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Electrical workers now required to use safety gear while climbing

Electric utility companies in North Carolina and across the nation should be preparing to comply with a Occupational Safety and Health Administration directive governing how their workers can climb transmission towers. Those employers have until April 2015 to implement the necessary policy changes within their businesses.

Many electric utility companies have permitted their line workers to ascend transmission towers without the use of safety harnesses. This is known as 'free climbing," and OSHA estimates that the mandate will save the lives of 20 linemen each year. An average of 74 electrical workers die each year from a variety of occupational hazards like falling and electrocution.

The risk of workplace accidents while free climbing had been judged to be too high for nearly every profession except electrical work prior to OSHA's mandate. While electrical line workers were allowed to climb without being attached to the structure until April 2014, cellphone-tower workers have been required to wear harnesses since the 1990s. Also, nearly every other profession that involves climbing requires safety equipment for work a few feet above the ground.

Any individual who is injured at work has the right to seek compensation by filing a workers' compensation claim with his or her employer. Alternatively, those injured on the job can also choose to file a civil suit against the company instead, but they would waive their rights to seek workers' compensation in doing so. The guidance of an attorney who focuses on employment law might be helpful to those who have been hurt at work and want to know their options for redress.

Source: KUOW, "Feds Ban Free Climbing By Electric Utility Workers", John Ryan, July 23, 2014

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