The Chicago Occupational Accident Law Offices of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Represent Billboard Worker
Dense urban areas and long stretches of freeways are littered with thousands of billboards and outdoor displays that advertise local and national companies and products. Billboard workers perform a variety of duties including installation and maintenance on the paper advertisement, physical sign structures, billboard area and the surrounding property. The responsibilities and duties of a Billboard Worker include:
- Climbing without restriction on extension, portable and fixed ladders.
- Perform duties on working platforms positioned at the height of 125 feet or less under various weather conditions
- Lift 100 pounds or more without restrictions
- Safely operate various equipment including gas-powered compressors, generators, lawnmowers, chainsaws and paint sprayers.
- Utilize a full range of motion when maintaining or installing bulletin and poster signage.
- Work with iron or steel girders that are raised and secured in place.
- Erect structural members to build frameworks and structures to hold media boards.
Common Billboard Worker Hazards
Billboard display professionals installing and maintaining media signage are at a substantial risk of suffering injuries or being killed on the job. Some of the obvious risk factors involved in performing the duties as a Billboard Worker include:
- Windy Days – While the wind might be minimal at ground level when the workers climb to heights of 100 feet or more, weather conditions can change significantly. At that height, winds tend to intensify in both urban and rural areas.
- Inclement Weather – Working at great height during the storm can pose significant risks and create an unsafe environment. The worksite becomes even more dangerous when lightning is present. Workers should take every effort to climb down from the high structure and protect themselves during a lightning storm.
- Structural Failure – If the billboard structure fails due to a defect, rust or other condition, it can create a very dangerous work environment for the employee working on the ladder or platform, and any unsuspecting worker below. To minimize problems, the staff should routinely inspect the building structure to identify any severe injury that requires repair or replacement.
- Electrocution – Faulty wiring, human error, or other condition on a metal billboard structure could lead to unexpected electrocution or near-fatal electrical shock.
Billboard Media Workers’ Wages
The annual employment statistics maintained by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 2016 revealed that there are tens of thousands Billboard Workers employed in the United States. These statistics reveal that Billboard Workers earned on average $26.94 per hour, or $56,040 every year. This job-related income is significantly higher compared to national averages. See Chart
Billboard Worker-Related Fatalities and Injuries
Even though federal and state agencies have gone to great lengths to improve safety measures for individuals working at significant heights, accidents with injuries and fatalities still occur. For nearly all injured and killed workers, catastrophic results came unexpectedly due to a variety of reasons including inclement weather, faulty equipment, electrocution, and falling.
- Case 1: March 2007 – An employee accessing a billboard using a ladder fell to his death during an attempt to “service an electronic display unit on the face of the billboard."
- Case 2: August 2007 – Worker Seriously Injured by Contracting Boom. Just before noon on August 8, 2007, an employee assigned to fix an advertising sign used a telescopic boom truck while positioned inside the basket. The injured worker reported that “when the boom was extended out, he found the problem with the sign, and he started to retract the extended boom [realizing that] the boom would not retract." The worker tried three unsuccessful attempts to retract the boom when the device “started falling in on itself and retracting. He fell about 50 feet along with the basket before impact and struck his face on the basket’s control panel."
The worker “seriously injured his face. He was taken to the San Francisco General Hospital." The investigators could not identify a deficiency and found the lift to be in “good and working order. The employer stated that he was able to operate the boom without any problem. A thorough inspection was conducted at the shop, and no problem could be found with the operation of the boom."
- Case 3: February 3, 2017 – Two media billboard workers were possibly electrocuted while working on a media board. In February 2018, during the early morning hours, two men working on a billboard in an urban area suffered serious injuries. The workers were transported to a local medical center where one was listed in fair condition and the other in serious condition. An early investigation revealed that the men were likely electrocuted while working on the billboard structure. Initially, the case was reported to authorities as an explosion.
- Case 4: January 2008 – A Billboard Worker is Killed from Impalement after Falling. On January 7, 2008, a billboard worker “was installing the advertisement for an outdoor billboard. He fell a distance of 10.5 to 11 feet and was impaled by a fiberglass stake that was driven into the ground." The worker died from his injuries.
- Case 5: March 2012 – A billboard worker died after falling from a billboard advertisement sign. On February 22, 2012, a billboard worker “was preparing to descend from a billboard after installing an advertisement sign. He fell 30 feet and was killed."
- Case 6: September 2010 – The employer of a billboard advertising company was killed “while erecting a billboard." The incident report indicated that on September 10, 2011, at approximately 9:28 AM, “the owner of Ralph Surles Co. was erecting a double steel billboard. The two signs were on the ground in the upright position … one sign had a catwalk on which [the company owner] and his employees were walking."
The sign “with the catwalk toppled onto the adjacent sign, pinning both workers. A third worker, who did not witness the incident, summoned emergency responders to extricate both workers." The owner was killed. “The other employee was airlifted to the hospital for unspecified injuries. Weather conditions and the weight of the two workers may have contributed to the incident."
- Case 7: January 2010 – A outdoor signage worker was injured from a fall during the demolition of a billboard sign. On the late morning of December 19, 2009, “two employees were in the process of demolishing a billboard structure." One of the workers “sustained multiple public pelvic fractures, right femur and foot fractures and other serious bodily injuries while working off the catwalk on the structure and an elevation of 28 feet."
The job site “access ladder was welded (previously) to an inside lower deck (catwalk)." The company’s “site foreman was lying on his stomach on the catwalk and was attempting to cut off the access ladder at which time the catwalk broke loose off the weld joints causing him and the catwalk to fall 28 feet down to the ground, causing serious injuries. The employer is in the business of installation, demolition, and maintenance of the billboards."
- Case 8: September 2009 – A signage worker was injured from the collapse of an aerial lift. During the late morning hours of September 19, 2019, a signage employee was operating a towable boom lift “at an approximate height of 32 feet to remove signs…" When the hydraulic cylinder inside the lower boom “apparently fell, the boom fell to the ground. Witnesses indicated that [the worker] was ejected from the basket and then restrained by his fall protection equipment. He was hospitalized … for severe burns to his face, fractured ribs, and a fractured vertebra."
- Case 9: August 2013 – A billboard worker was struck and killed by a falling highway billboard sign. The incident occurred on August 14, 2013.
- Case 10: August 2011 – A media billboard worker installing new advertisement on an Arlington, Texas billboard died from a fall. The 40-year-old worker was working on a billboard sign near Cowboy Stadium when after suddenly losing his footing, slipped and fell approximately 30 feet to his death when he hit the ground. EMT services transported the injured worker to the Arlington Hospital, but he was dead on arrival.
What to Do
There are certain measures that workers and employers can take to minimize the risks of working at elevated heights while ensuring the safety of the workforce maintaining, building and installing signs and signage for advertisement.
Employers and employees are required to follow the standards, rules and regulations outlined by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to ensure employee safety. The federal agency enforces fall protection standards to prevent employee injuries occurring from falls. These standards include:
- “Guard every floor hole where a worker can accidentally walk.
- Provide a guardrail [on] every elevated open sided platform, for a runway.
- Regardless of height, if the worker can fall into dangerous machines or equipment… employers must provide guardrails … to prevent workers from falling and getting injured.
- Other means of fall protection that may be required in certain jobs include safety and harness and line, safety nets, stair railing and handrails."
- Employers must “provide working conditions that are free of known dangers."
- Employers have the responsibility to “keep floors in work areas in a clean and, so far as possible, dry condition."
- Employers must “provide PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) at no cost to workers."
- Employers must “train workers about job hazards in a language they can understand."
Both the employer and the worker can take measures when risks involving electrical energy are identified. These measures require identifying overhead power lines and other wires. Other steps include preparing for inclement weather and avoid rain, wind, and other changing weather conditions that might affect the successful job and decrease the risk to the employee.
In precarious situations and dangerous conditions, the employer, foreman, or worker should call the electric power company and have the powerlines attached to the structure de-energized. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) published a report in 2017 indicating that falls are the leading cause of death in the workplace, representing 39% of all construction-related deaths. The federal agency requires employers to ensure workplace safety to prevent workers from falling and causing severe injuries or death.
OSHA says that workers are required to wear fall protection when working at elevated heights four feet or higher. Following these precautionary measures as a standard workplace safety practice can mitigate the risks involved in working at heights and prevent what otherwise could be a fatal injury when accidents do occur.
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