4 Ways Telecommunications Managers Can Be Ready to Handle a Workplace Fatality —
On April 19, 2018, 4 employees were changing steel diagonal rods on a 2,000-foot TV/radio communications tower. They were 105 feet above ground when the tower began to move and then collapsed. One worker died and the other 3employees were injured.
Workplace fatalities are not uncommon in the telecommunications industry. A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 76 telecommunications employees died on the job between 2015 and 2018.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak could make matters much worse for employers and their employees. Managers may suddenly have to deal with employees or contractors infecting co-workers — and some may die.
This is a critical time for employers to carefully review company policies and plans for dealing with workplace fatalities — regardless of how it happens.
A Company’s Fatality Plan
A company’s workplace fatality plan should provide clear directions in the following 4 areas:
1. Immediate steps after a worker’s death
The plan should include protocols for contacting emergency medical technicians, police and OSHA. All employers are required to contact the agency when an employee is killed on the job within 8 hours. OHSA must be notified within 24 hours if an employee suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.
2. Handling potential or perceived negligence
Protocols should include details for allowing authorities to inspect your business. The plan should include requirements for employee drug tests after an incident. Any hazardous elements at the workplace should be removed if possible and after receiving authorization from authorities. The manufacturer of any equipment involved in the accident should be contacted within 14 days.
3. Helping the deceased employee’s family
All notifications to the deceased worker’s family should be done in person. Executives should identify people who can notify family members in a caring and mature manner. The company should pay for funeral expenses, flowers, food and provide additional support for family members. All employees who want to attend the funeral should be allowed to do so, and the plan should detail the number of executives attending the service.
4. Managing OSHA and insurance
Protocols should be in place to contact insurance companies and workers’ compensation carriers. Procedures should detail how employees have direct access to claims adjusters to speed up the process. Managers need to be aware of the laws related to providing information as well as their own rights. They also need information to be prepared to help OSHA with interviews and documentation, certifications, training logs, etc.
While the first priority for managers is to make sure all employees are safe, they also have a responsibility to protect the company from financial damage or demise. OSHA can sanction companies for health and safety violations, lapsed or absence of documentation or any general negligence by employees or management with fines that can total $129,336.
Companies can avoid fines by having a plan and a method to track everything — especially when it comes to contractors. A new study sponsored by Avetta and BLR found 11% of those polled reported being able to avoid a citation or fine by providing proof an offending contractor had passed sufficient audits. Avetta also authored a white paper with some of the advice I’ve shared here, along with more detailed information to help employers get prepared.
Finally, managers have traditionally kept track of certifications, training logs and insurance coverage with spreadsheets and physical files, making it difficult to ensure all records are up-to-date. Companies should consider digitization to make sure these critical records are online or on a computer.
By the nature of the business, telecommunications employees have always had to take extra precautions to keep safe. We are experiencing a time with more hidden dangers, which means we need to keep hoping for the best but preparing for the worst that can happen.
Like this Article?
Subscribe to ISE magazine and start receiving your FREE monthly copy today!
Resources and Notes
For more information about the white paper, please visit https://www.avetta.com/resources/items/in-the-event-of-a-workplace-fatality-reacting-in-the-wake-of-a-catastrophe.
About the Author: Danny Shields, CSP, serves as Avetta’s Director of Industry Relations, and is a quality, health, safety, sustainability, and environmental professional who partners with executives to limit their organizations enterprise risk. He has led teams to achieve year-over-year QHSSE performance records in high-risk environments, saving companies millions in direct and indirect costs. His industry experience includes O&G, Mining, Manufacturing, and Construction. For more information, please visit https://www.avetta.com/.