Back in the 1960s and 70s, no one expected the telecom industry to explode in the way that has today. Simply put, these outdated regulations are no longer sufficient for industry employees.

An unfortunate consequence is that the telecommunications industry is associated with a death rate that is much higher than similar industries like construction. In fact, the death rate is ten times higher for cell tower climbers than it is for construction workers. As Seattle Labor & Industries (L&I) Attorneys, we have also seen a corresponding uptick in the number of people seeking representation for injuries incurred on the job.

When the state of Washington decided to be a leader in the movement for better safety in the telecom industry, it wasn’t an easy undertaking. It has been a long process of working closely with many different stakeholders to be sure the rules and regulations put in place would be relevant and ultimately make a positive impact.

“We are extremely pleased that Washington State leads the country in protecting workers’ lives as profound changes in industry practices are occurring,” said Anne Soiza, L&I Assistant Director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “We are truly grateful for the collaboration of many representatives from industry and labor, all who shared our commitment to preventing fatalities, serious illnesses and injuries.”

One of the biggest changes is regulations to protect employees from non-ionizing radiation. The industry is also going to see changes in the roles of responsibility. Additional improvements will be made to regulation of remote cell tower sites, attendance at cell towers, and working during hours of darkness. Because hazardous energy needs to be controlled properly and is often mishandled, its regulation is also included in the revisions that will go into effect. Finally, they have made adjustments to how response workers will react to emergencies and rescue scenarios.

Our team at The Walthew Law Firm represents people injured due to unsafe work practices and we understand the dangers cell tower climbers and telecommunication workers face every day.  Extensive safety regulations aimed at improving safety in this line of work is an essential development. There have been too many injuries each year that could have been avoided with safer practices and stronger regulations. If you have any questions regarding injuries incurred as an employee of the telecommunication industry or the changes that will go into effect in January, please call our office.

Patrick Cook is a partner at The Walthew Law Firm who exclusively represents injured people in Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury matters.

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