US cites Missouri company in cell tower deaths

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal safety enforcement agency cited a Missouri-based communications company on Friday for "willful" and "serious" safety violations in the death of two workers in the collapse in March of a cell tower they were dismantling in Blaine, Kansas.

The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the citations against Wireless Horizon Inc. of Saint Peters, Missouri.

David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor who heads OSHA, said in a statement that the nation's "growing need for telecommunications should not cost workers' lives."

OSHA proposed penalties of $134,400 for the company. Two tower technicians, ages 25 and 38, died when a cell tower they were trying to dismantle collapsed.

"Wireless Horizon respectfully disagrees with the citations and we will vigorously contest them," company president Rick Heisler said when reached for comment.

OSHA says so far this year, 11 workers have died in such accidents and 13 deaths occurred in 2013.

Both workers were on the tower and fell to the ground when it collapsed, OSHA said. As the tower fell, it also struck an adjacent tower, which caused it to crumble as well, the statement added.

OSHA cited the company "for two willful and four serious safety violations."

"OSHA's inspection found that the equipment the company provided the workers was in poor repair," its statement said. "The company did not use proper engineering plans to ensure the workers were protected against this type of collapse."

OSHA said it had inspected the company on two previous occasions since 2005 and the company was issued "multiple serious violations both times."

Wireless Horizon has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's regional director in Wichita, Kansas, or formally contest the findings before the commission.

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