Tower Safety Review

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It was once said that "working safely may get old, but so do those who practice it." This is certainly true in our industry. Depending on which list you examine the danger rating of tower work floats. The minor differences in rankings between lists are merely semantics, as tower work is still regularly ranked in the top 10 most dangerous occupations. Although station personnel do not always have the same level of exposure as our friends who work at the heights, you are nevertheless exposed. Since we are all ultimately on the same team, safety truly is a cheap and effective insurance policy.

Be safe up there

Typically tower crews are on the payroll of somebody else, and function as a subcontractor of the station licensee. This provides a certain degree of insulation for the licensee, but not entirely. Over the past several years courts have realized that the licensee, who acts as a general contractor, may not have control over the means and methods of the work being performed. Certainly you have the ability to order work stoppage, but actual control over the work goes deeper than that. If the licensee, or its representatives, retains supervision such that the contractor is not free to work in his own way, then you are definitely on the hook for whatever happens. As a result, it would make sense to extricate yourself from the day-to-day operations. While suggestions can be useful in getting the job done right the first time, offer them as suggestions and not demands or requirements.

Presumably before you even get to this point, you have taken numerous preliminary steps to ensure to the best of your ability that safety at your site will not become an issue. First and foremost, know your contractors. Most station engineers will be familiar with several companies that provide tower work at varying skill levels. Always hire the crew that is commensurate with the task at hand. For instance, hiring a crew that specializes in tower painting to install rigid transmission line may not be the best choice.

I have found most crews are like other professionals: They take pride in their work, and the top tier crews are really and truly craftsman despite the fact that they sometimes have colorful personalities. Their commitment to their trade, and especially safety, will be evident by the equipment and vehicles they use, and the condition in which they maintain the worksite. Careless maintenance and storage of tools, a safety hazard in itself, may sometimes indicate that safety is less of a priority than it should be.

In addition to the equipment, what sort of training has the tower crew provided for its employees? Has the company just provided its own on-the-job training, or has it sought outside certification? The former can sometimes perpetuate bad habits, whereas the latter, which does require an investment, hopefully mitigates the potential of safety problems downstream. Regardless of the method, employers are responsible to provide or accept appropriate training.

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