The Executive Director of the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA), Duane MacEntee, called on members in the industry to assist the organization as it develops certification programs for workers in the tower industry, during the NATE UNITE 2017 annual conference of the National Association of Tower Erectors, held last week in Fort Worth, Texas.
Last December, NWSA launched certifications for Telecommunications Tower Technician 1 and 2 (TTT1) (TTT2). It also offers the Signalperson and Rigger I and Rigger II certifications through a partnership with the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators.
In the development of TTT1 and TTT2, a group of volunteer subject matter experts, chaired by Don Doty, president of the NWSA Board of Directors, came together 18 times to write the test questions.
“Task force membership is very important to the development of consensus needed to create certifications,” MacEntee said. “For the NWSA to become accredited as a certification body, we have to show that we build consensus. The industry tells us what needs to be in our certifications.”
Along with the written exam, which is administered by PSI Exams Online, NWSA gives a practical exam where the worker is observed applying the knowledge on a tower. NWSA has accredited practical examiners. So far, 400 people have taken the TTT1 and TTT2 written exams and 60 have taken the practical exams. Many of those were task force members.
There is no shortage of work to be done. Other assessment and certification programs the NWSA is considering for future development include Antenna & Line Foreman, Certified Climber, Tower (Stacking) Foreman, Structural Modifications Foreman, DAS Systems, Small Cell Systems, Broadcast Structures, and Outside Plant/Fiber to the Home and Business.
“Because of the composition of our Board and Board of Governors we will see what is coming down the pike in terms of the labor force,” MacEntee said. “The industry’s landscape is changing fast and furious and we will need different types of labor. New task forces will be needed to develop those certifications. Please raise your hand and help out.”
NWSA is the brain child of the Telecom Industry Safety Summit, a meeting that occurred in Dallas in the fall of 2013, which was a particularly lethal year in terms of tower fatalities. Carriers, tower owners, contractors, insurance companies and the education community came together at that meeting to find a way to make the tower industry safer by increasing professionalism.
“It was a pivotal moment for safety in the tower industry,” MacEntee said. “We had a variety of stakeholders representing various interests – large program engineering companies, carriers, contractors – coming together for the common good.”
NWSA began late in 2016 taking off on a mission to provide verifiable certification to workers in the tower industry through the assessment of knowledge and skills to enhance safety and reduce risk in the workplace.
“What we are is a certification organization; what we are not is a training organization,” MacEntee said. “We encourage great training and well-trained employees. We want them to come to us and pass a rigorous series of examinations that make us confident that they are true professionals in what they do.”
MacEntee said that while NWSA is separate from NATE it shares the common goal of making the tower industry safer.
“We are trying to create a good labor force that knows the job that they are being asked to do,” he said. “Bad days happen in our industry, but elevating the professionalism in this workforce is key to avoid those type of events in the future.