AT&T in $30M settlement over tower climber’s fall

Cell phone tower macro site (Mike Dano / FierceWireless)
Cell tower technicians must sometimes climb to the top of the structures. (Mike Dano / FierceWireless)

AT&T is part of a $30 million settlement related to a 50-foot fall that severely injured a technician climbing one of the carrier’s towers in 2013.

The settlement was reported in local media in Pennsylvania and in a lengthy article by Wireless Estimator.

According to the reports, Thomas Jeglum was 23 and working for Jacobs Telecommunications when he climbed an AT&T tower in Allentown, Pennsylvania, five years ago. As noted by Wireless Estimator, one of the rungs on the ladder up the tower broke and Jeglum fell. Although the case was settled the day before it was scheduled to go to a jury trial, Jeglum’s defense was prepared to present a case arguing that AT&T and others did not properly inspect the tower for deficiencies.

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Shanin Specter, of the Philadelphia-based law firm Kline & Specter that represented the technician, said Jeglum has a permanent, traumatic brain injury as a result of the fall and remains in a full-time rehabilitation facility in California. Specter said that Jeglum's family is "gratified" that they can now "provide for first-class care for the rest of his life,” according to WTXF.

Wireless Estimator reported that AT&T, some of its subsidiaries and BTE/BT Engineering, were defendants in the case.

The dangers of tower climbingwhere technicians ascend cell towers to install new equipment or check existing equipmenthas been highlighted several times. In 2012, a lengthy Pro Publica article found that between 2003 and 2011, 50 climbers died working on cell sites, more than half of the nearly 100 who were killed on communications towers. The issue reemerged the next year when a Wall Street Journal article in August of 2013 found that at least 10 workers had died in falls from towers during that year.

The National Association of Tower Erectors offers a number of resources promoting standards for tower climbing safety.

The topic of tower climbers has also received renewed attention this year as carriers work to find enough suitable technicians to install the equipment necessary for 5G.

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