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OSHA opens investigation into fatal fall from Newton tower

Posted by Daniel Adams  October 13, 2011 12:00 PM

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The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation into the death of a worker who fell more than 500 feet from a Newton communications tower Wednesday.

The man was installing a safety ladder and performing routine maintenance on the 1,200-foot-tall tower when he plunged to his death, according to a spokesman from American Tower Co., which owns the structure.

A spokesman for OSHA, a federal agency that sets and enforces standards for workplace safety, said the agency could not comment on the specifics of its inquiry.

“OSHA did open an inspection yesterday at site of fatal fall,” said Ted Fitzgerald, an OSHA spokesman. “We’re trying to determine which standards would apply and whether employer complied with those standards. If there were violations, we could issue citations and impose fines.”

Fitzgerald said that by law the agency must finish its investigation within 180 days. Incidents involving fatalities generally take longer to investigate, he said, so it could be several months before OSHA concludes the inquiry.

The man fell from the old WHDH-TV tower on Chestnut Street, a landmark along Route 128. Authorities said he was pronounced dead at the scene. He was an employee of Texas-based subcontractor Ultimate Tower Services, Fitzgerald said.

The circumstances are also under investigation by the State Police and the Middlesex district attorney’s office.

Jessica Pastore, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said the incident appeared to be an accident and “there doesn’t appear to be anything suspicious or any criminality.”

She said victim had been doing repairs when he fell. There were other repairmen on the tower at the time, but none of them were injured.

Pastore said the man appeared to be from out of state. Authorities would not release his name because the death appeared to be accidental, she said.

Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@globe.com.

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