What did you think about the Frontline / ProPublica Investigation?

Discussion in 'Wireless Estimator Site Discussions' started by Wireless Estimator, May 21, 2012.

  1. Wireless Estimator

    Wireless Estimator Administrator Staff Member

    Please provide your comments regarding "Cell Tower Deaths". The Frontline documentary first aired on May 22, 2012. The 32-minute documentary can be viewed here.
    ProPublica's investigatory piece is an exhaustive look at the industry. They had been fact finding and fact checking for almost two years for the two pieces.

    Their first article, In Race For Better Cell Service, Men Who Climb Towers Pay With Their Lives, appears here.

    The second article in their series, Built for a Simpler Era, OSHA Struggles When Tower Climbers Die, appears here.
  2. yourfavoritewife

    yourfavoritewife Friend of the Community

    Yay! My husband and I contributed footage to this episode. I'm so glad that it's finally going to air.
  3. Safety Third

    Safety Third Friend of the Community

    We (who are active in this industry) all know that pushed production, limited experience (and often times an unwillingness to invest time/money to properly train workers) in the field, and ever dwindling profit margins in an industry that still operates on the lowest bid gets the bone, are all contributing factors to the amount of accidents we subject ourselves to.

    With all of the ever changing "updates" to what is required to build a site these days, it seems that the amount of time expected for site completion has not changed. I signed a petition to 'help' get this episode to air. I think this topic could go longer than a half hour, though.
    yourfavoritewife likes this.
  4. Kelly Calders

    Kelly Calders Frequent Poster

    The AT&T statement in the ProPublica article shows only one thing. It's apparent this spokesman doesn't understand the industry.

    Regarding drugs, he states: "We also require all of our contractors to perform background checks, including drug screens, on every individual who works on our projects. Contractors who violate the conditions of their contracts are subject to termination."

    What does a background check do? Nothing, because AT&T doesn't tell the contractor what is permissible which could run from library fines to grand larceny.

    Have Mr. Siegel contact his HR department and see if they're allowed to say anything other than: "Yes, he did work for us". "No I can't give you any other information."

    And when is the last time you saw Bechtel, Goodman and Black & Veatch ask their contractors on site to provide documentation that they've all peed into a cup?

    Mr. Siegel also says: "Though AT&T does not handle wireless tower construction and maintenance itself, we strongly support the work of OSHA and the National Association of Tower Erectors, who together launched their wireless tower worker safety initiative in 2007, resulting in a dramatic improvement in worker safety."

    If AT&T, was such a strong supporter of NATE and safety, they would have known that the NATE/OSHA safety alliance went into the dumper when OSHA essentially pulled the plug on it being an alliance and NATE said Adios and started their own program... which is probably more effective.
  5. TowerGuy

    TowerGuy Friend of the Community

    Loved the program. I've been fighting for this kind of stuff for quite some time. Unfortunately, I honestly feel it won't change anything.

    Carriers won't cut their profits nor extend their deadlines. Guess I'll wait until next year again to buy new belts or give my guys a raise.

    Thank you Lekutis for being on our side.

    Good effort but we all know nothing will change. My guys rely on me for their safety and well being but I guess It'll have to wait...again. Sorry guys.
  6. GoodmanX

    GoodmanX Friend of the Community

    When will the climbers and subs band together and have a work stoppage?

    It would break the turfs in a matter of days and force AT&T to deal directly with you. This would improve profits, wages, safety and communications.

    It's ridiculous that the execs at the turfs make millions a year and let kids risk their lives for $10 an hour. The typical exec makes from $300,000 to several million a year and doesn't really give a damn about you.
  7. TowerGuy

    TowerGuy Friend of the Community

    Furthermore, I agree safety is my responsibility, not my GCs.

    However, please don't give me BS deadlines, use the lowest bidder to push me to lower my bid, and please please pay me a reasonable price for the work. I still can't get over what my GCs receive and what scraps fall on the floor for me.

    TURF agreements get more than half the allotted price, are you kidding me?! Strap on a belt and do it yourself for that price. Or give me a little more so I can at least eat lunch for the day.

    Ive had to lay off 3 guys and pull myself out of my office 3 days out of the week. I'm not against working in the field but who's gonna do close outs, secure new customers, field the phones and pay bills.

    Oh yeah, me, on Saturday and Sunday. Guess Ill see you next month kids.
    yourfavoritewife likes this.
  8. GoodmanX

    GoodmanX Friend of the Community

    It didn't go longer because there are not enough people willing to tell the whole story out of fear of losing their income. Cell construction is one of the few bright spots in the economy and who wants to deliver pizza?

    Almost everyone that spoke was a former part of the industry. The ones that weren't will soon be.

    But at least they're not the greed driven cowards that AT&T and Turf execs are.
    yourfavoritewife likes this.
  9. DRUCarey

    DRUCarey Friend of the Community

    Just watched it and they seem to have figured out that the turfing contractors have effectively insulated the carriers and themselves from responsibility for the crazy scheduling (they burn all their time cushion at the start of the project and have nowhere to go but to the contractor to try anything to finish on time once that time cushion is gone).

    Guys not tying off is inexcusable and any I catch are clipped (zero tolerance) immediately. Go work at McDonalds. Nobody will convince me to risk my life or that of my men for such criminal malpractice at the carrier or turf level.
  10. mattf4068

    mattf4068 First Time Poster

    I believe they recognized the problem, and they did delve into it.

    The problem as far as I see, is that WE ALL already recognized the problems, and haven't done anything about it. Now a tv show points it out, but the only people who watched it, were people who already knew there was an issue.

    Safety falls on our own shoulders, it is, and always has been up to us to make sure we stay safe, not OSHA, not AT&T, not Goodman. US, we make our own deals, we choose for ourselves how safe we are.

    Let the turfers start booting people for taking too long, they'll start getting sued, thats when changes will be made.
  11. JP Jones

    JP Jones Friend of the Community

    2006 was the worst year for our industry ever but we are approaching the same level of work now as we were doing then. I agree with the "Former" comment! It always amazes me how a so called industry expert can be someone who has never built a tower in their lives.
  12. staybonded100

    staybonded100 First Time Poster

    "Safety falls on our own shoulders"....and I believe that the market is the ultimate arbitrator.

    The show brought this market to the surface. This industry is really no different than any other. Large retail chains hire companies to manage their assets as well and you have to go through them for the work.

    Yep, you usually end up trying to explain something to someone that can NOT grasp or visualize the details since they have limited knowledge of the specific trade in question.

    They want it fixed....fixed now....and don't go above your allocated amount to do such. As a business owner, when one fully understands their costs to operate.....and you reach that minimal profit level balanced with RISK, the only way for the price to go lower is 1) Cut the Count. 2) Cut the quality. or 3) Take on more risk. All three of these represent bad business.

    The Market is the ultimate arbitrator (2nd time). Most turfing price matrix's that I have seen are based on a perfect scenario. No Risk is factored in. You see what they are doing is pushing all the risk down to the guy in the field doing the work. Call it the Golden Rule: Whoever has the gold makes the rules.

    This industry has some positive attributes when compared to others: The data tsunami is rolling and will continue to do so. This is during a time when the rest of our nation isn't exactly doing so well. This industry has shown to be somewhat protected from the poor economy.

    One final note: Safety has to fall on our shoulders (2nd time). However, leadership in regards to Safety at the Executive level is imperative.

    If you view the executives mentioned in the show as an 800lb gorilla......and this gorilla decides to stomp his foot, this will leave a large mark and things will happen.

    This is where the money chain starts and they certainly have the power to "make the rules". I know of a carrier executive who did just that.....He said STOP....NO MORE.....in the middle of a major infrastructure investment.

    For 30 days they worked with contractors to make things safer for everyone and no one went vertical until a plan was in place. Now, at some point after all this, this man had to report to his board and stockholders about cost over runs and construction delays and he probably in some degree got his tail end handed back to him! LOL. He is in his same work capacity and their safety record is now superior.
  13. rclaxton

    rclaxton Friend of the Community

    Thank you Frontline and Propublica for letting the US know about the problems that companies have trying to be successful when the turfing contractors throw one huge obstacle in our way which is the low prices that they pay, keeping more than half of the profit for themselves because they own the project.

    It wouldn't be as bad if they had their act together and didn't hold us up with false starts, incorrect parts and other show stopping profit suckers.

    Thanks also to Wireless Estimator for always staying on top of things for so many years and writing about these problems and creating the dialogue that can create change for the good.

    What's bothersome to me is that none of the trade rags promoted the Frontline program or ever write about turfing contractors and safety unless it's a marshmallow piece promoting or written by one of their advertisers.

    It would be nice to see the NY Times or some other major publication pick this story up and continue to run with it. We'll see.
  14. G_Jetson

    G_Jetson First Time Poster

    I had never heard the term "Turf Vendor" before watching this program. I thought the use of the term "carriers" when trying to assess responsibilty was a little broad, especially when what they really meant was "AT&T"! I work for another major carrier and didn't recognize any of the practices shown in the report. Overall, the report really highlights for me the continued devaluation of actual work, where outsourcing is fundamentally an administrative function and work is an inconvenient expense which is secondary to a check off in a punch-list.
    Scott Small likes this.
  15. 2ndgen

    2ndgen First Time Poster

    I agree saftey falls on the shoulders of the individuals doing the work but it also falls on the contractors and forman to train their people with safe practices. I got into this industry during the boom in 2006 and my training was minimal at the least. Luckily I had a climber on the crew with me that took me under his wing and showed me the rights and wrong.

    I've worked for many contractors over the years and I've spent thousands of my own dollars to buy the proper equipment I need to properly and safely do my job.

    Take the time to tell and SHOW these green horns how to be safe.

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