Recently, we had the opportunity to speak to a cell tower climber with some years of field experience. He offered some insightful comments about following and practicing safety measures when working on wireless towers. The following is a summary of his thoughts.
In September 2017, three tower technicians died after their gin pole attachments failed. The accident brought the industry fatalities in the US to five, and by the end of 2017, the number of deaths from various tower erection accidents totaled up to seven.
The number of minor and major injuries was of course more, and this highlights a glaring problem in the communication and wireless towers industry. More often than not, contractors ignore safety measures or instead are not as safety conscious as they should be because it is quite expensive to ensure all safety standards are met.
However, the resources for ensuring worker quality safety are increasing by the day, and it is possible for a contractor to access the resources and still save on cost. Ultimately, no amount of money saved is worth a human life.
In 2017, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and FCC (Federal Communications Commission) published a document that enumerates communication tower best practices. They released the report after nearly one and a half years of research with extensive information gathered from industry stakeholders, experts, and workers.
Therefore, though the document is merely advisory and not legally binding, it still provides in-depth information that can help enhance safety during erection of towers.
NATE (National Association of Tower Erectors) is yet another resource. NATE is a non-profit association aimed at promoting safety for erectors. The association frequently holds free training courses in addition to many published documents that anyone can access.
Reducing and eliminating accidents saves lives. I have observed countless injuries and fatalities that could have been prevented by just following a few safety guidelines. A good example is the head protection. Most workers know that everyone on site ought to have a hard hat. The hat will prevent injury from falling and flying objects, electric shock, and any other hazard. Unfortunately, it is common to see a lot of workers on a site without their hard hats.
Any safety measure no matter how mundane or ridiculous it may sound should be observed. For instance, in the case of personal protection equipment, a worker should have footwear, the right clothing, eye, hand, and hearing protection. Some workers have gone deaf on a site because they forgot hearing protection.
In December 2017, a worker fell 320 feet to the ground from a 420-foot tower and hit three guy wires as he fell to the ground. Though OSHA is yet to close the investigation, a co-worker speculated it was a harness issue. An even scarier thought is that had his coworkers not reacted fast enough, he could have fallen on them resulting in more injury and maybe death.
Safety measures ensure a safe working environment not only for an individual but also everyone around them.
A 2012 report indicated that more than 80 percent of employees in plants and factories ignore and violate safety regulations. The fact is true even for the wireless and communication towers industry. Though most have a fair grasp of the safety rules and regulations, some still end up ignoring these rules.
I have observed that it is not blatant disregard that makes workers ignore safety measures but rather an in-depth focus on goals and achieving those goals rather than their well-being. That is why it is crucial that a contractor create time before the site opens for work and allow workers to check their gear and equipment in a bid to enhance safety.
The mentioned safety measures are some of the simplest yet not adhering to them can cause fatal accidents.
Safety measures when working on wireless towers are both complicated and straightforward, ridiculous or logical, but essential. A safety measure is a difference between life and death and that more than anything should motivate any worker never to ignore any safety measure.
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