I’m astonished regarding the daring of crews who build and maintain broadcast towers. I once watched workers paint part of the free-standing WJAG tower west of Norfolk, Nebraska one afternoon. The men looked like spiders as they went about their duties. I admired their courage and willingness to do a job I couldn’t imagine ever attempting.
I chatted with one of the climbers after he ended his work day. He said he fully realized that he made his living in one of the world’s most dangerous professions. The climber said he couldn’t afford to pay the premiums for high risk life insurance, but he did set plenty aside in a brokerage account for his family in case he was killed. At the time, he billed clients about $200 an hour for each job. (Tower climbers charge over $300 an hour today.) Other tower maintenance technicians charge nearly $2,000 plus insurance fees per day.
The latest statistics verify that Tower Climber deaths are the highest per capita, per 100,000 employees, in the United States. That status will probably remain the same because of the number of cellular telephone and broadcast towers in this country.
Certainly tower climbers are the most extreme example of workplace danger. People do other work that doesn’t outwardly appear as dangerous, but is actually quite hazardous.
I’m thinking of street and highway workers who do their jobs with heavy equipment and around speeding traffic. Building construction workers and carpenters face injury every day from falls, crushed limbs, or injuries from machinery. How about delivery people and couriers? They have to deal with traffic and the chance of being robbed or becoming the victims of other violent crimes.
Farmers and ranchers deal with unpredictable large animals every day. Plus they use dangerous equipment in the fields and around the farm. Similarly, packing house employees who slaughter and process meat animals suffer high rates of injury.
We think of firefighters, for obvious reasons. The same for policemen and body guards. We don’t usually think of astronauts and cosmonauts as having dangerous jobs. Blasting off into space atop rockets loaded with explosive fuel is a danting proposition, plus there is physical deterioration while in space.
Even data entry and other work at a computer is unhealthy. Sitting all day at a computer has been proven to harm cardiovascular and skeletal health. It’s a subtle, insidious hazard.
There is a long list of other dangerous professions. The point is, many people are seriously injured or die each day around the world just doing their jobs. More people are killed at work than in battlefield combat. They died because employers did not prioritize safety or employees disregarded safety rules.
Today is International Workers’ Memorial Day. Now is the time for workers and their representatives to hold events, participate in vigils or even march in public demonstrations.
This year’s theme is “Strong Laws–Strong Enforcement–Strong Unions”. The theme was chosen because there has been a widespread movement to deregulate workplace safety. Many politicians and governments are urging deregulation and are removing basic protections for millions of workers. There is also a troubling trend of failing to enforce regulations that are already in place. Labor unions have long suffered misinformation campaigns against them and spotty reputations, in some cases.
Employee associations, labor unions, and official agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are working to recommit to healthy, safe working conditions. The best way to honor those who have died on the job, is to provide less dangerous working conditions. This can be done through training, education, assistance, and enforcing regulations.
Today, we remember coworkers who have suffered and died on the job as we renew our commitment to make work safer.