Calif. court affirms fall-protection safety order for telecom structure

The Alameda County Superior Court affirmed that fall-protection safety orders apply to elevated indoor telecommunications structures, the California Department of Industrial Relations announced Thursday.

Cal/OSHA citations issued after an employee suffered serious head injuries from a 7-foot fall from a telecommunications structure were appealed by the employer, according to a statement from the department. Pinnacle Telecommunications Inc. asserted that the safety order was too vague and did not apply.

The Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board upheld the citations and the employer subsequently filed a petition in Alameda County Superior Court, according to the department.

The court’s ruling affirmed the appeals board’s decision that indoor suspended structures supporting telephone equipment and cables require proper fall protection, such as with work done on outdoor telecommunication poles or towers.

In January 2014, a telephone line worker employed by Pinnacle was installing telecommunications switchgears at a substation in Albany when he was standing on a metal structure less than 20 inches wide suspended from the ceiling, and was seriously injured after a 7-foot fall from the structure, according to the department.

A Cal/OSHA inspection determined the employer did not provide training on when to use fall protection equipment and failed to require workers to use personal fall-protection devices or other fall protections methods such as guardrails or safety nets when working on elevated structures more than four feet above the ground, according to the department.

The division issued Pinnacle $25,560 in proposed penalties for a serious category citation as Pinnacle failed to ensure the use of fall protection equipment and a general category citation for not providing required training.

Pinnacle appealed, asserting the safety order cited did not apply because the structure on which employees were working is not covered by the regulation and the safety order is unconstitutionally vague, according to the department. 

Officials with Pinnacle could not immediately be reached for comment.