Many different jobs require climbing, and most workers in Tennessee and across the nation are protected by safety regulations that require them to have safety equipment like harnesses. Until recently, however, federal regulations have allowed electrical workers to not use safety equipment when climbing. Instead, they have been allowed to "free climb" without any kind of safety equipment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has recently announced that it is banning the practice of "free climbing" by electrical workers. Employers will be required to protect electrical workers with the necessary safety equipment, and they have until April 2015 to meet the terms of these new regulations.
Approximately 110,000 electrical workers maintain America's power lines, poles and transmission towers. Each year on average, more than 70 die while on the job, some of them from falls. The new federal safety regulations are expected to save about 20 lives per year.
If an electrical worker suffers injuries in a fall on the job, he or she will qualify for workers' compensation benefits. Once a workers' compensation claim is filed, however, the worker has waived his or her rights to any kind of personal injury claim against the employer.
Since OSHA is now requiring employers to provide electrical workers with safety equipment, those who are injured in falls may have the option of filing civil personal injury claims if attorneys can prove that the employer willfully neglected to comply with the safety regulations. In addition, in the event of a workplace death, the family of the victim may have a case for wrongful death if litigators can prove that the employer's negligence to provide the proper safety equipment directly cased the fatality.
Source: KUOW, "Feds Ban Free Climbing By Electric Utility Workers", John Ryan, July 23, 2014