NATE Response to Dateline NBC "Tower Dogs"
NATE is disappointed at the salacious and sensationalist approach that Dateline took with its "Tower Dogs" special shown last night. It’s clear that the purpose of this reality show format was to entertain at the cost of the industry’s reputation. By focusing on generalized stereotypes of our industry, the piece only showed a caricature of tower climbers rather than an accurate portrayal and presented a stilted view of the real-world situations that tower climbers face daily. Regrettably, the show failed to paint an accurate picture of the level of professionalism that this industry offers. NATE was not involved in the production of this piece, nor is it affiliated with this show.

Now that this program has run, NATE hopes this shocking portrayal of the tower industry will draw attention to the men and women that face difficult job conditions each day to make cellular, broadcast and radio communications possible. The program has helped call attention to the issues that contribute to the industry’s perception as the most dangerous industry.

NATE believes the Dateline piece inadvertently highlighted some of the most critical issues that must be addressed by the tower industry including:

• The impact that unrealistic timelines and budgets have on safety. There is an inherent pressure in our industry to work to the clock rather than to the safety needs of the task at hand. It is our hope that this opens a dialogue with tower owners and operators to show the worth of an investment of safety and the importance of taking the time needed to complete the job properly the first time.

• The importance of hiring qualified contractors with the proper equipment and skills to accomplish the task at hand safely. One of the subcontractors featured on the Dateline piece was subject to a safety audit by the general contractor and did not have the correct safety equipment in proper working condition. These safety audits are critical to ensure that the work is done in the safest way possible.

• The need for adequate training of all members of the crew. One of the subcontractor’s crewmen walked off the job, putting the team behind schedule because he was the only person trained and qualified. When evaluating a subcontractor it is important to ensure that all members of the team are properly trained so that the team isn’t hampered if one person becomes unavailable.

As demonstrated by this television show, the tower workers, especially those working aloft, are the focal point for many of the pressures that are inherent in today’s tower construction environment. In a very real sense, the brunt of the industry's pressure rests on the shoulders of these individuals.

Although Kevin Hayden, board member and founding member of NATE, was interviewed as part of this special, the story edited out many of his comments stressing the importance of creating a dedication to safety and the efforts that this industry is taking to improve. While highlighting the dangers inherent to working aloft, we hope the show will also help tower owners and operators and everyone else involved in tower construction and maintenance realize their role in protecting the men and women working aloft. We hope that this will start a dialogue to address what can be done to prevent future accidents and ensure that everyone goes home safe at the end of the day.

We believe that the only way the industry can conquer its challenges is by creating a continuous dedication to safety. This is a dedication that must extend from the tower owner and operator, to the project manager, primary contractor, subcontractors as well as every person who works on a tower site from a project’s beginning to end. The challenges of this industry are not going to vanish, but must be addressed by an ongoing concentrated effort by everyone involved.

As always, thank you for your continued dedication to tower climber safety.

Patrick Howey
NATE Executive Director