I am looking over this article, http://urgentcomm.com/blog/improving-tower-safety-requires-all-hands-deck-approach, when I realized it’s great that someone is addressing safety. Listening to Glenn Bischoff in this article telling us that Todd Schlekeway of NATE is working hard to propose safety measures taken from the “Telecommunications Industry Safety Summit” that they attended. Here is what I got from the article.
1) Pre-hiring screening seems to be very important. I agree that this matters, qualifications matter. However, we still need to train Newbie’s to do this. After all, this is still a growing industry.
2) Second thing mentioned is the shortage of climbers, well, we need to have training and apprenticeship programs in place. They need to gain experience before they can become seasoned. Remember that everyone had to start somewhere.
3) They mention the costs of safety, and they mention that if the well implemented and managed safety program is in place then it will save money on insurance and costs from injuries in the long run, (not to mention work shutdowns and lawsuits). This is a well taken message.
4) They formed a task force to work on this.
So, my opinion is that I am so glad they are looking into the problem. We need a group of talented and seasoned professionals to look at this. Let me throw in my 2 cents because this is so important.
1) Look at the problem end to end. What I mean by that is that when a tower is built, did they add all of the safety features that they could have? Did they add tie off spots at working heights? Did the platforms have easy access for the climber to get through? Did the tower have safety considered when they built it?
2) Existing towers should think about being retrofitted to have the safety features added. This cost money and no one likes this solution, but let’s face it, if we all know a tower or monopole is dangerous, when do we do about it? I know everyone that climbs it bitches, but what good is that? What if we actually did something about it and added more safety tie offs or an improved access or came up with something creative to improve safety? Do we do that? From my experience the answer is no! No one wants to spend the money. There it is, it comes down to money. What if the insurance companies would take this seriously and offer discounts to tower owners that improved safety to their towers? Wouldn’t that be a great idea? What if carriers considered that when deciding between two towers? What a great idea, only they probably look at cost first, and it becomes about the money, not someone’s safety, again.
3) Look at the scheduling. If we could manage the schedules of a company to something realistic, then we could manage the exhaustion of the climbers. You know that truck drivers are limited to how many hours they can drive in a 24 hour period? Well, maybe we should do something like that with climbers. Maybe we should limit their airtime to something under 40 hours a week and their drive time on a daily basis if they are climbing. Do you know how exhausting it is to drive 10 hours and then immediately go up in the air? Do you? I do, it’s tough. What if someone climbs one tower in the morning and then another in the afternoon and then has a night climb. Between each climb they drive to the other site. I’ve done that. I have climbed in 3 different states in one day. If you have a crew of 4 they could rotate duties. I know we have superstars in the air but maybe that’s part of the problem, we work them too hard.
4) Look at the demand, do we have a solution? Are we training people to become climbers in a proper fashion? They mention going to tech schools but there are more places than that to look for climbers. I know this is telecommunications but what about the Solar Companies, they have climbers for the wind turbines. What about fire rescue, water tank painters, elevated steel workers, and there are more. Are we looking at all of their safety under one umbrella? Maybe we should. Do we look at all the training companies for names? Maybe we should. What do we do when we look for climbers? How long is the average career? Do we know any of this? We should.
5) Are we addressing the problem properly? I did blogs on clean living. Do we teach that to the climber? Do we explain what the implications are of a mistake or one stupid act? Maybe we should let them know how serious this job is. Most companies sure don’t pay like the climber is putting his life on the line. Why? Because the end customer, usually a major carrier is more concerned about price and they are not keeping an eye on the safety practice of the climber. Safety should be everyone’s concern, even if they don’t consider themselves responsible for it. I am glad to see the bigger contractors and the GCs are starting to hire their own employees so they can control the situation. And that’s what it is, a situation where they are taking responsibility for the climbers and their training. They are not just pointing the finger at the sub when the sub screws up. Remember that your sub is a direct reflection on your company and how you do business. If the sub screws up or you see something that is not right, it is up to you to correct it or you are at fault. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me! Think about it.
OK, that’s enough for now. I will get off of my soapbox and settle down. Just want to see more that talk and good ideas come out of this, I would like to see action. Wouldn’t you? I would like to see some impacting results across the industry. It’s time for improvement. Most people care about a life, do you? Would you care if someone you knew got hurt? OF course you would. This is a small industry and I know a lot of people, and I don’t want to see any of them get hurt. I don’t want to see any of you get hurt!
Be safe and make sure everyone around you is safe!