Washington regulators fine wireless company after fatal fall
ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) — Washington state regulators fined a Pennyslvania wireless company $12,000 for safety violations after the death of a cellphone tower worker near Arlington last year.
Michael Vasquez was working on a Crown Castle cell tower on Dec. 4, 2021 when he fell about 140 feet (42.6 meters) to his death, according to fire officials.
The 24-year-old Las Vegas man died from blunt force injuries, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office determined. His death was classified as an accident, the Everett Herald reported.
Vasquez’s employer, QualTek Wireless, violated multiple safety rules, investigators from the state Department of Labor and Industries found in May. All three violations were considered serious.
The first infraction was for not conducting a daily “structural hazard assessment” on the cell tower. In the citation, inspectors noted this exposes workers to “potential serious hazards.” The second violation was for a similar issue. For those two, QualTek was fined $6,000.
The last violation, also for $6,000, was for not completing a daily inspection of the vertical climbing system. This would ensure the tower is safe to work on.
“An authorized climber with less experience was expected to perform this duty to the 140’ level where the work was being performed,” inspectors wrote in the citation. “This exposes employees to serious hazards that may cause disabling injuries or death.”
A spokesperson for QualTek did not respond to requests for comment. The company is appealing.
On its website, QualTek prides itself of the safety on its job sites.
“Our Health and Safety Program complies with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations, as well as our own exceptional standards,” the website reads. “Our objective is to surpass best practices while eliminating or mitigating hazards that expose our personnel to injuries and illnesses.”
Falls are consistently the top cause of construction worker deaths in Washington, said Tim Church, a Labor and Industries spokesperson. In 2021, 16 construction workers died in work-related incidents. Six of those were from falls.