Safety Tips FACE Reports

FACEValue: Cell tower worker decapitated

Case report: #14KY032*
Issued by: Kentucky Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program
Date of incident: July 1, 2014

A 28-year-old tower technician was performing maintenance more than 240 feet in the air on a cellular tower. His task was to replace three antenna arrays that weighed approximately 1,800 pounds each. The crew already had replaced two of the three antenna arrays and was in the process of setting the third in its place when they heard a loud pop. A supporting shackle suffered a catastrophic failure, causing a cable to snap. The array crashed down, and the cables amputated the victim’s head and right arm. The ground crew called 911 to report the fatality and ask for assistance in lowering the victim to the ground. They also requested a power shut-off for an energized electric line contacting the broken cables. Emergency crews arrived on the scene to begin the process of lowering the victim to the ground.

To help prevent similar occurrences:

  • Ensure a competent rigger is onsite to perform a hazard assessment before work begins.
  • Ensure tower technicians are competent and trained on proper equipment use, procedures and how to safely do their jobs.
  • Inspect required antenna replacement equipment before beginning work.
  • Cell tower employers should ensure antenna replacement equipment is used properly and according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.