October 29, 2015 — The tower industry was in shock this week as news spread of the passing of Ernie Jones, a tower specialist with Consolidated Engineering, who died in an elevator accident while inspecting a tower in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Jones had a productive career where he designed and oversaw the construction of 3,000 towers, including monopoles, self-supporting lattice towers and guyed towers — from 240 feet to 2,000 feet in height. He also developed software that is used for the structural design of telecom towers. But he is known primarily for his work in the area of climber safety.
To David Davies, engineering consultant at Consolidated Engineering, Jones was like a brother. They met at the age of 14 and their lives have been intertwined the 52 years since.
“The tower industry is tenfold safer today because of the life of Ernie Jones,” Davies said. “He was a wonderful guy. He was a quiet, soft-spoken gentleman. His only flaw was not being able to say no when people asked for help.”
Jones was an active member of the National Association of Tower Erectors, where wrote safety resources for tower climbers.
“He was an accomplished individual, universally respected in the wireless and the broadcast industry. People of his expertise in our industry are few and far between,” Todd Schlekeway, NATE executive director said. “Ernie was one of the most prominent structural engineers in the United States and his contributions to NATE and the entire industry made an indelible impact on safety.”
Tragedy on Top of the Tower
Ironically, the tragedy that took Jones’ life occurred as he was working on a tower. The incident came at the end of the day after the crew had been released. Jones decided to go back up to the top of the tower to retrieve some missing information for a structural analysis, where he tied off with his back lanyard. Jones remained attached to the tower after he got back in the elevator and when it began descending, he was pressed to the ceiling of the elevator and asphyxiated.
A Passion for Safety
Jones’ passion for worker safety led him to developed best practices of gin pole use and rigging safety through use of engineering data. He served on the TR14.7 Committee of the Telecommunications Industry Association and Electronics Industry Association for nearly 30 years.
“He was a driving force in the development of the TIA‐1019 Gin Pole Standard leading the research and technical developments it represented. He continued this work broadening the 1019 Standard to create TIA‐1019-A, which included safety, standardized construction nomenclature, established standard rigging plans and so much more,” wrote John Erichsen, TR14 chairman.
Jones worked tirelessly with multiple organizations within the tower industry to create standards that would improve safety. Along with FDH/Velocitel’s Don Doty and Pat Moore, and Gordon Lyman of Safety LMS, Jones was involved in forming a gin pole summit with NATE members in 2012, which would be used to develop the training parameters in the A10.48 standard. He worked with NATE representatives and the TIA TR14 committee to improve 1019 to create ASSE 10.48 and the soon to be published TIA 322, which will eventually replace TIA‐1019‐A, according to Erichsen.
His contributions to the TR14 committee research incorporated strength theory into the American National Standard for Steel Antenna Towers and Antenna Supporting Structures (ANSI/TIA/EIA-222). “It is quite a useful resource for workers. So much so that several large companies require their installers use that standard,” Davies said. “They developed a rigging plan concept that is revolutionary in the tower installation business.”
Together with Lyman, Jones wrote NATE’s “Training Guidelines for Working on Communication and Similar Structures with a Gin Pole and Associated Equipment.”
“This safety resource was developed to provide minimum guidelines for worker training required for gin pole use for work relating to the installation, alteration and maintenance of communications structures. The Gin Pole and Associated Equipment Guideline Book is available to members and non-members alike,” Schlekeway said.
To honor Jones’ contributions to the tower industry and his life, the TIA TR14 committee will include a dedication to him in TIA322 when it is published in 2016. NATE also plans to recognize his contributions to the association and to climber safety at a later date.