|By Blake, Marilyn A|
Every year, climbing technicians are injured or lose their lives while working at heights on a variety of structures. In almost every case, these accidents happen because those involved did not follow safety guidelines, or were using equipment improperly. Within the NTCA membership, we have experienced claims over the past few years with two falls from towers of employees and two falls from towers of con> > who were working on towers that belonged to members. Fortunately, none of these individuals lost their lives, but they were pretty severely injured, to the point that their lives have changed dramatically. So we thought it important to address this issue.
Prior to the late 1980s, the tower erection, maintenance and service industry was considered a specialized part of the construction industry. However, during the past 30 years, advances in telecommunications and the public's increasing demand for wireless communication and broadcast services have raised the profile of this sector to the forefront. As a result, the need for tower workers to complete jobs more quickly and efficiently than ever before has grown dramatically.
Currently, more than 75,000 communications towers are erected, serviced and/or maintained in
Telecommunications employees have potential exposures to falls from utility poles and towers. As an employer, you are required to provide training for and removal of known hazards for your employees.
NATE represents more than 75% of the tower industry. The coordination between NATE, NIOSH and
Some general guidelines include:
* The tower owners will maintain in good repair and pose no known safety hazards to personnel, either employees or contractors, before they are allowed to access towers.
*If you hire a company to service your towers, you should determine whether it has a written safety program before it begins work on your tower. It should be
Towers maintained in good repair include:
* Guy wire/cable connections kept within manufacturers recommendations.
* Tower plumb within the
* No visibly damaged or broken cables.
* No corrosion that affects structural integrity-either above or below ground.
* No structural deterioration to the concrete bases or anchors.
* Fbwer to RF antennas lowered to a safe level or turned off prior to climbers gaining access. Proper lockout/tagout is important.
TIA and EIA recommend tower inspections at specific intervals unless manufacturers' guidelines make them more frequent. Free-standing towers should be inspected every five years and guyed towers should be inspected every three years. The company that inspects your towers should inspect, as appropriate, the guy wires, ice bridges, antenna deflection guard, lights (FAA), grounding with a resistance of less than 5 ohms, ladder or cage, and security to prevent unauthorized access. If there is a fixed ladder, the company should inspect the cable or central rail for stability and/or any possible defects. It should also inspect the anchors and connector point. Your towers should be fenced with a warning sign, especially if there are RF (radio frequency) issues. As the owner of the tower, it is your responsibility to make sure you maintain these tower inspections and make them available to authorized climbers.
Climb on Uoun Ouun?
We often get questions from members that want to have their own employees climb their towers and do some minor repairs. The idea is that it would be faster and less expensive than hiring a professional company to come out to your site to do the repairs or maintenance. This is a violation unless you have employees who are certified to be tower climbers. The climbers have to pass a physical, which includes being able to lift up to 70 pounds at elevated heights. In addition to the physical, working in the vertical world requires special preparation, training and certification from an approved school. Understanding how to climb safely and efficiently, knowing current safety standards and how they apply, and having a working knowledge of basic rescue techniques are all critical elements of climbing safety.
If you do certify your employees to do tower work safety, they need the right equipment, and you have to provide it. A quality harness is critical. For maximum safety, a full-body harness with hip, seat, chest and back D-rings is the preferred choice. It is impossible to fall out of a properly fitted full-body harness. You can't say the same about a lineman's best or waist harness. Lanyards should be attached to the fullbody harness and the other end to the lifeline or fixed anchor. A lifeline is a flexible line for connection used for ascending or descending the main portion of the tower. Carabineers should be at least double-locking. As far as personal protective equipment clothing, steel-shank work boots, safety glasses, heavy pants and shirt, protective hat and gripping gloves are essential. A second person, known as a qualified person, should help inspect the tower and your climbing equipment before the climb and be on-site in case of an emergency during the climb. This person also should have some first-aid training and access to contact emergency personnel if needed. The climber and the qualified person should have a means of communication during the climb. Again, it is important to keep at least one attachment point at all times-two when you can and are not moving on the tower.
Folks who want to climb hundreds of feet in the air to work on towers are a rare breed. They need to be certified to do so. This certification generally takes less than one week, and there are many authorized/recognized places that can do the certification as well as any refresher courses necessary. You can check with one of the experts listed below for some qualified options:
* NATE (www.natehome.com)
* TIA (www.tiaonline.org)
* EIA (www.eia.org)
The need fen
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