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Hey Everybody,

I thought I would just put a quick note (my opinion) out about safety. The OSHA and NATE relationship, from what I understand it was strained but I think that finally they might start working together; after all, we all want the same thing, a safe work place. It just so happens the climbers and riggers workplace it way above ground level. I think that it’s time we start working towards the goal, 0 fatalities and 0 injuries. While to most of you this may seem unrealistic, to me it is the goal. I would like to see any job be 100% safe, wouldn’t you? So there, I set a goal, now let’s work towards it.

So, how do we start? Well, we can ask the tower climbing companies to be safer, oh, we’ve done that. Well we could ask the climber to be safer, oh we have done that. We could recommend the proper training, oh, we’ve done that as well. So what is next? We require all of the above. It seems we are doing that as well, at least most companies that hire contractors require certifications.

Here is the next step, follow the lead of the larger tower climbing companies and work to get as much safety equipment out to the climber and as much training as we can, make sure we have the certifications for training for all climbers. Make sure they carry their certifications in their vehicle or belt bags. Make sure they have laminated certifications. It would be nice to have someone inspect on site, but only the foreman or crew chief is going to do that because most customers don’t want to pay for that extra body to go out to the site. They don’t want to pay for any inspections, one more expense. So we are back to the climbers governing themselves. They have a huge responsibility to take care of themselves and each other and get the job done right. All this after hours and hours of windshield time just to look forward to the fun night in the hotel room away from their families.   

Do you know about electricians? To become a master electrician you need to do an apprenticeship first. Maybe as tower climbers we should install some structure like this. We could have an apprenticeship for the greenhorns. We could set them up on an actual training program to get them up to speed before they get in over their head. I don’t mean just throw them into a class and then expect them to install a 10’ dish or a platform. We could take the experience that is already out there and use it to train the greenhorns properly. We could setup training for new climbers and have them advance based on training and experience. This is just a thought, but I am thinking this would help eliminate the stupid mistakes and improve productivity. It would be great to always have 2 senior people on any job site. Minimum 2 people on any site. That should be a good team. A good team will know their limitations. Any estimator should know what his company is capable of.

I think the responsibility for safety goes a bit farther though. We tend to blame the climber, the company and the customer for unrealistic schedules. What about the tower owner? The structure’s responsible owner. Did you ever climb a crazy unsafe tower? If you’re a climber say never, then you are one of the luckiest tower climbers out there. How many monopoles did you climb that had loose step bolts or a very wobbly safety cable? How many times did you try to get around a dish or platform where there is no easy way to do it while tied off? Do you always rig a safety rope?  Always? I think tower ownership will be responsible for care and safety on their towers in the near future. Don’t get me wrong, they have a lot to worry about now, they need to be sure that the structural is up to date, shelters should be in good condition (but not always!), electrical, zoning, permitting, cabling, cooling, heating, lighting, painting, and all the other details.

So I would also like to see the tower owners make their towers safer for the tower climber. They put lights on to make it visible for any airplanes that might be flying under 300’, wouldn’t it make sense that they would put a few safety connections for the climber that is climbing at 300’? This is an expensive undertaking but I think that if we put some engineering into it, some common sense, and some money then maybe we can make a safer work environment. Would that be worth saving a life or 2? I would bet everyone will say yes, especially the tower owners, until they are asked to write a PO for the work, then the investors may feel differently. We all get the glad hand and soothing words, but do we get the tools and money to do it, you be the judge. If you were to inspect 20 towers, how many would you say would be very safe to climb with the proper gear? I would like to think all of them but let me know, a percentage. This will take time and money, but if you get feedback from people who have climbed the towers then you already know what has to be done. That is if that feedback is logged and documented.

I think to reach the goal of 0 fatalities, it will be a team effort, and we all have to take responsibility. Granted that stupid things may still happen, but we need to cut down on those mistakes by prevention. We also need to be sure that all the steps are taken to prevent towers from falling. We can’t control the weather, but we can make sure we have all the information, such as a structural and a plan, before we work on a tower.

So, to summarize,

1)    Tower owners should make sure they have done all that they could to make the tower safe to climb;

  1. Safe points of attachment.
  2. All safety cables are inspected to work for the climber.
  3. All impassable areas are improved.
  4. All structurals are up to date.
  5. Set up annual inspections of the tower.

2)    Tower climbing companies should make sure;

  1. They have all the PPE for all their climbers.
  2. They inspect their PPE, ropes, equipment weekly if possible, no more that 2 weeks if they are busy.
  3. They have a training program in place.
  4. They put new climbers with experiences climbers.
  5. Set realistic schedules.
  6. Know your limitations.
  7. Safety inspections, on site if possible.

3)    Customer

  1. Understand the schedule, make sure it’s realistic.
  2. Ask for the proper climbing certifications for each climber.
  3. Perhaps send an inspector to the sites to review certifications and inspect safety habits. Due diligence is a plus in this industry.
  4. Understand that is something bad happens it will reflect badly on your company, you can’t just blame the contractor!

Did you know that Steel workers are also in a dangerous work environment, but decades ago they got together to make things better. Now they have a common code of safety practice, http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/gb/docs/gb292/pdf/meisi-cop.pdf that they can go by or use as a reference. OSHA has a site for them, https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/steelerection/fallprotection.html. There is so much more for steel workers, feel free to look it up. So it is nice that OSHA finally has a site for tower climbers, https://www.osha.gov/doc/topics/communicationtower/index.html, in case you didn’t hear.  This is a big step to working towards a safe environment. It’s a shame it came so late in the game. I don’t know why they waited so long to produce something so important.

Remember that if you feel you can’t afford to be safe, how can you afford not to be? Work towards the goal of 0 fatalities, 0 injuries, by being safe and don’t be stupid! 

Don’t be afraid to let me know what you think. Do me a favor, like me on Facebook!

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2 thoughts on “Tower Industry Goal: 0 Fatalities and 0 Injuries!

  1. For an electrical contractor is required to have a master electrician and plumbing contractors have to have master plumbers. Anyone with enough money can get the insurance and hire climbers. Many contractors have never climbed and there in lies the problem. When our industry has so little regulation that the contractors are not competent climbers much less master riggers, then the problems will continue. Find me an electrical contractor that is holding a General Contractors license and doing business, and I will show you a contractor that is headed to jail. Same rules should apply to this dangerous industry.

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    • Vern,
      Thank you for the input. I agree but it will involve a change in mindset for the industry. I think it should have been done a long time ago using those models. I think now it may happen. Politically it will be an uphill battle because the carriers know that the rates will go up and they have a huge lobby. I am hoping the workers will come together to make this happen and I am hoping to push that forward.

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