Two Tower Climbers Fatally Injured When a Cellular Tower Collapsed While Performing Tower Upgrades – West Virginia.

NIOSH FACE Report 2015-02
May 28, 2019


On February 1, 2014, at approximately 11:37 am, two tower climbers were fatally injured when a 340-foot, Rohn 80 series cellular tower collapsed during upgrading/construction activities. Four employees were working on the tower removing diagonal tower supports and no temporary supports were installed. As a result, the tower collapsed and two employees were killed and two others were injured. The tower fell onto the guy wires of an adjacent smaller cell tower and caused it to collapse, also killing a firefighter while he was attempting to rescue the injured employees on the ground. The collapse of the smaller tower is not covered in this report, but further information can be found in the NIOSH report F2014-03 [NIOSH 2014].


Key contributing factors identified in this investigation include:

  • Removal of multiple support structure braces of the tower before reinforcing the tower’s structural integrity
  • Lack of engineering analysis
  • Lack of rigging plan


NIOSH investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences, employers should:

  • Consult with an engineer to conduct a structural analysis
  • Develop a written rigging plan
  • Provide employees with training on hazard recognition
  • Conduct a job hazard analysis (JHA)
  • Train communication tower employees on the proper use of tower climbing anchor points and fall protection equipment


Two Tower Climbers Fatally Injured When a Cellular Tower Collapsed While Performing Tower Upgrades – West Virginia. pdf icon[PDF 1,160KB]


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. In 1982, NIOSH initiated the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program. FACE examines the circumstances of targeted causes of traumatic occupational fatalities so that safety professionals, researchers, employers, trainers, and workers can learn from these incidents. The primary goal of these investigations is for NIOSH to make recommendations to prevent similar occurrences. These NIOSH investigations are intended to reduce or prevent occupational deaths and are completely separate from the rulemaking, enforcement and inspection activities of any other federal or state agency. Under the FACE program, NIOSH investigators interview persons with knowledge of the incident and review available records to develop a description of the conditions and circumstances leading to the deaths in order to provide a context for the agency’s recommendations. The NIOSH summary of these conditions and circumstances in its reports is not intended as a legal statement of facts. This summary, as well as the conclusions and recommendations made by NIOSH, should not be used for the purpose of litigation or the adjudication of any claim. For further information, visit the program website at or call toll free at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).

Page last reviewed: July 1, 2019