When Windy City Tower Techs, LLC suffered an unfortunate fatality incident on September 3, 2021 at a monopine telecommunications tower in Olympia Fields, IL, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) followed with a comprehensive investigation into the incident. Even though the investigation included on-site and aerial drone footage, OSHA found no violations relating to the fatal accident, according to its ensuing report. During its inspection, OSHA determined that the employee was not adhering to Windy City Tower policy or industry standard of using his fall protection equipment to be 100 percent tied off at all times (100/100 Policy).
Windy City owner Brian Szubinski told Inside Towers his company has strict fall protection policies in place. “We’ve fully trained our employees on those policies,” Szubinski said. “We supervised our employees for violations of its fall protection policies and enforced zero tolerance policies. In addition to Comtrain training, we have a privately owned training tower for additional extensive training and education.”
OSHA issued no citations relating to the employee’s failure to tie off on the date of the accident. During teleconferences regarding the resolution of the inspection, Szubinski said OSHA was complimentary of Windy City Tower’s processes, procedures, and knowledge of the OSHA standards, ANSI standards, and industry practices. The company has since agreed to partner with local OSHA area directors and officers at its facility that has a training tower, to better educate employees and OSHA on the industry standards, safety practices and procedures.
Mark A. Lies and Adam R. Young handle workplace safety cases at the Chicago law firm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, and often represent employers in the industry on OSHA matters. The attorneys successfully defended the towerco during OSHA’s inspection by limiting its scope and minimizing the liabilities, according to Szubinski.
As part of the settlement agreement, OSHA will be reviewing monthly third-party audits for one year. These audits will be performed by a highly qualified team employed by Safety Check, a Minooka, IL-based safety consultant. Safety Check will also be retraining Windy City employees on aerial lift use and provide documentation to the OSHA area director. Although Windy City employees are trained to safely and properly operate a manlift (MWEP), they are going to adhere to OSHA’s demand of retraining and take it one step further. They will change any current training completed online to in-person real-life scenarios with the equipment pertaining to the training.
Due to cost and convenience, customers have accepted online training certifications. Szubinski said Windy City Tower has realized the education from online courses is not retained like in-field hands-on training and will continue to convert back to in-field, hands-on training no matter cost or convenience.
“We were happy to have the investigation of this tragic incident resolved with no findings of fault by the company,” Szubinski said. “I truly appreciate the assistance of Mark Lies and Adam Young of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, who helped me achieve this favorable result.”
By Jim Fryer, Inside Towers Managing Editor