Liz Day is ProPublica's Director of Research. Her work with PBS Frontline investigating the deaths of workers who build America’s cell tower network was nominated for an Emmy award for Outstanding Business and Economic Reporting, was a finalist for the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism and won a Best in Business award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. She has also reported on how Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, has fought free, simple tax filing. Previously, she worked in the Investigative Unit at ABC News as a Carnegie Fellow and at NBC Universal.
Nineteen workers have died in communication tower accidents since 2013, a sharp rise from recent years. OSHA has announced new changes in how it polices the industry, including tracking what cell carrier or tower owner subcontractors had been working for when accidents occurred.
A half dozen companies, including AT&T, played a role in the cell site project on which William “Bubba” Cotton died. So who controlled the work site? And who was responsible for the safety of subcontractors working on it?
Following a worker’s non-fatal 100-foot fall from a Texas cell tower last week, one of AT&T’s construction management firms has instituted a stand down across several states, requiring that its subcontractors review safety practices.
Corporate giants have outsourced the dangerous work of building and maintaining communications towers to tiny subcontracting companies. Over the last nine years, nearly 100 workers have died, 50 of them on cell sites.