Is redundant legislation an effective solution to promoting tower safety?

Discussion in 'Safety - General Safety Issues' started by Bryan Wilton, May 3, 2008.

  1. Bryan Wilton

    Bryan Wilton Friend of the Community

    The NC Safety standard, as it is written today, should raise the eyebrow of more than one industry professional. There are two items that immediately spring to mind as fairly short sighted when presented with this carefully crafted piece of legislation.
    First of all, it should be noted that the tower hands today probably already have more basic knowledge than at any previous time in the industry. Technology is constantly changing and we are consistently being asked to conquer more and more unique challenges within the industry. From tower siting to HDTV, Microwave, Wi Fi, PCS/cellular and everything in between, the common tower hand can banter industry terms with anyone in any sector of the construction industry as a whole. Point is they are intelligent. Another item of note is that I have worked with every major carrier and their contractors including Bechtel, LCC, General Dynamics as well as every electrician and civil/tower crew they have employed within my markets in the Midwest. Without fail they have had a safety program and have done their best to implement it. There are several companies that will fire you on the spot if you are are not practicing 100% tie-off and the safety man catches you.
    So North Carolina has decided that on top of the OSHA and company regulations they need another set because we keep losing men. Consequently a whole industry of subject matter experts in the field of holding and do not climb active AM towers has evolved to meet this unique requirement for more documentation. More on that later. I previously stated that certain companies will fire you if the safety man notes a 100% tie off violation. This is great, it makes my first point. Why has the crew leader not done this? More and more frequently I am coming across a younger generation who would rather be this guy's friend instead of firing him. It simply cannot be tolerated especially at this level. The problem is upper management is aware of this but they have done their time in the field and instead of insisting on high leadership standards they will, with the guidance of this new legislation, send the new guy to a safety course. Where they will teach you first aid and hang on and things of this nature. There will also be a document and a card to certify you. It is my firm and steadfast belief that this is creating a false sense of bravado in an already gung ho group of men. Furthermore, it is establishing a false sense of security in management, legislators and the public at large. It also provides an excuse for a leader to keep him from having to take responsibility for his lack of action. "I sent him to all the required courses," I can hear it now.
    The industry is beginning to resemble Task force Smith, during the Korean war they were so out of shape that they could not get out of the way of the oncoming horde of the enemy. The tower industry has become so bloated with it's fat paycheck and incessant bureaucracy, they will get to stand by as the government commences to fleece the industry of any profit it hoped to make. Paralyzed with demands to maintain training documentation. Meanwhile, a whole new industry of training experts is thriving. We will continue to be threatened to have the proper books on hand for the equipment we operate. If anything happens during a lift, I can assure having that book on hand will pale in comparison to the individual who daily operates and performs PMS on that equipment. Leaders have to ensure he does it. Leaders have to inspect the equipment of the workers. These are not new concepts but they are hard to establish if you are too busy filling out paperwork or if you have gotten a new desk job and don't have time to go out and check on things in the field. Similarly, having a man on the ground is about as effective as a traffic cop on valium (Robin Wiliams). He cannot catch him and sadly first aid is generally useless. I contend that another man on the tower telling his buddy "hey, you are not quite secure there," is far more valuable than anyone dialing 911 after the fact. Now I have simplified a great many things to make a few points and I am sure that those who have already paid for these courses will rail at my shortsighted view of a much greater problem. Statistics will fly and general gnashing of the teeth will abound. Two things, figures don't lie but liars figure, and if you would gnash your teeth at your crew leaders and maybe pay them the tuition as a safety bonus, we would probably not be in this situation.
  2. Bryan Wilton

    Bryan Wilton Friend of the Community

    As a follow on to this it is interesting to note that SpectraSite and American Tower will have a corporate HQ in Boston. So I suppose the NC standard will send a clear signal after all. Good Call.
  3. Nick  Lay

    Nick Lay Friend of the Community

    In my opinion there has to be stiff legislation in place to achieve a safe industry. The problem in the past is the OSHA officers had no backing/education of the tower industry, thus hindering their effectiveness. With the new legislation and extensive training, not only will they be more effective, but they will have something to stand behind them when handing out fines. I agree 100% with your statements of the tower dogs being educated competent people, however even competent people take short cuts and make errors. Unfortunately in this industry those errors don't result in a sprained ankle, they result in death.

    The other aspect legislation brings to the table is when bidding on a job you will know the people you are bidding against have an extensive safety program, and spend the money to keep everyone certified/trained. When a mom and pops comes in and low balls a job, the companies who have their ducks in a row as far as safety don't have a chance. This is not to say mom and pops aren't safe, but I think it will be very hard for a tower company to truly keep employees trained and safe without a full-time safety man.

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