A record four amateur radio tower climbing fatalities occurred over the 12-month period from October 2018 through September 2019.
This last year has dealt us the largest number of fatal tower climbing incidents of any one-year period in the recorded history of amateur radio.
Amateur radio tower climbing is a dangerous activity with regularly occurring fatalities recorded over nearly two decades. At least 16 people have lost their lives while working on amateur radio towers since 2003. Although not tracked in this report, we found evidence that a substantial number of serious injuries are also sustained by amateur radio tower climbers annually.
The risk of fatal injury inherent in amateur radio tower climbing is at least 4 times the risk faced by professional telecommunication tower climbers. When we compare the incidence of fatal injury sustained by amateur radio tower climbers with those of telecommunication tower workers, we find that the normalized fatality rates are many-fold higher in the amateur radio community.
Fatalities in amateur radio tower climbing are on the rise. Over the past 51/2 years from 2014 – 2019, we have seen 7 fatal incidents. This is in stark comparison with 7 incidents over the previous 11 years 2003 – 2013, a clear doubling of the incident rate.
FATAL EVENTS FALL INTO THREE MAJOR CATEGORIES
- Falling with the tower
- Climber falls to the ground attached to a falling tower
- Climber falls to the ground level from a significant height on the tower
- Other fatal injury (struck by object, electrocution)
- Climber killed while engaged in a construction or maintenance maneuver
THE DEADLY DUO
- Free-fall fatalities are highly correlated with free-climbing. 100% of free-fall fatalities occurred when the climber was either not equipped with PPE capable of preventing a fall, or had the equipment but was not using it during the climb.
- Falling with a tower is highly correlated with installation and removal of guyed towers. 100% of fatal injuries sustained when the climber was attached to a failing tower – ‘riding the tower’ – occurred on guyed towers during construction or removal of the tower.
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