Tower Injuries: Is this the Price of doing Business?

I was having a conversation the other day when someone told me about an injury. The lawyers became involved almost immediately, as they always do. The lawyer told the family that injuries are the price of doing business for wireless carriers. Can you imagine? That this is what the legal system thinks of our industry?

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I am so angry about this but it is the opinion of the outsiders looking in. This is something that has to change. I have heard this so many times, so many things that give the industry a black eye. Injuries should not be one of them. Can we shape up? Of course, look at all of the tower companies out there that want to end any type of injury in the field. When I spoke to Liz Day, the woman who put together the Pro-Publica tower climber report, References here and here and here, she told me that everybody she talked to was so open about accidents. From the companies that had serious injuries to the companies that had fatalities. Everyone was quick to talk about how to make the industry better. They all wanted to achieve a safer and healthier injury rate. I don’t think anyone wants any of this to happen.

So why the bad reputation? You know, it is easy to point to the individual, and blame them. Isn’t that the first thing that happens in an accident? What about equipment failure? It happens. What about when something on the tower is not installed correctly? That is very common. What about lack of training? Yes, common problem.

This is completely different that the Price of Doing Business!

Haven’t we tackled of all these problems? Haven’t we done all we can to make these problems go away? And yet, 11 deaths this year as of November, I pray there are no more. Please, no more injuries this year. Imagine how many we don’t hear about. Imagine all the people who get hurt and we never know.

What can we do? The FCC and DOL are stepping in by forming TIRAP, information here and here, and we hope that forming an organized system will help. It is still voluntary.

What about the pay structure? Are people getting paid? Are contractors being treated fair? Well, that all depends who you talk to. If someone can’t complete a job because they got hurt, what happens? Does the job stop? Chances are they will bring someone else in to complete the job and the injured contract won’t get paid. Talk about a kick to the crotch. So apparently the system has problems with payments. Why is that when the carriers are spending so much money to build these systems?

It appears that the prime directive is money and schedule. After all time is money but what is a life worth? Apparently not much when it comes to deployment. After all, 11 deaths this year, and DOL, OSHA, the FCC, and all the tower companies are working towards a better industry. So where is the problem? OSHA created the Communications Towers Website so we can track such things. They created TIRAP. They had a workshop. Yet, the reputation around the industry is that injury and death is part of doing business.

I was talking to someone this morning that mentioned that several contractors have a list of companies that they list as “DO NOT USE” because they treat climbers bad, they cheat subs out of getting paid, and quite frankly they are unscrupulous people. I know every industry has this. I have seen it in construction, same scenario where when one company gets a bad reputation they simply open up under a new name. Why is this happening in the wireless industry? Because it is a booming business where people smell money. I have seen big businesses change their practices because under the leadership they look for a way to downsize to save money. It happens because their priorities shift and they choose to treat people as a faceless resource who they just want people gone. I get it, big companies may pay better, but some of them have poor leadership. Leadership matters. That is why I respect someone like Dave Anthony of Shenandoah Tower Service who was at the TIRAP workshop. He not only practices what he preaches, he lives it. He cares for his business and his employees. Not all employees care, another issue but one I don’t have time to address here. I just have to say it is hard to filter through the crap to get to the truth on all sides.

So what can we do? Work together to make it a better industry. You are always going to have personality clashes but I would like to think we can all work together to weed out the scum who craps on the worker.

Communication is a big problem! I see so many projects where you may have a crew show up to see that no one knew they were coming. Why is that? How does that happen? Too many project managers? Poor leadership on a project? All too common.

So here is what I would propose, the customer should have a feedback line or email or website that the worker, the contractor who is actually doing the work can tell the customer about the GC or turf vendor they are working with. Sometimes the company isn’t bad, it’s just one jerk that is causing problems. I have seen it in my companies where customers will request one person because they trust them and they know they can count on them. Yet the company will not eliminate the problems. Sometimes we should honor the customer’s request.

If the customers started a database of problems companies and problems people, it may help. It may cause problems for some good people, so once again you need a bull crap filter. This is no easy task!

So listen, if you’re starting out, it will take some time to work up to getting work for the big boys. So make those connections, do good work, build a good reputation and honor your workers and your customer and the team will make your company earn a great reputation in the industry. Hopefully you will get to the point where you can pick your customers, that is a great place to be.

Work hard, be safe, be smart, and pay attention.

Let me know what you think!

Soon I will release my training for the SOW and more, to build your library of basic knowledge so you can advance in your job and the industry! My books will help teach someone the basics of tower work.


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