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Tower falls




 
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W1RKW
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« on: September 26, 2020, 07:27:08 AM »

yesterday, here in CT, a tower climber fell.  The climber was not a ham.  Most of the falls listed here are not ham radio related but rather in  the commercial arena. Don't hear much about them in the news. Nonetheless, this should be reminder for us radio amateurs that even professional climbers are not immune to accidents.

http://wirelessestimator.com/articles/tag/tower-falls/

https://www.wtnh.com/news/connecticut/hartford/34-year-old-man-dies-after-falling-from-communication-tower-in-manchester/
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Bob
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K1JJ
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« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2020, 02:38:06 PM »

Wow, that's a lot of falls!  When they are listed for a few years, it adds up.  And now the latest one is one town over from me in Manchester, CT.  I know the owner of the company who owns the tower. He's a ham and stopped by for a visit a few months ago.

I have worked with a few tower crews and always wondered how they did it day in and day out without a lot of accidents. They are usually young guys between 22 - 35 or so.  At the time these guys were free-climbing - without failsafe arrest cables. I have fall-arrest cables on all my towers now.  I think the risk of falling or getting sued by a pro or hambone tower crew is too high without them. (or OSHA problems)

It's a coincidence, but today I climbed to 150' to drop down a 10 year old 75M Yagi bridle that had broken loose and was swinging around. I should have used lock washers on some critical spots. Anyway before I climbed I saw your post Bob and wondered if it was a warning sign not to climb. I haven't been up there for about 6 months.

I climbed up to 60' and the wind started to blow and I almost talked myself out of it; thinking the risk is too high for such a small problem.  I figgered I'd feel like a pussy later, so continued up to 150', unbolted it and dropped the 40' aluminum bridle down to the ground using a pulley and rope from the top.

It took about 2 hours and now I am finished.  I actually feel proud of myself to get the job done despite the fear. Next week I gotta go up on the 190' self supporter and fix a 40M Yagi reflector element that has broken loose. (70' elements) There are three Yagis in the stack and the other two are FB after 10 years now. The bad one is at 120', so I get a break not climbing to 190.  I used the wrong size u-bolts on the loose one cuz I ran low. Mistake. I need to swing the whole Yagi into the tower so I can reach the end where the boom meets the element. Fun, fun. So now that my confidence is up I will give that a go next week. I'm not quite ready to pay a tower crew $2500++  for a day's work yet.   Grin

T
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« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2020, 04:25:46 PM »

The second story in the Wireless Estimator link, about the $141K OHSA fine is about a crew I know well.  Pegasus Tower is a family affair, Brad and his sons, and he usually has a couple hired tower hands along as well.  I have worked with them on a number of Stateside jobs and recommended them to others with good result.  They are friends and have been guests at my home.
But, as Tom mentions, all it takes is one slip, by yourself or a crew member, and the company is in deep trouble, aside from losing a friend.  Much of it is about the paperwork that OHSA requires and, typically, tower hands are not real big on paperwork.  But the inspector comes around with a very nice pair of binoculars, watches from afar and then comes to site wanting paper.  My impression is that very few of these people have ever been on a tower, but they have watched all the safety videos.  As a field engineer I've always had great respect for most of my tower crews and have gotten along well with most and felt safe around them, both on the ground where things could fall and occasionally at heights working out a problem.
The lesson for all of us to to slow down, not bite off more than we can chew, and not to scrimp on safety equipment.  My harness cost nearly $500, and I take care of it and stow it in the bag after every use.  And I use it every time.  No excuses.  At my age, I'm beginning to wish I'd bought and installed a Rohn Foldover some forty years back but it seemed kinda pricey back then.  If I had one, I could now work off a stepladder in the back yard with Tempurpedic mattresses covering the ground.
Tower work is and always will be a dangerous business, both professionally and in the back yard.
73 de Norm W1ITT
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Steve - K4HX
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« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2020, 09:17:09 AM »

Good insight Norm. I wonder about the per capita numbers. I'm guessing the total number of tower climbers in the country is pretty small. I'm guessing the per capita number is pretty high, given the number of fall. Yes, this does seem like a dangerous profession.
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K1JJ
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« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2020, 11:31:14 AM »

I wonder about the per capita numbers. I'm guessing the total number of tower climbers in the country is pretty small. I'm guessing the per capita number is pretty high, given the number of fall. Yes, this does seem like a dangerous profession.


Years ago part of the problem was there was no official climber test, certification, course or licensing to be a tower climber.  It was all OJT.

All I had to say to the tower company owner was I had worked on towers before -  and they sent me up the pole. In one case it was my first tower climb and I was so scared I couldn't get above 60'.  It was all on the job training back then.

I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same thing today, but with OSHA rules.  I've seen lots of violations like riding the crane ball up and down the tower, free climbing and who knows what else. But all in all, the seasoned, experienced guys who have lasted to become the heads of their tower crews are pretty smart and do things right. The problems are probably more random chance , rushing the job or inexperienced guys taking chances.

The common theme of the young guys, once you got to know them, is their desire to get their own crew someday and make the big bux. At the time they were paid squat. It was like getting a $5/ hr   2-way communications tech pay at the time.    

Today, a good electronic tech with a BSET or equiv can make $60-100K. Structural  steelworkers make 50-70K. "Transmission Tower climbers" make $56K according to the web.  I hope it has improved for radio tower climbers because they deserve it.  It takes a really physically fit body and a stable, calm mind to climb up there and work every day. To develop your crewmates' trust is another hurtle.

T
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« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2020, 12:39:22 PM »

Tom...  There is an outfit called NATE, the National Association of Tower Erectors.  They have some pretty good training courses in tower safety, vertical rescue and all that stuff.  They are respected in the industry for doing the education, setting standards and safety nagging that needs to be done.  That being said, even an experienced, trained tower hand can still take the quick chance and move unattached on a tower.  One can watch all the movies and sit through all the sessions and still do something they shouldn't "just this once", or hook onto something on a structure that isn't as structural as it appears.
Some of the tower guys I have worked with have a sticker on their truck that says "If you scared, say you scared!"  The message is that if you aren't just a little bit scared up on a tower, you aren't paying attention.  But yeah, despite the new emphasis on training, everybody has a first day at work, and they don't know nuthin' yet.
73 de Norm W1ITT
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W1NB
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« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2020, 12:49:37 PM »

There are certification programs in the industry but not everyone recognizes or requires them. You would think that insurance companies would require an insured certify all their climbing employees but itís probably more expensive for them to enforce than pay out a few claims every year.

When I was younger I free climbed regularly. I donít remember seeing a safety restrain system on a tower until I was in my 30s. I never had any formal training. We used our pole climbing belts. Occasionally, the clasp would get twisted in the D ring and go unnoticed. Eventually, with tension and movement, the clasp would right and youíd drop backward about 2Ē. Thatíll scare the shit out of you but we always just laughed it off and ribbed each other when t happened.

I was young, stupid and invincible. If I owned a tower now (I mean something other than my 50í crank up) there is no way Iíd ever let a company who doesnít certify and regularly train their employees step foot on it.
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W1RKW
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« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2020, 03:53:10 PM »

I never climbed an antenna tower but my friends and I have free climbed our share of water towers when we were lads. I recall being scared shitless free climbing the straight up ladder and concentrating every hand placement and foot placement while ascending and descending. One thing to be said about climbing a ladder at 90 degrees compared to a ladder that is leaning against a house or other structure, one can lean against the ladder and have a feeling of security but at 90 degrees straight up, not much so. It's a different animal.  At the top the view was amazing.
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Bob
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« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2020, 07:54:42 PM »

Most of the contractors who employ climbers belong to NATE.  NATE regularly offers training and is run by a combo of manufacturers and contractors.  BTW, the tower owner in Manchester is a ham, whom I know.  There are a lot of cell towers in the USA, some 500K.  Upgrades are going on in a major way right now.  Its reasonable to figure maybe 1000 climbers or more are on a tower in a given day.  So accidents cannot be too surprising.  These guys are supposed to be hooked in at all times, but things happen.  When I was young I climbed a 100ft tower without a belt to make emergency repairs.  Wasnt the smartest thing I ever did Cool
~ps
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W2PFY
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« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2020, 10:00:38 PM »

From some videos or a TV show, I cannot remember where I saw that tower work is let out to a given company and then it is sent out to two or more sub contractors all who take a cut and by the time it gets to the climber, he is lucky if he makes $15.00 bucks an hour! It seems to me that at today's cost of living that even for a young starter, he should be getting at least 28 bucks an hour. You can make $15.00 for work at Barfburgers or Jack Sprats Rat Emporium. 
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« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2020, 09:22:01 AM »

When I first started in radio there were a number of people who had climbing belts and you were able to get them for $50.00 to change out all the bulbs on a tower when they failed.  Somehow back then no one cared about certification, insurance or safety.
Last time I had to have the lamps changed on a three-hundred-foot tower it was around $2,300.00 including bulbs. The difference being today you are required to provide proof of insurance and also every operation requires two tower climbers with one to do the work and a second on the ground as a safety climber in case anything goes wrong.
In addition, things like rigging a tower for any load beyond a thousand pounds total now requires a rigging plan thatís signed of by a PE and a lot more planning.
Once back in the eighties remember seeing a tower crew that had a flat bed truck that had a spool attached to one of the rear wheels and they jacked up the back end of the truck and used the rear wheel drive as a winch.
But in the last five or six years now have seen things go backwards in terms of safety and cost, its not at all uncommon to have a lot of the cell companies drive down cost by booking Gypsy tower crews who travel for months at a time from site to site living out of there trucks and also had one crew that did a lighting swap from old incandescent lights and fixtures to the new LED fixtures  on a five hundred foot G7 where no one spoke English. Have to give them credit though, they jumped off the truck and swarmed all over the tower and did a job that I thought would take two days in four hours.


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