As our culture increasingly relies on improving and mobile technology, more communication towers have subsequently been built and need regular repairs and maintenance. Employees climb communication towers that typically stand between 1,000 and 2,000 feet tall to perform construction and upkeep activities. They face numerous dangers, including the potential for falls, “struck-by” hazards and accidents associated with structural collapses and improper rigging and hoisting practices.
Communications towers involve many parties – from the owning corporation to the turfing vendor, and the contractors and subcontractors who perform the actual installation and maintenance. Thus, responsibility for employee safety is fractured into many layers. Under the guidance of a chief safety officer, all tower climbers and ground crews should: Have access to, and use, properly functioning safety equipment at all times. Certify their commitment to “100 percent tie-off” at least once each year. Complete comprehensive safety planning, including a Job Hazard Analysis and an Emergency Action Plan for every work site. Avoid working at heights when weather conditions raise safety risks. Never free climb on a structure. Employee fatigue is a major risk factor that should be considered during installation, maintenance, or removal of a communication tower.
Though employers should be mindful of this risk, employees can take preventative measures that could save their lives. Some tips to guard against fatigue include: Setting limits on “high time” (or, time spent on the tower), which can also promote climber safety. Minimizing long commutes to and from work sites. Properly hydrating before, during (if possible) and after an assignment. Very recently, drones have been used to reach specific heights and help crews pinpoint problem-spots on towers. While drones can aid in tower maintenance, it is critical that a competent professional control any unmanned aerial system used for communication tower work. Tower climbers and ground crew employees should know how to report unsafe conditions and should follow applicable reporting processes whenever they are discovered. Though many communication towers are found in remote locations, workers and bystanders face a regular risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries. But those risk factors can be mitigated by taking proper cautionary steps.