Tower Modification Safety

Discussion in 'Safety - General Safety Issues' started by pwiii@hotmail.som, Feb 20, 2014.

  1. pwiii@hotmail.som

    pwiii@hotmail.som First Time Poster

    There is a tremendous amount of tower modifications going on all over the country in order to bring aging towers up to loading standards for all of the carrier upgrades. Many of the modifications require removal and replacement of tower members. This can be very dangerous if short cuts are taken or conditions such as wind are not right. Recently there was a tragic accident in West VA where the crew was replacing tower members and the tower collapsed. As a safety topic for everyone I would like to know the situations involved. Was there more than one member removed when the collapse happened? Were the winds too high? Was temporary bracing being utilized? What happened? I am not point fingers or trying to lay blame I would like to know so that we can try and protect all of the workers out there installing mods as we speak.
    My heart goes out to all of the families involved and I hope that at the least the industry can learn how to prevent something terrible like this happening again.
    Any discussion or information would be greatly appreciated.
  2. JackBoone

    JackBoone Friend of the Community

    I have tried to follow this accident and have to say that it seems there is a long ongoing investigation into exactly what happened. I am not directly involved with the investigations on this one so all I have to go on are informal discussions. It appears that more than one member was removed at the same time and there was no bracing in place at the time the work was being performed. One of the problems we are seeing in this industry now is that tower crews are being asked to perform work that they have little or no experience doing. It is very dangerous to remove any tower structural member unless you know what it is and what it does and how to provide the required backup support for it. There are a lot of tower members that are tension only, others that are compression only and most are both tension and compression. All these types require different forms of safety precautions. Be safe out there everyone.
  3. J.T. Karners

    J.T. Karners Friend of the Community

    I think this has been going on for a long time and crews have just been lucky. There's a possibility OSHA is really going to investigate this one since it was the driving force behind their coming out and stating that this industry is having too many fatalities and it must stop. SBA might be in a pickle because OSHA might consider them a controlling employer and make an example of them because they are one of the key players in this industry but don't have the clout that a carrier has. Unfortunately they may have been doing everything right but that doesn't necessarily matter and OSHA could hit them with a number of $70 grand willful violations.

    Just stating in a contract that the contractor is to do everything according to construction standards is wrong. The engineer who designed the changeout doesn't have this responsibility but he should have put in the plans that there should be temporary bracing and spelled it out. Although that may have been on the plans and the crew took a shortcut, it's unlikely.

    There is no reason that an engineer can't provide details for temporary bracing. He has already analyzed the tower and can easily see what taking out a brace will do to the structure's integrity. Maybe not a thing. But don't let the tower hand make that decision.

    Engineers do as little as they have to. Not necessarily because they're lazy, but because tower owners will pay X amount of dollars and not a penny more or they'll find another engineer.

    Typically everything is left up to the contractor...identifying brace lengths, leg sizes, etc. because all the engineer has is a set of drawings that might be 20 years old.
  4. JackBoone

    JackBoone Friend of the Community

    J.T. you have struck on a couple of problems that are currently plaguing this industry. But first let me address your comments on OSHA. There were some changes in the hierarchy at the federal OSHA level last year and a couple of the people that have been promoted are not exactly enamored of the Tower Industry. I am going to post more on this subject in another thread but lets just say that I don't think the WV accident was the "driving force" but I do believe it added considerable fuel to the fire.

    This brings me to the main issues, first, who is responsible for planning the job, the engineer or the contractor. This may sound like a cliché but quite frankly it's my life on the line and if I am going to work on any job I'd better know what I am doing or I better know that the guy directing me knows what he is doing. So, how do I know this individual knows what he is doing?

    Under the TIA-1010- A construction standard there are clearly defined description of who should be directing these operations on site. The Competent Rigger and the Qualified Riggers are the people that should be directing traffic so to speak. To see what makes a Competent or Qualified designation see the standard. Every crew undertaking reinforcement or modification work on a tower should have both a Competent and a Qualified person as their Top Push and their Foreman.

    Second issue is engineering. This industry is very unique. There is nothing in the world like a communications tower, not a building, not a steeple and certainly not a bridge. However, the early tower engineers were mostly just that, bridge or building engineers. The tower were designed based on beam column calculations and since they had no computers they tended to over engineer rather than design to the basic requirements. Remember, there was not even a tower standard until 1949 and the first EIA-222 standard was in 1959. Computers were not available until years later and the first computer programs were still base on the beam column design criteria.

    Once again we go to the Construction Standard. There are engineers and there are Qualified Engineers. A degree in engineering or a PE behind your name does not a Qualified Engineer make. Many of the people doing the engineering on towers today are not Qualified Engineers but are graduate of a college with a BS or even an AS in civil engineering.

    They are taught to uses a computer running a program like TNS Tower or one of the few other commercial programs but have never be around a tower let alone on one. A Qualified Engineers is defined a professional engineer knowledgeable and experienced in the Communications Structures Industry. Unfortunately Engineering is just like any other profession, there are varying degrees of "knowledgeable and experienced". I am a member of the TIA committee that writes the standards for our industry so I personally know and communicate with most of the serious tower engineers and I can tell you that just like Doctors, Lawyers and all professionals, some of them are great, some are good, some are fair and some I would question everything they said. Fortunately the last are few and far between in those I know.

    For anyone out there that wants more understanding on this subject or just has a question I can be reached though my email

    Be safe everyone,

    Jack Boone, VP
    Broadcast Tower Technologies, Inc.
  5. KLB Welding

    KLB Welding Industry Observer

    All I have to say is if you have a question, call the EOR for the project you are working on. Bypass your office with the SP engineer(SP being Self Proclaimed) and use the phone number on the prints to call them. I have done it on towers with questions about welds, have done it in mechanical rooms. Nobody says you can't call the engineer and ask what you should do for temporary bracing, how much can be removed. I have told others, "call the engineer" and then they end up using the "it'll be alright" engineer instead. By Gods grace that day we don't die. Seems people are scared to make the call, don't know why. That's my advise though, go straight to the horses mouth. Field experience is great, things learned from past exploits but when you ask, "how much can I remove" and the reply from your foreman is, "you can take out ten, it should be alright, we've done it before" that's when I start to question if it really is alright. If not I don't want to be like the poor guys no longer of this earth.

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