A joint investigation with ProPublica

Cell Tower Deaths

May 22, 2012

FRONTLINE and ProPublica investigate the hidden cost that comes with the demand for better and faster cell phone service.

(30:24) An investigation into the hidden cost of the smartphone revolution.
THE LATEST

Feds to Look Harder at Cell Carriers When Tower Climbers Die

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration will systematically track who subcontractors were working for when accidents occur on cell tower sites.

Labor Dept. Warns of “Alarming” Rise in Cell Tower Deaths

Thirteen workers died at communication tower worksites in 2013, more than in the previous two years combined.

Anatomy of a Cell Tower Death

Understanding the contracting chain on cell tower jobs can be complicated, but crucial when workers die. William “Bubba” Cotton, 43, … Continue reading

Safety Stand Down Called for on AT&T Projects

Following a worker’s non-fatal 100-foot fall from a Texas cell tower last week, one of AT&T’s construction management firms has … Continue reading

Ask a Former Cell Tower Worker

What are your questions for former cell tower worker Wally Reardon? Ask him on Reddit today or in our live chat.

Live Chat Wednesday 1 p.m. ET: Who’s Responsible for Cell Tower Deaths?

Join Cell Tower Deaths reporters Ryan Knutson and Liz Day for a live chat featuring former cell tower climber Wally Reardon and guest questioner Ben Drawbaugh from Engadget. You can leave a question now.

How Subcontracting Affects Worker Safety

More workers are now employed by a vast network of subcontractors that affects not just industries like tower climbers and construction, but also the health care, logistics, retail and service industries. FRONTLINE interviewed David Weil to understand how the system works now, and why it’s changing the way Americans work today.

Methodology: How We Calculated the Tower Industry Death Rate

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have a standard code for tower climbing and, thus, does not compile uniform data on tower workers’ fatality rates. We used OSHA’s methodology to calculate deaths per 100,000 workers for the tower industry for each year from 2003 to 2010.

Jordan Barab: Why OSHA Can’t Cite Cell Carriers for Worker Safety Violations

OSHA’s legal authorities depend on who employs on-site workers, explains Jordan Barab, the agency’s second in command.

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