Deadliest job in America: Working on cell phone towers


Diamond Member
Dec 7, 2000

Next time you can't get a cell phone signal in the middle of town, put your problem in perspective: New figures show that the deadliest job in America now goes to the men and women who construct, upgrade, and repair cell phone towers.

According to a story in this week's RCR Wireless News (updated with live link), building and climbing towers (which can be hundreds of feet tall) is more dangerous than ranching, fishing, logging, and even ironworking. The fatality rate is currently 183.6 deaths per 100,000 workers: Five tower workers died during one 12-day span earlier this year alone. 18 tower workers died on the job in 2006.

The cause for the runup in tower worker deaths isn't completely clear, but it's likely a combination of careless working practices (workers not using safety gear 100 percent of the time, or not using it correctly) and network operators pushing to build out and upgrade their networks too quickly. Hard to blame carriers for wanting to get faster networks up and running, but not at the cost of human life. (RCR is careful to note that the investigation into the rise in fatalities is too early to attribute to any specific source.)

Oddly, a loophole in OSHA rules may make it difficult for changes to happen quickly: Towers are often constructed by small contractors instead of the carriers or the owners of the towers. Since the carrier isn't on site during the construction of the tower, the contractor receives the fine and the carrier and owner face no sanctions. (That hasn't stopped the families of some of the deceased workers from suing carriers, though.)

Up next: Workers and their unions are hoping to push through federal legislation which could lead to more thorough regulations covering safety in this largely ignored industry.

Update: The original story concerns only accidental deaths in traditional vocations, not combat-related fatalities, so military careers are not included in the "deadliest" tally. No offense intended to our men and women in service.


No Lifer
Aug 31, 2001
they had one of these on one of the discovery shows, i dont think it was Dirty Jobs but for some reason i thing Mike Rowe was in it, anyway it showed them climbing up and done one of these things, and ya its fing crazy


No Lifer
Aug 28, 2001
Why people don't use safety precautions 100% of the time is befuddling. I mean, don't they want to live?


No Lifer
Feb 26, 2006
I spent almost a year building cell towers. I worked for a crane rental house and we had an exclusive contract with the construction contractor.
Some of the morons they hired to work up in the structure were just plain stupid; not using proper fall protection, not paying attention to what they're doing, no experience working at heights or with cranes, etc...that kind of stuff will kill you. (or someone else)