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W.Va.: Company Faces $52,000 Fine for OSHA Safety Violations

By Kirk Rafdal  7/29/2014
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Because Morlan Enterprises failed to adequately protect workers while scaling a communications tower, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed $52,000 in penalties for willful and serious violations.

Morlan, based in Parkersburg, W.Va., maintains and services cellular and broadcast communication towers. While performing work on a 195-foot tower under construction in nearby Ohio, two Morlan employees were discovered “free climbing,” or climbing without safety lines.

“Free climbing a communication tower is extremely dangerous, and it was this company’s responsibility to ensure appropriate fall protection was provided and used,” said Deborah Zubaty, an area director for OSHA. “Employers and cell tower owners and operators must do everything possible to stop senseless, preventable tragedies in the communication tower industry.”

OSHA cited Morlan on July 14 for willful violations because it failed to ensure workers climbing the tower had “effective and adequate fall protection” and did so knowingly or with voluntary disregard for the law. Eight serious violations also were issued for failure to provide safety training and for requiring workers to provide their own fall-arrest harnesses. Other violations involved lack of first-aid kits in the event of an emergency.

Last year, 13 workers perished while working on communications towers in the United States, the majority from fatal falls, according to OSHA.

Morlan has 15 business days to remedy the safety violations, request an informal conference with OSHA or dispute the findings.

Kirk Rafdal, J.D., is a staff writer for SHRM.

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