Comment: Thanks Wade, good commentary. You ask some very deep questions that never seem to be honestly answered. This industry has been “self-policing” for decades. All in all, the fatality rates have been dismal. I have been hearing for decades, “We will take care of ourselves, we are professionals, who would be better than us can make this industry safer?” Things have not changed at all!
Furthermore, look at some of the tower rescues done by emergency services. While many nitwits want to talk about how they would have rescued and fired the poor guys. You overlook the reason why those men got where they were in the first place. Because they were hired to climb and they know nothing about it. It’s not a joke! We buried a number of fathers and husbands last year, because they were put in situations they had NO EXPERIENCE IN!
Anyone you speak to in this industry will tell you how safe they are and how they stay tied off 100% of the time. If this were the case, we wouldn’t have buried 14 of our own this year.
You laid out some of the ugly truths of this industry Wade. Self-policing is code for, “You don’t need to check us out, you should check out the other fools”. Free-climbing is rampant. Nobody dares to admit it. As long as the speed of the work is the #1 goal, safety and workers rights will always fall to the back. Carriers escape any culpability through turfers and subcontractors. It’s all big business and big money. Little of which actually gets to the ones being pressured, to do the tasks safely.
The policing has to come from the climbers. They must be allowed and encouraged to say “no” to unsafe situations. Any company owner will say, “We always have our men’s backs.” That is until the PM tells you the site you are on needs to be completed today and on the air tomorrow. There is no other answer he will accept, other than “Yes sir!” Safety is not honored or rewarded.
How can we possibly train every worker in the field with real-time OJT, supervised over a period of years by climbers with proper experience and safety records?
Unions already do that, and have been doing this with excellent results. While we have companies, who throw men off the street to job sites without any leadership. This is why climbers die. Sadly, climbers don’t seem to have the stomach to change this either. Sad times indeed.
Response: Thanks! That is why I asked about a union for climbers. I haven’t had time to really follow through with that. I heard so many vast opinions about unions, it’s hard to determine which is from experience and which is perception. I just want to find a way to make the industry safer, efficient, and profitable. They all go together to be successful. No deaths and minimal injuries.
Comment: Industry driven by carrier deadline. Stressful environment on tower owner side to meet customer demand. Push, deployment, change in equipment, push, re prioritization, conference call, chastisement, lost in the drudgery to get it done. Then an accident happens. The carrier, GC, and tower owner say. We do not know how this could have happened, but we need to change.
Cooperation and standardized SOP is the change. Tower owners and carriers need to cooperate on a standard of keeping the backbone of the industry safe. For without the backbone the body has no posture and is weak.
Response:This is great feedback, these are all good points and if we could have cooperation and standard operating procedure (SOP) across the industry then we could really move ahead. We really need the climbers to work together and communicate.
Comment: I am in the industry 16+ years as a climber and foreman. Recently moved into PM position and in-house instructor. I have always felt that climbers should be a union. Mainly for the purpose of people being properly trained. It is something the industry always needed and still does.
I feel a lot of the deaths and injuries over the years have stemmed from no or improper training. Having a unionized training could only benefit this industry. The days of handing a harness and gear to a guy who was telemarketing last week, showing how to put a harness on and climbing up 150′ to swap 12 antennas in one day with him, while showing him how to choose a proper anchor point for his fall arrest lanyard would be gone.
That telemarketer could have received good training for a few weeks and been sent out ready and knowing what he signed up for and knowledgeable enough to be more of a help than a worry whether this guy should even be up there right now. At the least, he would have been weeded out before he had the chance to get hurt or hurt someone else.
The training we receive through Comtrain, Gravitec, etc. is good training except for the fact that it is, as everything in the industry, rushed. Originally a 2 week class cut down to 2 days, rushed. The training is good for someone who has some type of experience already, has picked up on some of the vocabulary and who has put a harness on already. It is a great refresher course.
Climbers need a little more than that to get a good start and not try to learn under the extreme pressures of the field until.
Sign me up. I would love to continue working in this industry for years more seeing this type of change and giving future climbers a little more security in their chosen field.
Response: Great points! I think that training had to be made more efficient because so many climbers come and go quickly. One thing that doesn’t help is the fact that you don’t know how the person is going to react to the job. Will they be there for 3 months or 5 years? That is the owners conundrum. They are trying to hire and ramp up for jobs but then they lose people for whatever reason and then need to start the expensive process over again. I believe that is why so many businesses are family owned. That also is why so many owners stop caring because they tend to get screwed over and they have a hard time really caring. It becomes all business. What we need to do is find balance. We need owners that put safety first, but they still need to make a profit. Remember that safety still costs money. Training is very important.
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Go to the IWCE conference and see me! I will be on the “Tower Safety and Regulatory Compliance” panel on March 17th, 2015. Don’t you need an excuse to go to the Las Vegas convention center. I will share the stage with Cory Crenshaw, Charles Ryan, Dr. Denis Boulais, and Robert Johnson. Our moderator will be J. Sharpe Smith of AGL Magazine. Here is a list of exhibitors that will be there. I will be speaking and I may need some safety gear, email me at email@example.com so we can talk! Make sure you sign up for this forum running 1:00PM to 4:30PM because let’s face it, these are issues you deal with on every job!If you want to talk after the conference, let me know.